In my house, I currently don't have an easy way to run CAT-5 cable to areas where I want a solid Internet connection. I'm running an 802.11n router currently to try and get the most bandwidth there is to allow streaming of content in both standard definition and high definition to other devices in the house. My issue though is that while the connection is mostly solid, there are times that it does drop or the speed decreases causing stuttering when streaming some content. There is one solution that a few companies have released to try and provide network connections in hard to wire places and that is to use the existing electrical wiring in the house. D-Link has a product that's made for HD streaming and today we look at the DHP-303 Powerline HD Network Kit.
The DHP-303 Powerline HD Network Starter Kit consists of two units that plug straight into the outlet. These white square blocks hold an Ethernet connection and some LEDs. On the front you can see a power LED to let you know the unit is receiving power, an Ethernet LED indicating there's a connection with a blinking status showing there is data being transmitted, an LED to let you know if it's the master unit of the house, and a throughput LED. The throughput LED is a nice visual indicator to let you know if things aren't running as fast. Red means that the speed is less than 6Mbps. When it turns amber, the speed is between 20Mbps and 6Mbps while a green LED means it's running at least 20Mbps. A few outlets in my house gave me the dreaded amber and red LED so I knew those weren't good outlets to use.
Setting the DHP-303 up was pretty simple. I plugged one unit into the wall and connected my router to it. This was then designated as the master unit automatically. The other unit was then plugged into another outlet and connected to my laptop which quickly confirmed a network connection. Now you probably don't have to worry about securing your network if you are in your own house but for those who share their living quarters with others in places such as apartment complexes, you can easily pair up your units and secure them in a few simple steps. The large round button on the front helps with this procedure and you'll be able to secure the units in your setup in no time.
There's one Ethernet connection on the bottom of the unit and that's a slight disappointment. I'd love to have a few more in that area so if you want to share the line with other electronic items, you're going to have to plug it into a switch or hub. Similar devices from other companies do have multiple outlets per unit so there are examples out there of these in existence. But, it's not that much of a deal breaker and having one is better than having none.
The DHP-303 is marked to run at 200Mbps but we all know that that's not going to be the case. The same reason that wireless networks don't ever reach their rated speeds, powerline network devices never do as well. In any case, I was hoping for enough speed to be able to stream some HD content and play games. Games tend to use less bandwidth anyways so if I could get a steady connection from the DHP-303 for streaming HD video then I would be golden.
One great feature of the DHP-303 is that it will power down when the devices are in idle. This should help save a little bit of power when things get slow as far as traffic goes. The two units were warm to the touch when used for the two weeks I was testing it but it never got too hot. I've read of older models getting burned out from extreme heat but the two units I have in use seem to be running well in the heat department.
To test, I positioned the master unit in the center of the ground floor of my two story house. I plugged it directly in with my Linksys Gigabit router and into an outlet that was also powering a 48" LCD TV, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, router, and a DVR. I wanted to see if there were any significant changes if I ran the DHP-303 with the items on or off as well as how well it worked on the whole.
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