Intellon (Now Atheros) And NETGEAR, The Next Generation: Powerline Networking Gets A Minor Performance Augmentation
Following up on yesterday’s disappointing re-test of Gigle Semiconductor’s HomePlug AV-plus powerline networking adapters, today’s evaluation focuses on NETGEAR’s XAV1004 HomePlug AV unit. Whereas the XAV101s I’m currently using are based on Intellon’s (now Atheros’) second-generation INT6300 chipset, the XAV1004 employs the third-generation INT6400. According to Chris Geiser, NETGEAR’s powerline product line manager:
It’s the highest performing Powerline SKU available anywhere in the world today – offering a 15-20% performance boost over our award-winning XAVB101.
First off, here’s a revisit of yesterday’s data on the XAV101, both in the conventional ‘hybrid’ four-adapter configuration (i.e. with the laptop wirelessly connected to the router over 802.11n):
and with the laptop also LAN-tethered via an XAV101, translating to a five-adapter topology:
Now take a look at the four-adapter ‘hybrid’ topology using XAV1004s:
along with the five-adapter XAV1004 configuration that incorporates the laptop connection:
Improvements in both cases are slight but noticeable, especially in the ‘hybrid’ approach that devotes all of the available power grid-delivered bandwidth capability to the router-to-Xbox 360 connection (i.e. with the laptop-to-router portion of the total link redirected to 802.11n).
Right now, the XAV1004 is available only in the XAVB1004 Home Theater Internet Connection Kit, which curiously combines an INT6400-based XAV1004 and prior-generation INT6300-based XAV101.
Chris Geiser admitted to me that this bundle is non-ideal from a bandwidth standpoint:
You won’t get the full benefit of the new chipset and the other enhancements we made to the product. Note that the performance gains are not chipset only – which is why you’ll see the XAVB101’s performing better than 6300-based Belkin and Linksys and Monster products. That being said, we do see an improvement in performance when pairing a 6300-based XAV101 with a 6400-based XAV1004, but not as dramatic as using two 6400-based devices.
However, performance isn’t the only reason to buy an XAV1004; the slick integrated four-port switch eliminates the need for a separate switch in both my bedroom and living room entertainment equipment setups.
NETGEAR hasn’t (yet, at least) unveiled an INT6400-based successor to the simpler single-port XAV101, but it’s not a stretch to imagine that such a product is probably under development. If and when such a product comes out, and based on the performance-boosting potential I saw today, I plan to completely migrate my existing powerline setup from INT6300- to INT6400-based adapters.