Testing the capability of a product built around Powerline Ethernet technology isn't a simple task; the performance is directly linked to the building and the quality or condition of its mains electric cabling.
It's important to note, therefore, that the speeds achieved in this evaluation are merely a guideline and your own mileage may vary. For the purpose of our tests, we placed a desktop PC on the ground floor of a relatively new-build property and a laptop on the first floor. Both systems were separated by a distance of roughly 50ft, the desktop PC was connected directly to a Gigabit router, and the laptop was connected to the network using one of the following three methods:
- Using the integrated Atheros AR9002WB-1NG 150Mbps Wireless N controller
- Using a Netgear XEB1004 85Mbps Homeplug Adapter Kit
- Using a Power Ethernet Socket 200Mbps Starter Kit
Getting the ball rolling, we used PassMark's Performance Test to measure the data transfer rate between the two systems. As expected, using the 85Mbps Netgear Homeplugs delivered poor performance, the laptop's integrated wireless coped well, and the Power Ethernet Sockets put in a decent showing at 31.76Mbit/s.
The Iometer test is used to measure sequential read performance between the two networked systems and we see similar results. The Power Ethernet Sockets provide a strong, stable transfer rate and act as a mild improvement over wireless, but the achieved 7MB/s is far from spectacular. Putting these numbers into perspective, we connected the laptop and desktop PCs directly to a Gigabit switch using long lengths of Cat5 cable and scored a massive 109MB/s in the same Iometer test.
Taking a look at a basic real-world scenario, the File Copy test entails copying three movie files weighing a total of 532MB from one machine to the other. Using Netgear's 85Mbps Homeplug Adaptors had us waiting almost five minutes, the laptop's built-in wireless was able to complete the task in one minute and 42 seconds, while the Power Ethernet Sockets led the pack at one minute and 31 seconds.
A reasonable return for a clutter-free and simple-to-install solution? Perhaps, but the Power Ethernet Sockets' ability to transmit data over a building's existing electrical cables pales in comparison to dedicated Cat5 cabling; with the latter we were able to complete the 532MB file copy test in just seven seconds.