The Powerline 1200 is a networking device which uses your home’s existing electrical wiring for network cable. Ethernet over power line isn’t particularly new, but I had a chance to test out and deploy my first gigabit-speed device (this one) last month.
Speeds will vary based on distance, and if you don’t have a properly grounded plug you’ll take a 50%+ performance hit, but even at that you’re looking at around 600 megabit (or about 10-20 times what cable companies consider high speed internet).
This thing is perfect for when WiFi just won’t cut it.
Testing at my house
In my tests at my house using the Powerline vs just using a switch I didn’t see any difference to 80 feet (which is about the furthest any plug can be from any other plug). My laptop talking to a desktop running Lan Speed Test and LST Server were the same.
I’ll point out my laptop was not going the maximum a gigabit port should, but it never does. I get ~860mbit on any devoted test.
Plugs that were properly wired worked about as well as a straight CAT6 ethernet cable, two-prong plugs from the 50’s worked about half as well.
The plantation deployment
There’s a 1700’s plantation house I’ve been tasked with providing internet access throughout. The wiring was updated to codes in the 80’s (most likely for insurance purposes) and there’s one cable line that runs in the place at the northernmost corner.
I’m not allowed to make a single hole in this house, even though it would be easy to hardwire some repeaters in.
WiFi signals don’t penetrate the walls particularly well as far as I can tell they’re solid wood sitting on brick. Multiple fireplaces in the house further serve to make anything except line of sight WiFi useless. There’s a kitchen with some sort of tile that just eats WiFi for breakfast.
Two repeaters are required to get extremely slow internet to the far corner of the house.
I plugged a Powerline 1200 into the plug next to the router and plugged the ethernet cable into the cable modem. I then took a stroll to the far end of this house (13 seconds of brisk walking, 200 feet?), slapped the other plug in, waited 10 seconds and the network was up.
At this location I didn’t have a dedicated receiver to use with Lan Speed Test, so I had to rely on copy times over the Powerline and then to a workstation plugged into the cable modem. Transfer times were good. Ping times were great (see below – 64K pings, 15-30ms response off of a cable modem).
The Powerline 1200 was able to deliver the full capabilities of the 60mbit cable internet connection with no slowdown. Using a Powerline 1200 at that house I can break out the connection into multiple WiFi hotspots if need be that have full speed connection.
The office test
My office building is three stories high with two half floors, several renters, and a data layout that was never designed for what we’ve had to put it through. The building was originally wired for one tenant with up to two data connections and phone systems.
As of today there are now eight different internet connections for different tenants, and roughly 22 CAT5 cables that run from the phone/data incoming area on floor 2.5 to various floors.
Due to HIPAA requirements two of the tenants won’t risk crossing our network (even on vlans) they have their own ethernet runs to their own internet. Due to PCI compliancy another tenant of ours has their own ethernet run. Etc.
I thought it might be incredibly cool, not to mention saving a couple hundred dollars per new tenant run, to use the Powerline 1200 to traverse the multiple floors and come out in the data room.
So I started a deployment test in our commercial office building, and sadly it didn’t come close to the 1980’s wiring of the plantation house.
While the adapters worked, even going office to office was pretty slow. From farthest points in the building the speed was abysmal. Evidently our building has a power conditioner that seems to want to interfere with it.
Our building also has a giant solar array, movie stage lighting, and more random electronics than you can shake a stick at plugged in so I’m not faulting the Powerline 1200 here. We’re also significantly larger in square footage than it claims it supports.
The kit just works out of the box. Data is encrypted end to end so you don’t have to worry about someone being able to sniff your power lines. If you want to set up a new key or pair new devices you can with a button press.
The adapter claims better than gigabit speeds in the background. I couldn’t test if this is true/reachable with just the two that I had. I’ll bet it is.
The only thing I really wish this had was pass-through power, which it appears TRENDnet is working on.
If you’re not attempting to move large amounts of data from point A to B, the TRENDnet Powerline 1200 AV2 adapter kit may be a bit of overkill. If all you’re looking to do is move high speed internet, you might want to consider the considerably less expensive Powerline 500AV Adapter, which will deliver about 10x the speeds your internet service provider probably gives you. In other words, it’s fine for anything internet, but if you’re trying to stream a blu-ray across the network you might get into some hiccups.
I’d really have liked to have had the chance to try this in another office building without the power conditioners, hundreds of weird devices, and solar panel arrays. I have a feeling it would have shone in a reasonably sized building. If anyone in Nashville wants to volunteer an office building where I can poke around without having a bomb squad called on me, drop me a line.
The powerline 1200 AV2 adapter kit is available from Amazon for $162.50.