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On the front of the adapters are three LEDs that, from left to right, indicate power, EOP connection, and Ethernet connection. Setting the kit up is as simple as plugging the two units in and connecting them to your existing network - one into a PC or notebook and the other into the switch, hub or router. Once correctly connected the first two LEDs will be lit and the third will flash along with network activity.
It's worth pointing out that, though these units are rated at 200Mbps this is actually somewhat misleading. The chip inside and the connecter are standard 100Mbps Fast Ethernet components. Under optimal conditions Fast Ethernet can operate in full duplex mode, which is sometimes referred to as 200Mbps, - the same way that DDR memory chips are referred to as their maximum speed rather than the actual MHz. Netgear has clearly gone with the larger figure for marketing purposes, which is a bit sneaky.
To test the kit's performance we used two laptops connected through a 100Mbps router, with the EOP in-between one laptop and the router - exactly as the manual suggests. Measurements were taken using the open source tool, Iometer.
The Netgear set attained a speed of 58Mbps, which is indeed fast enough to stream a full HD movie with plenty of headroom for Internet browsing, gaming, and other miscellaneous network activity. However, it would be interesting to see how well performance scales when you use several units on the same network.
Netgear bundles the HDXB101 with a configuration utility that enables you to password protect your network - useful if you share a building - and adjust quality-of-service (QoS) settings. You can prioritise UDP or TCP traffic, or individual programs. This is great for ensuring your favourite online game is not choked by someone downloading their latest podcast, for instance.
Lots of factors affect the bandwidth you may obtain with Powerline technology. Bad quality wiring, interference from other electronics, and the use of extensions will all adversely affect your overall speed. Even so, the majority of households will be covered by the HDXB101.
The HDXB101 is the fastest EOP kit we've ever tested though it loses points for being nowhere near the maximum speed and for misleading punters by suggesting it can do 200Mbps On the upside, setup is very simple, and the units look very elegant. However, neither of these really make up for the fact that this kit is £30 more expensive than the Panasonic kit, which is only slightly slower and offers more features and flexibility.
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