Belkin Powerline AV (200 Mbps)

Belkin Powerline AV picture I use my Mac Mini as a media center but it has a 802.11g wireless connection which has been a problem. Since I live in a pretty dense apartment complex and every couple of months I have to find a new channel that has less interference. I finally got fed up enough that I decided to spend the money and try a Powerline AV adapter. I went with the Belkin Powerline AV Adapter. I never had much confidence in the Powerline technology but I was hoping it had matured by now. While the Belkins are pricey ($149 at Amazon) I went with them because they are the newest and therefore I figured most mature and likely to work.

Setup

Setting up the Belkin Powerline AVs is simplicity itself. Plug them into power and then plug in the network cable. But the gory details are…

The Belkin Powerline AV starter kit came with two Powerline AV adapters. They can plug in flush with the wall using the pre-installed wall plug, or you can swap out the wall plug with a supplied extension cord if you don’t have the space for the adapter. You also get two network patch cables in the box. One adapter needs to plug into your network modem, router or switch while the other attaches to the device you want to add to the network. Additional Powerline AV adapters can be added although the adapters will all share the same bandwidth.

In my case I attached one to an ethernet port on my router and the other to my Mac Mini.

The Powerline AVs use 128-bit DES encryption for security. The encryption key can be changed from their factory default to a random value. This is the only part that’s a bit difficult. Each adapter has a “One Touch Security Button” that need to be pressed in the proper order for the proper length of time to set and sync the keys. Since it’s only a button there’s no feedback other than the devices connecting when your done.

Belkin says they should be plugged directly into the wall and not to use a power strip or ups.

Performance

The Belkin Powerline AV’s claim to be 200Mbps (I suspect they mean 100 Mbps full-duplex). There’s an LED that glows blue when the link-rate is 80Mbps or greater and amber when the link rate is less than 80Mbps. The adapter that connects to my router glows amber indicating a rate less than 80Mbps.

I’m seeing actual speeds consistently above 24Mbps and usually about 28Mbps. This is far below the rated performance but above the speeds I’ve been getting with other wireless options. More importantly, the connection is reliable and consistent. Streaming video has worked fine so far.

Conclusion

They’re pricey and I’m only getting about 12% of their rated speed but it’s faster than my wireless options. Despite this it seems like a suitable option for my needs and I won’t be sending them back. Some things to keep in mind is that distance (over you electrical wires) affects performance and additional devices will share the same bandwidth.