Review: Netgear Powerline AV Adapter Kit

Netgear makes powerline fast and easy all at once. (November 22nd, 2009)

Powerline networking products have been on the market for several years but haven't gained mainstream acceptance simply because of Wi-Fi. However, there are instances where power line networking equipment can go where wireless equipment cannot. Those who live in very large homes that are full of interference may be better served with a network that uses the wiring they already have. But is the latest generation of powerline networking solutions up to par with wireless in terms of performance, ease of use, and security? Today we are looking at Netgearís XAVB1004 Powerline AV Adapter Kit to find out.

Electronista Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Netgear

Price: $190

The Good

  • Very simple setup.
  • Fast compared to Wi-Fi.
  • Four-port switch.

The Bad

  • Security setup flawed.
  • Dated software.
  • Relatively expensive.

what's in the box, and setting up

The Netgear kit is positioned as a fix for a home entertainment system, and accordingly comes with enough to make an end-to-end connection. The kit includes two pieces of hardware: Netgear's Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter and the Powerline AV Adapter with Ethernet Switch. The AV Ethernet adapter resembles a power brick and is the device that starts your powerline network. This AV adapter is plugged into the wall and an Ethernet cable connects it to your router. The AV adapter with Ethernet switch resembles a common Ethernet switch ,but the uplink function is the powerline network which obviously is connected via the switch's power cable.

Setting up the system is a relative breeze: you simply plug the equipment in and you're up and running almost instantly. There literally is no setup aside from connecting the cables. The AV powerline switch has four Ethernet ports on it and so can accommodate the multi-device setups you're increasingly likely to find in a home theater, such as an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 sitting alongside an Apple TV or Sonos ZonePlayer S5.

security, software, and performance

Like wireless networking equipment, powerline networks also have encryption to prevent unwanted users from accessing your network; while it's more secure than wireless as it needs physical access to a power plug, those in apartments or offices will want to address the security of a powerline network in case the power grids are linked.

Netgear offers users two ways to enable security on their powerline network: one is through a one-touch button setup and the other is through software similar to the wireless router interfaces many users are familiar with. We had issues with getting either method to properly secure the network. When trying the one-touch button method, the equipment seemed to lock up and required hard resets. When trying the dated-looking software bundle, we altered settings repeatedly but never received confirmation that the software properly applied the settings to the equipment.

Regardless of our troubles with the security settings, we were impressed with the powerline equipment because of its speed. We tried several hours of Xbox 360 multiplayer play over the powerline connection and streamed some 1080p videos from computer to computer. Our experience felt every bit as fast as when we use a traditional Ethernet connection and our wireless video streaming started instantly without any buffering or artifacts. While it's not as fast as gigabit Ethernet -- a potential hurdle for those who transfer large files often -- it's fast enough at 200Mbps to outpace typical 802.11n Wi-Fi and some older 100Mbps Ethernet links.

wrapping up

Netgear's powerline networking equipment is dead-simple to setup and, practically speaking, very fast. All the same, security setup and the quality of the software may be issues. For users who are not living in single-family homes, we would advise you check that the network is encrypted before you commit to keeping the network in place. For those who don't find network security an issue, though, the Netgear Powerline AV Kit is an exceptional solution, even with a relatively steep official $190 price.

by Kelcey Lehrich


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