D-Link DHP-300/DHP-301 Powerline Ethernet Adapter: It Rocks!

I live in a house that was completed in 1970. It’s a wonderful architectural house with amazing lines and a true joy to live in.

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The house is built to last. The walls are 8 inch solid concrete with steel re-bar throughout the entire house. The house also wasn’t wired for the modern world and doesn’t feature Ethernet ports throughout the house. My office is on the top floor along with the Internet connection.

Like any good nerd, I need to have a network feed in multiple rooms. I need one in the living room for the Xbox and Windows Media Centre. Up until recently, I was using wireless to accomplish this with mixed results due to the house construction. Steel rebars form something called a Faraday cage which partially blocks Wireless G signals. I can get an Ok signal to the living room once I installed a Linksys Wireless-N router upstairs. If you need to get more signal strength to a wireless G device, install a wireless N router, you will get a stronger and faster signal even without using a wireless N receiving device. The signal in the bedroom at the other end of the house, is weak and intermittent for wireless G devices. My laptop, which has wireless N card, works Ok but suffers on occasion.

I’ve been reading about Ethernet over powerline for about a year and for once I didn’t dive into the first generation as apparently it didn’t work that well. When I was at my local computer store, I noticed that D-Link has a kit with 2 adapters for about $150. The kit is a D-Link DHP-301 Powerline HD Network Starter Kit. Inside the box are two DHP-300 adapters, a CD-ROM, 2 short Ethernet cables and directions.

I skimmed the directions and it was basically:

  1. Install the driver software
  2. Plug one of the DHP-300 units into a power bar or directly into the wall
  3. Connect an Ethernet cable from your router into the DHP-300 unit
  4. Configure with software
  5. Plug the 2nd unit into another plug in the house
  6. Run an Ethernet cable from the unit to the device and viola, instant network without wires

I was also pleased to see that the signal is encrypted so that your friendly neighbour cannot easily tap into your network if the signal happens to shed over their power grid. 

I followed the direction and plugged the unit in my office into a power bar (what good nerds has empty wall plugs?), connected it to the router and configured it. I was able to see it with the software and was getting a strong signal since it was 1 metre away from my computer.

I went downstairs and turned on the Xbox which was connected to the network via a Linksys Wireless Game Adapter running wireless G. I ran the the Windows Media Centre Network Tuning Wizard. It said the network was able to stream a regular TV signal but was way short of being able to stream HD. I used this as a relative measure of network performance. The other problem was that the signal was all over the place, looking a bit like a bad heart beat. I played around with the antenna, moving it in different positions and it made about a 5-10% improvement but still wasn’t able to stream HD or download large files quickly. I also noticed I received the strongest signal when I was holding the antenna. I suppose I could wire it to my body…

I connected up the other DHP-300, pluging it into the power bar next to the stereo and connected the Ethernet cable to the Xbox and ran the same network tuning wizard. I was a little pissed off to see that it was WORSE than the wireless and wasn’t fast enough to even stream regular TV. Another $150 wasted. When I went upstairs to check the software that gives the signal strength, it gave 1 dot out of 3 which isn’t great.

Not to be deterred and determined not to get screwed yet again, I did a bit of research in the manual and on the Internet and found several references about the unit where people were complaining of poor performance. The fix in each case was to plug the units directly into the wall and not use a power bar. I moved the upstairs unit into Sharon’s office where there are spare plugs, connected it to her router and checked the network performance again.

The signal was better, about the same as the wireless G connection. I then plugged the downstairs adapter directly into a wall socket and ran the network performance graph. It was way over the speed needed to stream HD and it was solid constant speed. I was actually amazed. I spent less than an hour from unpacking the units to having fast Ethernet speed into my living room.

I have to say I was really impressed. Even Sharon noticed a speed improvement when we were using the Xbox.

For my set-up, I now have a reasonably low cost way of adding Ethernet ports throughout the house which open ups a whole realm of possibilities.

I highly recommend the DHP-300, it works as billed.

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