Sunday, 23 March 2008

Netgear HDX101 Powerline Ethernet Review

I live in a building with lots of concrete walls. That is not funny when trying to get wireless coverage in all rooms. Plus due to the amounts of sunshine here – the windows are very isolating – and isolates WiFi quite well. The flat is rented as well – so drilling holes are not really an option.

So for a long time I had no Internet access in some of the rooms. But then a while ago I thought – hmm, living on 33. floor with nice terrace I might be able to cover my neighborhood with WiFi and get coverage in the other rooms – I went out to find a Powerline Ethernet adaptor. By luck I found some cheap 85Mbps based on HomePlug standard – and used them to put 1 AP in the workroom – and 1 Alcon outdoor access point outside. J But with 85 Mpbs you get maybe 5-12 mbps in real life. So the solution is not really great if you do big file transfers or backup.

So I researched a bit and found the 200 Mbps units – and found that Netgear HDX101 was available in Dubai. So based on my previous experience I bought 2 x 2 sets – and thought the exchange would be quick and painless.

But no..

The design and looks of the HDX101 is great – a lot better than the old 85 Mbps units. The LEDs are a bit bright though, so in a dark room it will light up the room quite a lot.

The software for managing security on the device was available in a Vista version – and download and installation was quick and painless. But it installs a windows pcap device driver! Remember to remove that again since it is not a happy thing to have your computer equipped with packet capture software.

So I installed the 3 devices. One at the main router, one on the terrace, on in the 3rd WiFi free room. The Netgear software then came up and asked if I wanted to upgrade firmware. And that was the first problem. I off course said YES. The upgrade took ages – and failed after 8 minutes. ("Protocol Timeout Error") I tried that a few times – gave up and found my trusty Sony UX90s with Windows XP to do the upgrade. That helped a bit but with 2 of the units – the upgrade kept failing. Okay…

Then I started testing speed. My main router is in the living room so I was doing backup test while watching the news via my Motorola Digital Cable box. My computer was backing up over the Netgear units. Suddenly the Netgear unit my X61t was connected too disconnected and shut of power to the Ethernet port. I growled a bit and then re-set the HDX101 and tried again. This time it only took 30. seconds, then the X61t was disconnected again. I tried a few times – but with same result. I took the spare unit and started again. That seemed to work a bit better – but speed was not a lot better than my old 85 Mbps units.

Then I started noticing that my TV signal stopped – maybe 30 seconds to 2 minutes. That had never happened before. Then TV resumed, then TV stopped, then TV resumed. I then got a nagging feeling that the Netgear HDX101 was the culprit. So I turned off the HDX101 close to the TV box. And voila! TV signal got stable. I turned the HDX101 on again – and Voila! Stuttering TV signal. So some interference between my Motorola IP tv boks and the HDX101, makes my TV signal back.

So in short.. Do you want to buy 4 slightly used HDX101? My old 85 Mpbs units are back in place, and I have 4 units I can't use.

I think the HDX101 might be okay in some situations – but not for me. The advantages in speed was marginal compared to the 85 Mbps units. But the problem with noise is a big one. My 85 Mbps units have never given problems like that.

Pros: Speed and Vista "Compatible" software

Cons: Noise, PCAP driver for software to work, 1:4 defective from factory. They become VERY VERY hot.

1 comment:

csw said...

"not a happy thing to have your computer equipped with packet capture software."

PCAP is only a driver which allows you to send/receive raw Ethernet packets. It is standard on Linux, but is missing on Windows.

When you install PCAP, it does not install "packet capture software", only a driver. If you want "packet capture software", then you must install additional software such as WireShark. WireShark does use PCAP for sniffing packets, but there are many legitimate uses for sending/receiving raw Ethernet packets.