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back to article Belkin Powerline HD Gigabit mains Ethernet adaptor

Belkin's Gigabit Powerline HD mains-wiring network adaptor is the first we've seen to claim to be able to delivery data transfer rates of up to 1000Mb/s. We stress the word 'claim' and the phrase 'up to'. Makers of powerline kit also market adaptors that, they say, deliver bandwidth of up to 200Mb/s. But no one who uses one will …

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Since When?

"There's simply no point in the vendor integrating a Gigabit Ethernet port" - in 1998 maybe!

Mobo manufacturers have been integrating gigabit ports for years, standard on any mid range motherboard or even the cheap ones now.

You can't make a sweeping statement like that based somewhere far far away from fact!

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WTF?

Nice technology

But I'm confused. Can someone explain the benefits of Gigabit Ethernet in the home? Even in the workplace, I struggle to justify GE to the desktop (maybe if you're using roaming profiles). Powerline is intrinsically a shared medium, so maybe a bit more speed is necessary, but in reality how many of these links are going to be used simultaneously?

At home, my main uses are sharing an 8Mb ADSL Internet connexion and streaming files. Neither of these tax a 100Mb Ethernet or 802.11g link. So why pay extra for higher speed - bragging rights?

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Unhappy

Mains Noise

But how much extra noise does this inject on the the mains wiring? Like most PLT's will this then result in a reduced ADSL connection speed? Not to mention the other issues related to these PLT devices :(

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Badgers

My own experience

Expensive, does not do what is says on the tin.

Unless you have mint condition new wiring in your house and one appliance per socket, you can expect this tech to work intermittently at best.

I bought the Devolo ones, on the box it promised the moon on a stick, in reality I got network devices that struggled to connect with slow transfer speeds even after much tweaking, testing swapping about and other malarkey.

Maybe it'll get better, maybe this version is better. Buy with caution I would say.

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WTF?

No slap down despite misleading advertising?

"Slap it down hard because it doesn't get anywhere near the 1Gb/s headline data-transfer speed? No..."

WTF? Absolutely yes that is worth a hard slap down. Why should these people get away with false advertising? Imagine "This hard drive is advertised as storing 1GB but in reality you can only get 200MB on it"....THEN IT'S NOT A 1GB HARD DRIVE IS IT.

Stop allowing companies to get away with advertising what they're clearly not selling. The fact that "oh it's OK cos everyone does it" is NO EXCUSE - it is STILL misleading advertising. If they say this should achieve 1Gb then it should achieve 1Gb -- accepted, there will be variations due to non-ideal conditions and that is fair enough, but if under absolutely ideal perfect conditions it won't get over 200Mb then it shouldn't be advertised as achieving five times that rate.

Anyway one thing you didn't test in the review was the reliability of this thing. IME Belkin stuff is shite, I had a wireless dongle that not only couldn't stay up but to get it back online you had to REINSTALL the drivers!!!!! Yes - not just tell it to reconnect, but actually reinstall everything. Anything else I've ever touched with the Belkin name on it has been a complete waste of money.

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More measurements, please.

As well as measuring transfer rates, it would be good to know:

The power consumption of each unit.

The power and spectrum of radiated power (I.e. "interference" as far as your neighbours are concerned.)

An Ethernet cable adds nothing to the former and a little to the latter.

Besides, it's really not hard to run Ethernet cables around old houses and flats. (New build may have brick that is easier to drill, but I guess that getting under the floor boards is trickier.) Where's the problem that this technology solves?

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Megaphone

Amature Radio Enthusiasts Complain

In 3.... 2.... 1..... GO.

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Anonymous Coward

Build this into a SheevaPlug...

...and I'd buy a metric butt-load.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@Dan_uk_1984

It has nothing to do with the availability of Gigabit Ethernet ports in PCs, but everything to do with the fact that, until now, powerline links have been sub-100Mb/s.

Just because your computer has Gigabit, your link to, say, the router won't reach that speed if a portion of that connection has a much slower speed. If you're never going to get above 10/100Mb/s speeds, there's no point, as a manufacturer, putting 1000Mb/s in your powerline adaptor.

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@Dave 125

Fair point about reliability, Dave, but unless you want us to publish reviews a year after products are launched, there's not a lot we can do about this.

FWIW, I have a Belkin N1 802.11n router and it still works fine, years after purchase.

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Speed & Interference

"Our wiring is almost 30 years old, and we'd expect to see higher numbers in newer housing than our 1980s house-to-flats conversion"

May be irrelevant. It's basically the amount and length of wiring. Even 40 years ago or more the wiring was similar to today. Ageing of the PVC insulation won't make any difference.

How much interference does it make? What if your phone line is near mains wiring, does it affect the DSL speed then (likely).

Any mains wiring offers 1000 times less RF isolation than Cat5 cable. Run some STP Cat5e along the skirting and get a real 1G ethernet connection. For many people these won't give more than 20Mbps.

See discussion here. With links to real tests and facts.

http://www.techtir.ie/forums/showthread.php?t=1843

I think this review didn't test the unit in a realistic setting.

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Flame

Distribution boards

"Distribution boards" (I presume you mean the multi-socket extension things and not the three-phase cabinet things) are an abomination and something to be avoided if possible.

They are almost invariably made of the cheapest materials available and often fail to make proper contact with the plugs/PSUs plugged into them. ("Is it meant to be making that fizzing noise - and the smoke?")

They also have a tendency to breed and by the time you get three or four extensions down the chain, the noise, voltage drop and heating effects can be noticeable. Especially when the last one has a 3 kW heater plugged into it. ("Well it's cold in that corner.")

Then somebody pulls out the one plugged into the wall to use the vacuum cleaner, and everything in the room goes off. ("Why hasn't the TV recorded my program?")

I also suspect the ones with surge suppressors and the like, could have a bad influence on the signal.

/rant

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@Jan23

"it's really not hard to run Ethernet cables around old houses and flats" - Beg to differ.

Yes it is. I've a ~100 year old house with mostly solid walls and ground floor, and if I wanted to hide Cat 5 cable, I would either be digging into the lath and plaster of the upper story walls (no easy cavity in these) or solid walls (no plaster board anywhere), or pulling up skirting boards that have not been touched since the house was last re-wired (or in some cases, since the house was built).

Because of the size of the house, I would probably want a switch on each floor, limiting the number of floor-to-floor cables (it's a 3 story house), which would need me to find a location with power where I could install each switch. It would be much more of a commercial PDS rather than just a Cat 5 cable or two.

Also, I cannot use wireless throughout because of the solid walls that prevent wireless signals reaching the whole of the house.

It's MUCH MUCH MUCH easier (a few minutes compared with months of work) to plug two homeplug devices into the mains sockets where they are needed. And I can move them whenever I want, and I don't suffer the wrath of the Wife.

My house is a really switched on one with more computers than people, with 4 tower systems away from the room containing the ADSL router, Firewall, NAS storage, printers, and Wireless Router. I use homeplug for the towers, and wireless for the laptops (and the MacMini and Wii which have wireless built in and are in range of the wireless router). I also use a homeplug for the Xbox360, because I already had a spare homeplug, and did not want to shell out for the inflated price of the Microsoft Wireless adapter.

I have a mixture of 85Mb/S and 14Mb/S devices, but I find that two 85Mb/S devices talking together are easily faster than 802.11g (with good signal) for transferring large files around, but obviously slower than directly connecting to the 100Mb/S switch.

So, yes, it has solved my problems and yes they were real. My only concern is how rapidly I am loosing the older homeplug devices due to failure, and whether any of my neighbours are SW or HAM radio operators.

Now. Go back to your modern shoe-box house and think again.

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@Peter Gathercole

Ahem, I do live in a ~100 year old house with solid walls. Long drills go through them easily, although the holes usually end up bigger than you want. Run your cables along or under the skirting boards (where you push the carpet) with holes through connecting walls. Use the space under stairs to get between levels, or you could go via the outside I suppose.

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uses for >100Mb

When you're backing up your movie collection to the NAS drive downstairs, gigabit comes in handy, even if you only ever get 300Mb/s out of it (protocol limitations, not hardware).

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@ Mage

"I think this review didn't test the unit in a realistic setting." Really? Having just read the review I'd say it would hard to come up with a more 'real world' test. The circumstances the reviewer tested the kit in sound more or less identical to the layout I have in my house, the only difference is that I am using Netgear kit.

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What about 3-phase

Do they work across phases. I have 3-phase (not in the UK). Lounge blue, bedroom yellow.

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Unhappy

@Chris Miller - Why Gigabit?

These days there's a better case for Gigabit at home than to the desktop in Business IMO. I find myself shifting large volumes of 10Megapixel photos, camcorder video files between the computers around my home quite regularly. Not to mention backing up to my Windows Home Server.

So sure there is a point that my Devolo 200Mbps (of which I get about 30Mbps from my late '80s home wiring) can't keep up.

Hidden Cat 5 Wiring is impossible internally due to the concrete floors, and loft conversion upstairs.

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to Peter Catherole

Thanks for at least thinking of us Amateur Radio operators - many supporters of these abominations couldn't give a toss.

My own house is much like yours - an ex council four in a block flat built in the 40s. No cavity walls or anything like that - although the exterior is lathe and plaster on the inside.

I've cabled the three rooms of the house that have internet access, and there is wireless without any problems.

It wasn't a doddle, but it certainly didn't take months.

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Unhappy

Had to return this gizmo

I was hoping this device would give me better connection between my cable router and several devices using 802.11g. Only one plug near the devices would receive any signal, and that was slower than 802.11b. Other outlets were unable to connect. The only time I got anything approaching higher speeds was when I plugged the two Belkins into a single extension cable.

I'm in the US so I'm using 120V, 60Hz, but that shouldn't make a difference. Perhaps having Monster power conditioners plugged into the wiring caused the problem, but the earlier 100 MHz versions seems to work well in the same environment.

I ordered directly from Belkin, and to their credit, they accepted returns with no hassles. The CS staff was aware that the devices would not work well in some loations, but the only way to determine that is to buy them, plug them in, and see what happens.

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Badgers

"Distribution boards" aka Power-strips

While a power-strip will kill powerline communications performance, it will if you plug in a bunch of other equipment (e.g. PCs, set-top boxes, routers, etc.) The switching power supplies make a nasty noise.

A good solution is to use a "pass through" PLC adapter (I have this http://www.leacom.fr/niv3uk-pays59-id66-Powerline_NetSocket_NetSocket200+_Euro.html). The pass through has a filter so anything plugged into it will not affect performance. Also, you get your power socket back do might not need a power-strip.

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Re: Chris Miller

"Can someone explain the benefits of Gigabit Ethernet in the home?"

Yep. First off, wireless doesn't work in my house. Full stop. Tried it and something is killing it (I suspect the IT lecturer from the local college, who lives next door, is running some non-standard kit). And, whilst I would love to re-wire the house with cat-5, I love my wife and kids too much to suffer the divorce that would come with it.

So that is the homeplug bit sorted. Plug-in, switch on. Done.

Then, I have all my kids DVD's ripped to the home server (personal backup!). The kids destroy DVD's so it's far easier to rip them to storage and then either create copies or, better still, stream them to where it's needed. That same NAS has all mine and the wife's music and all our photos and takes backups of both our PC's. It's not common but all this could be happening at the same time (except for the backups. I'm not THAT stupid. They are scheduled for different times). Two DVD-quality video stream, two music streams and a backup requires a LOT of bandwidth (I'm amazed the server copes, actually).

Try doing that lot on a standard HomePlug connection which, generally speaking, tops out at around 9-10Mbps. And I'm hoping to go HiDef fairly soon - which will add to the bandwidth even more. Call me old-fashioned but I still work on the principle of working out the maximum load and then doubling to allow for headroom.

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Not just HF interference then?

It seems that these Belkin beasts use the Gigle mediaxtreme chips. These don't just cover the HF spectrum, they transmit at up to 300MHz.

Now, external noise reduces with increasing frequency, and these things will have to inject even higher levels of signal because mains wiring is so much more lossy at these frequencies (it's meant for 50Hz you see). Since receivers at VHF frequencies are so much more sensitive because of the increasing RF path loss with frequency, it means the potential for interference will be much greater.

Just maybe if the interference generated is enough to wreck people's Band II FM reception then this menace will become so widespread that the EMC regulators will have to take action and force the manufacturers to make them EMC compliant or take them off the market.

We can but hope that some degree of belief in the rule of law returns.

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Oh God

Another product filling a gap that didn't exist and spewing interference all over the radio spectrum to do it. The devices in the frequency range these transmitters, for that's what they are, are hogging and stamping all over, are everything from cordless phones and baby alarms to emergency services. 8011/n will do a much better job within its own frequency range rather than someone else's, and won't stop your neighbour listening to the Archers on FM. Will these people never learn? Is the fast buck really more important than the future of radio broadcast and communication? Come on Ofcom. Act like an enforcer for once. Get them off the market.

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(Written by Reg staff)

@P Stevens

Much as I might have liked them too, the Belkin adaptors had no effect on The Archers during the time we were using them. Other radio broadcasts I was more keen on listening to weren't affected, either. The radio was on all day.

Claiming powerline adaptors screw up FM radios is one of those allegations I personally - having used both - have to take with a lot of salt.

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MnM

distribution boards

So after the firmware update, what kind of performance did you get? If you need to use a distribution board, is it worth using these instead of the Devolos? Wondering if the stability gains were worth it.

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Getting 185Mb/s

I recently bought a Devolo 200Mb/sec kit as wireless is absolutely useless in my house (Edwardian with solid foot thick walls). I've tried loads of wireless kit with diversity and all the other so called range boosting tech. Simply doesn't work reliably. I've even had it drop in the same room when my wife walks in front of the router (perhaps she's wearing tinfoil undies). WiFi is hyped bollocks IMHO.

Anyway, I'm getting 185Mb/sec all day, every day with my ancient wiring from my Devolo kit. Well chuffed. Haven't noticed any FM radio interference and haven't had my door beaten down by radio hams. Doesn't mean I'm actually not radiating like hell though, who knows?

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Transmission speed down?

Commenting on Tony's statement that it didn't affect FM, it could be because the insertion loss at 100MHz was so high that the adapters couldn't hear each other at these frequencies.

However, there are bound to be other installations where they can.

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Tony Smith

Pinch of salt or not Tony, these devices radiate crud from a radio frequency range of between 50-300 MHz, used by the Ministry of defence, broadcast FM (at present) , navigation and air band, wx sat , Pagers, Marine DAB, and once again three of the poor old radio amateur's bands are hit. If your household wiring is able to contain the racket these damn things throw into the ether, then lucky you. I know of quite a few victims of them who haven't been so lucky. Most people's household wiring is anything but balanced, and these things will radiate a godawful noise all over all those frequencies with gay abandon, over a surprisingly wide area, just like the lower-speed models have been proven to do time and again.

I'm noy buying into a technology that craps all over any radio users unlucky enough to be in range of them. It's un-neighbour friendly, arrogant, selfish and irresponsible to even think of using them. As for the people marketing them and those who are supposed to prevent illegal devices like these getting to market, the less said the better.

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@Jan13

You must have a much more understanding wife than me.

I, too, can drill through solid walls. I can't pull the *ORIGINAL* skirting boards up without ruining them, they are too solid, and they go right down to the floor (none of this leaving gaps for the carpet, I'm REALLY talking about a 100 year old house with many of the original period fittings). And I wonder what you do with regard to doors. I'm sure that from what you are describing your house must have been taken back to the walls, and decorated in a modern manner.

If I were to run a cable from where the telephone line comes into the house (where my ADSL router and firewall are), to where my office used to be on the top floor, I would have had to either route around a a room and it's door, a hall, a staircase, a landing, another staircase another landing and another door. At a rough guess, I would suspect that I would need about 50 meters of cat 5 cable, and would end up with wire running up door frames and across ceilings. And all with a wife muttering about more spaghetti in the house. And if I wanted to get all of my kids bedrooms wired up like this I would have to repeat this all three more times, or find convenient cupboards with power where I could install switches.

Even if I were to run it into the *next* room where the game consoles are kept, I would still have to route it around two walls negotiating either a door frame or a fireplace (depending on which route I take), drill a hole in the wall, and then around another two walls with fitted furniture. I'd have to move tables, shelf units, desks, the HiFi and possibly carpets as well. You really think that this is easier than plugging 2 or 3 homeplug devices into the wall? You're deluded.

When I said months, I was assuming that I was doing a full time job and doing my part in running a household. I admit that if I took a week off work, I probably could wire up the house to a similar level of access, but I doubt I could do it without cables showing in any number of places. Again, plugging homeplug devices in is MUCH easier, and probably cheaper.

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Stop

Only solution, or just the easiest?

Well a better, cheaper solution to the above, uncommon problem than being the cause of a wide range of radio interference just for the sake of convenience, would be a phone socket in the office with the router plugged into that. Don't you have a phone in your office already though? If it's cordless, presumably the base unit is plugged into the phone socket downstairs too, in which case, your phone is working on the frequencies used by wifi, suggesting wifi will work fine. If it isn't cordless, then you have a socket with ADSL on it right in your office anyway.

The only arguments ever put forward for using these things rather than all the other, better solutions to home networking seem to be based on "won't". It's never "can't". Can't be arsed, maybe. Not a good enough position to be arguing for allowing widespread interference to radio devices over a massive 250mhz bandwidth. At the end of the ongoing legal tussles surrounding PLT, alternatives will probably have to be found anyway, so best find some other way in the first place and save time and money in the long run.

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Anonymous Coward

@Peter Gathercole

Well said sir. I also live in a bloomin old house (circa 400 year old at the front, 150 at the back) and the hassle involved in drilling through massively thick stone walls is just not worth it. Believe me, I'd prefer cat5 cables, but the simplicity of the powerline/homeplug stuff swayed me. It just works (for me).

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@Peter Gathercole

My vote is for homeplug in an old house. Ours is 400 years old. We drilled through one wall once to take some plumbing outside: Our 50cm long drill didn't break through, and we finally got out the other side after 70cm. Not a task to be taken lightly. Our (original) skirting board goes down to the (original) floor boards. Wi-fi drops out from one room to another. We have ended up with homeplug from the adsl/wifi router, to another homeplug in the attic with our 'server', and another homeplug connected to a wifi router on the other side of the house to get (patchy) wifi in all rooms downstairs. Works a treat. Horses for courses I think.

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@Tony Smith: reliability

"Fair point about reliability, Dave, but unless you want us to publish reviews a year after products are launched, ..."

er, yes, or at least some kind of retrospective. Do that. Reviewers rarely touch on reliability unless it actually breaks as they're trying it but it's one of the most important attributes - if it's bust it's totally useless.

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@BlueGreen

It's a nice idea, but impractical. Review kit goes back to the supplier after it's tested. We generally don't have it long enough for reliability testing. We could ask for it again nine months or so down the line, but (a) no one's going to lend us 'old' kit in case we grumble about it being out-of-date and beat up and (b) they're much keener to push the latest models.

Even if we had the kit for that long, how can we, say, use dozens of laptops, MP3 players, netbooks, set-top boxes, TVs etc a day to give them realistic usage?

I would seriously like to do this on Reg Hardware - I think reliability is very important - but it's not going to be easy to do. At least not without readers' help. If you - or your fellows - have products we've reviewed and you've had them for at least nine months, drop us a line to news@regharware.co.uk with your experiences and we'll start publishing them as reliability reports.

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Here's why 1GB

BECAUSE THE POWERLINE NETWORK IS 200MB! and putting 100MB ports on it would cut the bandwidth in half!

It's still a 200MB connection behind the scenes, but now a SINGLE device can use it instead of it being a 200MB aggregate backbone for numerous 100MB connections (which each realistically only hit 50-70MB.

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Grenade

Why waste your money?

If your neighbour complains to Ofcom about interference to their short wave radio, Ofcom will require that your PLT equipment is removed - fact!

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FAIL

a joke

had three pairs of these belks, struggled with them for a few weeks, updated to the latest FW, no difference, in a modern house with new wiring, and these things were falling over every 20 minutes, hot to the touch, constantly losing connection, needed physical resetting and switching off just to be recognized by PC and NMTs etc - bought the devolo aveasy 200s and boy ithey actually do what they say, its easy, streaming 1080p BD rips from nas flawlessly, thank you devolo thank you and cheaper!

biggest fail for any piece of tech i have ever owned

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Understand bandwidth terminology

"Almost every 200Mb/s adaptor uses a 10/100 Ethernet port, capping the throughput at 100Mb/s."

100baseT and 1000baseT ethernet is full duplex. This means you get 100/1000 Mb/s in each direction, and thus double that in total. In contrast wireless and powerline figures are quoted as total bandwidth. Thus a 100Mb/s port can carry the 200 Mb/s of which such a powerline adaptor is capable.

I'll be sticking with my CAT6 cabling giving me 2000 Mb/s (in wireless / powerline) terminology. :-)

Steve

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Works perfectly for me.

I bought one of these yesterday and it worked perfectly from the second it was plugged in.

The plugs show all three LEDs as Blue which indicates a fast connection speed, depsite the two plugs being installed on the Ground and Second Floors respectively.

So far I have used them to stream video and music with no artefacts or glitches whatsoever, despite multiple other electrical devices being used in the house - many of which were plugged into the same sockets as the Powerline HDs.

All in all I am more than happy with this product - it supplied a neat solution for my home LAN which avoided the need for unreliable wireless and / or drilling holes and laying Cat6 cabling and switches everywhere.

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Anonymous Coward

Other experiences

FWIW. If you add a directional folded yagi push on aerial to the average 2.4Ghz rx/tx system router aerial, the range can be considerably extended. I have one receiving from a wireless camera located inside a screened box(caravan), going through exterior and interior brick walls to a receiver inside a chipboard cupboard. The only interference comes from a local microwave. I recently provided one to a friend who lives in a centuries old house, and it worked there for wifi, even though some of the walls were three feet thick. Passive repeater aerials can work in some circumstances. Personally, I use cat5e wiring, but I have a reliability approach.

In the dim and distant past, as a product designer, I found that longer distance mains wiring data transmission was a very hit or miss affair. Blocks of flats were a total nightmare, with signals going off in all directions, or not going anywhere at all! The results also varied by the minute depending on the circuit appliance loadings. In addition, the potential for spurious harmonic RF generation is vast. For those of a masochistic engineering bent, I would suggest creating the spice model of house wiring and looking at the impedance/propagation patterns.

In the US, I would expect problems from the use of 2 phases of supply on different radial runs.

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