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Performance

The numbers above show best case performance about equal to HomePNA (phoneline) 2.0 products. Considering that I've only tested HPNA products with a stand-alone 50 foot phone extension cable and not with actual home wiring, these results are pretty impressive! (Remember that the first generation powerline networking products were lucky to run at about 100 kbps... if they ran at all!)

Since this was my first crack at looking at HomePlug networking, I thought I'd run some longer tests with NetIQ's Chariot, and generate some comparative plots. The results are shown in the plot (click on it for a full-sized view) and table below.

Linksys PLEBR10 throughput plot
Click to enlarge image

(Test conditions are plotted in order, starting with Condition 1.)
Test Condition Average (Mbps) Minimum (Mbps) Maximum (Mbps) Throughput 95%
Confidence Interval
Measured Time (secs) Relative Precision
(smaller number is better)
Condition 1
5.814
1.240
6.299
0.099
59.723
1.710
Condition 2
5.225
0.954
5.797
0.173
59.710
3.312
Condition 3
5.245
1.060
5.839
0.140
59.637
2.661
Condition 4
2.933
2.564
3.089
0.010
59.743
0.329

The results show that the throughput is pretty consistent over the one minute test period, even with the large negative "spikes" that you see on the plots. I'm not sure what the "spikes" are caused by, but I'm pretty sure that they're not due to any electrical interference on the line... at least not any that I was generating! Condition 2 and 3's measurements show about a 10% throughput loss, and Condition 4 had a drop of just about 50% exactly. I can't explain the difference between the Condition 3 and 4 results, since both were on the other phase of my home's electric service and roughly equal in distance from the reference bridge in my office. I ran the tests a few times, and although the exact numbers varied, the relative throughput reductions in each of the test Conditions were consistent.

Ok, time for the torture test! I tried running both a hair dryer, then a small hand-held jigsaw while running a Condition 1 test to see if there was a throughput hit or a loss of connectivity. Both noise generators were plugged into the same outlet strip (not filtered) as both bridges, and I ran at least two tests with each appliance. The resulting plots didn't show any appreciable change in the throughput while the motors were running. Basically, the motor noise didn't make any difference in the network's operation... another impressive performance!

Wrap Up

If you set out to design the worst possible electrical environment for high speed data networking, you'd be hard pressed to come up with something worse than your home or office's electrical wiring. It's noisy, has no dependable impedance (important for designing high-speed circuits), and is otherwise a just plain nasty place to use for anything other than supplying power. But through the wonders of HomePlug's digital signal processing, OFDM modulation, and, in my opinion, just plain magic, Linksys' PLEBR10 looks like it can provide yet another alternative to folks who can't or don't want to run CAT5 cables through their home of office.

With its major competitors holding back or canceling HomePlug product plans, Linksys has the market virtually to itself. Although average street pricing is around $125, you can (at review time) find the PLEBR10 for as little as $80, which about half the price of their HPB200 HPNA bridge!

As with other "alternative networking" products such as HomePNA and wireless, the old "your mileage may vary" warning certainly applies to HomePlug products, and I'm not saying that it absolutely will work under all conditions. But from what I can see, it's certainly robust enough, and priced low enough, as an alternative for floor-to-floor and (closely spaced) building-to-building connections, or for connecting a few computers in that how-am-I-gonna-run-cable-to-there!? location.

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