Those who read my recent review of the Belkin N750 Router know that I’ve not had a great history with networking appliances. It should also be fairly plain that I’d be gun shy about anything that seemed too good to be true. I received the Diamond HP200AV Powerline Internet AV Kit almost two months ago, but with the shocking ease at which everything seemed to come together, you can imagine my inner sceptic was immediately hearing warning bells. Before we figure out whether or not this product delivers, let’s talk about exactly what it is and how it might just solve a long-standing problem that plagues nearly all of us.
Again, those who read my router review know that I’ve recently rewired my house to solve exactly the situation you might use this Internet AV Kit to solve – pushing media around your house. Each of us have wanted to take a home video, a downloaded TV show, or various other media from our home PC to our network-enabled devices, only to be thwarted by weak WiFi or file sizes that aren’t conducive to streaming. Similarly, our cablemodem or DSL ports are often nowhere near where we’d like them to be. Unless you like getting insulation in the cracks of places we don’t talk about at parties, climbing in the attic to rewire your house isn’t often a viable option. The Diamond Powerline Internet AV Kit (let’s call it a “Powerline” from now on, shall we?) aims to solve this with an unlikely ally – the electrical wiring in your home. My own network recently rebuilt, I had a perfect use case for this device – my mom’s home.
My mom lives in a manufactured home and has DSL. The port, inexplicably, is located at the furthest wall of the furthest bedroom of the home – a great distance from the living room. Her experience streaming Netflix was fairly terrible at best and any online gaming (yes, my mom is a casual gamer!) was problematic. I was about to string some CAT5e underneath her home when I realized that this device just might solve my problem in a matter of seconds.
“Connect HDTVs and Other Internet-Ready Devices”
Straight off the side of the box, the Powerline is making promises already. In point of fact, the side of the box contains essentially the entirety of what you’ll need to get this device set up. Opening the box you’ll find two Powerline adapters, a pair of 4’ CAT 5e Ethernet cables, and a completely unneeded “Easy Start Guide and User Manual” CD. With the box unpacked it was time to see if setup is as simple as they suggest.
Finding a nearby empty wall plug, I pushed the first of the two Powerline adapters into the socket. The device came online and I discovered the first issue with this device – the included 4’ cable is just entirely too short for nearly any setup. Swapping it out with my own cable, I snapped the cable into the first port of her DSL modem. Pressing the second into a free power plug in the living room, I ran a second long Ethernet cable to the rear port of her Sony BluRay player – her Netflix device. The port immediately went live and within a few seconds the player had already obtained an IP address from the DSL modem. Could it be that simple? No…it couldn’t be, could it? My cynicism insisted there had to be a catch. I brought up the Netflix app.
Amazingly, it seems that my work was done. Movies immediately spun up and streamed with almost no buffering time. I brought up Hulu and other streaming applications including Pandora and found similar results – somehow this device just worked. No configuration, no disc to run, no changes to make – just plug it in and you are done. There is a button on the front of the Powerline though – it was time to take a look at that CD as my curiosity was piqued.
The Powerline adapter uses 128bit AES Encryption, and you can enable it by simply hitting the button on the front of both devices. This prevents plaintext captures or other casual snooping should someone gain physical access to your devices. Not necessarily a required thing, but a welcome and simple precaution.
The last test I had to throw at this device was how well it handled sustained transfers. Throwing a switch in front of my mom’s BluRay player, I set up some transfers between my laptop and her desktop. As I’d come to expect by this point, the device performed perfectly under pressure. The device box advertises that you get a “Super Speed AV 200Mbps Connection Rate”, but we all know that reality is often a bit different than marketing.
On the front of the device is a connection level LED with three settings – Red, Amber, and Green. Red indicates that your connection is fairly weak, and you should expect less than 30Mbps of throughput. At the Amber level you should expect between 30 and 80 Mbps, and at the Green level you should expect above 80Mbps. You’ll notice that 80 is nowhere near the advertised 200, but this is actually correct – you see, in Ethernet standards speeds are expressed in both directions simultaneously. That means that if you are running a 100Mbps line, you are actually getting 200Mbps as a theoretical maximum – 100 in each direction, as is the case with the Powerline. In this case the home was manufactured in the early 90s, the devices were roughly 60 feet apart (the box purports a 200m maximum range), and we were getting a green light on both adapters. Our testing routinely hit 65Mbps with bursts up near 73Mbps on longer transfers. For frame of reference you need roughly 24Mbps to beat most 802.11g wireless setups, so we were already beating those values. The fact that there was no contention or interference by using a physical connection meant a smooth and consistent experience.
Mom is happy
For me, there is no better feeling than solving problems with technology. When I can combine that with making mom happy, so much the better. As I said, I’ve held this review for over 60 days to see if the other shoe would drop, and it simply hasn’t. The Powerline adapter works exactly as promised, delivering fairly close to the promised speeds (marketing misnomers aside), and was as simple to set up as had been promised. While the device is a bit bulky, chews up an outlet (it can’t be used in a power strip, so don’t bother to try), and ships with a cable too short for reasonable use, the device surpassed my expectations. It has solved an issue that has been driving my mom crazy for months, and it did it with nearly zero effort. It isn’t often that something to niche works so well, but the Diamond HP200AV Powerline Internet AV Kit solves an entirely too common problem. The pair of them will set you back 72 bucks courtesy of Amazon, and I have to say that it is money well spent. My mom sure appreciates it!