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IOGEAR Homeplug Networking Reviewed 99

Chris Allen writes "Wired or wireless? This is always just about the first thing anyone thinks of when planning their new home/soho office. It always comes down to price/performance/practicality, in whichever order you feel is more important. Sometimes it just isn't possible to run CAT5, for a variety of reasons. The only options available for the average consumer is wireless, HomePNA, which uses your existing telephone network in your house, and HomePlug, using your existing power grid. HomePNA has been around for around 3 years or so, and has matured some, starting out transmitting at dismal speeds and lackluster reliability in regards to interference. HomePlug is short for HomePlug® Powerline Alliance."
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IOGEAR Homeplug Networking Reviewed

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  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:19AM (#5024624) Homepage Journal
    The characteristic impedance of TV co-ax is 75 ohms. Thinnet Ethernet cable is 50 ohms, as is the impedance of an Ethernet card. This will cause a VSWR mismatch.

    You are getting a reflected signal off each network card in the system. As you describe it, you have a simple point-to-point link, so your reflections are "only" bouncing from one card to another. This will cause errors in the system.

    I would suggest that you get REAL network cable (preferably CAT-5), tie it onto the existing cable, and pull it through. You will then be able to run 100Mbit, you won't have the reflection problem, and I think you will be much happier overall.

    (actually, I would suggest that you go to the local hardware store, and while you are picking up the CAT5, pick up a spool of nylon cordage. Strip the end of the coax, and securely tie the cordage to the shield of the coax. Then smoothly tape it over with electrician's tape, starting on the coax jacket and with a 1/3 overlap moving to the cordage. When you reach the cordage, wind one extra pass, then cut the tape and UNWIND and REWIND that last wrap with no tension on the tape. Then pull the cordage through. Once it is through, then tie the CAT5 to the cordage and tape as you did the coax. Then pull BOTH the CAT5 and a new run of cordage. Leave the cordage in place - it will save you grief later if you need to pull an additional cable.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:22AM (#5024639)
    For laptops, I find 802.11 to be the most convienant option. Not only do I get to move around the house or sit in front of the TV, but it makes it easier for work also. Assuming your work allows 802.11. I find there's nothing more cool than coding and watching Iron chef at the same time.
  • by macemoneta ( 154740 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @09:54AM (#5024794) Homepage
    A balun (small inline impedance matching transformer) will take care of the problem. We used to use them all the time when we were running 3270 terminals over twisted pair.

    You can use prebuilt units, like these [], or build your own [].

    Over short distances, the signal loss wont be significant -- heck, it's working with the mismatch! :-)

  • by DaChesserCat ( 594136 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @10:42AM (#5025067) Journal
    ExtremeTech [] did a review of the power-line networking tech back in April 2002; they have some comparisons of its performance relative to other networking technologies; the article in question can be found here []. As it stands, the powerline networking was pretty slow; even 802.11b outperformed it.

    Does anyone know of any other, more recent network tech shootouts? This was the most recent I could find for powerline. Extremetech has also done some testing on Bluetooth, for anyone who is interested in how it performs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @11:09AM (#5025259)
    Okay, I've just gone with HomePNA, and I'm both awed and disgruntled.

    In favor of HPNA- 2.0's speed is excellent (~14mbps peak), and when it works, it's literally plug-and-play - the only security hole (unless you're worried about Van Eckers) can be cured with a cheap DSL microfilter between your home wiring and the telco.

    The problem with HPNA 2.0 is that Broadcom has a monopoly on the HPNA 2.0 chipsets. Apparently others are making PHYceivers (see Anandtech's review, in which Compex's poor performance is blamed on a Conexant chip), but the MAC is always going to be a BCM4210 or relative. Even that wouldn't be so bad, but the 2.0 spec is Not Ethernet, and includes some bandwidth-reservation (QoS) tech that's Broadcom's intellectual property.

    The end result is that, if you want to use a cheap $9 PNA2.0 card outside of Windows or Classic MacOS, you're stuck with some presumably flaky closed drivers for Linux (hidden on Linksys' site- props to Linksys for at least trying)... If you run a *BSD, OS X, QNX, or anything else, you're stuck buying a bridge.

    Now, this wouldn't be so bad- having a bridge means having an Instant Ethernet Drop anywhere you have a phoneline- but the average price for a single port version is in the $150 range. In fact, good luck finding one that even integrates a switch/hub; Linksys made a 1.0 (1mbit) device that did, but their HPB200 doesn't. In fact, the only halfway-affordable solution is to get an old Panasonic KX-HGW200 - that's a full router - closeout from CompUSA for $20, turn off its routing features and run it as a bridge.

    (You can mix 1.0 and 2.0 devices on a segment; it's just annoying, because everything on the segment flips back to 1.0 mode.)

    Now, okay, so that's where HomePNA lives on the sucks-rulesometer. How about HomePlug?

    Well, let's put it this way- nobody's going to make a PCI card with a 110v plug on the back. You only get bridges, and those bridges don't sound much cheaper than their HomePNA variants. By all rights, they have to be much more complex, since power lines are more hostile than phone lines.

    Meanwhile, you can turn around and run 802.11 for the same or less money (~$30/client)... but when you're trying to hook up your relatives, who wants to explain signal strengths, WEP holes, and wardrivers?

    Thus far, my bets are still with HomePNA - could all you Slashdotters *please* hammer Broadcom to improve the openness of documentation/support? - In theory, a 100mbit 3.0 is in the works, and that might give them a chance to recoup some cred (and even if you're stuck falling back to 14mbit, that's still quite usable vs. 1mbit)...
  • HomePNA == Localtalk (Score:4, Informative)

    by lordpixel ( 22352 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @11:26AM (#5025384) Homepage
    Picture the scene, its the mid-80s. Apple engineers want a way to network their dinky 9" screen toaster macs. All they have is a serial port, and almost no one has heard of Ethernet.

    More importantly, the wife (landlord or whoever) is not going to stand for rewiring the house with some computer nonsense.

    Solution: AppleTalk networking over LocalTalk cabling. ie, use the existing phone sockets and cabling to send data. By modern standards it crawls, but it works well and is still in use today (by some unfortunate souls).

    Almost 20 years later you have HomePNA. There aren't many new ideas in this world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @11:34AM (#5025446)
    With the powerline I've used, there are special filters built into power strips or the like that filter out the signal.
  • by Unregistered ( 584479 ) on Monday January 06, 2003 @12:06PM (#5025659)
    IIRC they come with builtin surge protectors
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 06, 2003 @12:33PM (#5025848)
    I have the Linksys Powerline bridges, and I am *very* happy with them. Consistent 10Mbps+ speed at a distance of over 150ft -- wireless in the same home had lots of packet loss and downgraded bandwidth. If you're frustrated with dropped/slow wireless in your home, I encourage you to have a look at Powerline solutions -- way underrated, IMHO.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas