D-Link DHP-303 PowerLine HD Network Starter Kit
At a Glance
On the surface, D-Link's latest powerline networking kit looks like the others I tested, providing plug-and-play operation and top-notch high-definition video streaming. But under the hood, it has a different engine. The DHP-303 PowerLine HD Network Starter Kit is the only kit based on the Universal Powerline Association (UPA) standard; all of the others use HomePlug AV technology.
As a result, D-Link adapters are not interoperable with HomePlug AV adapters. But since we advise buyers to stick to one vendor for ease of support, that's a moot point.
Whereas HomePlug AV kits use AES encryption, the D-Link kit uses 3-DES encryption--an older standard that is more CPU-intensive and marginally less secure (though both 3-DES and AES are more than adequate for home use). Despite the extra overhead of 3-DES, the D-Link equipment far outperformed the HomePlug AV kits (such as the Belkin Powerline AV+ Starter Kit F5D407 and the Netgear XAVB101 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit) in our tests, with sustained throughput in the range of 85 to 90 mbps. (The HomePlug AV kits maxed out at 62 to 69 mbps.)
The D-Link kit has a power-saving mode and push-button encryption that works in much the same way as the system that HomePlug AV models use. A software utility lets you set a specific encryption passphrase and prioritize network traffic--a useful option when you have multiple devices connected via powerline and want to ensure uninterrupted TV streaming.
The only significant downside to the D-Link kit: is that the company doesn't sell multiple-port adapters, a feature that greatly reduces the cost of networking multiple home-theater components and conserves scarce wall plugs. If you buy, be sure to get the DHP-303 kit. The older D-Link DHP-301 PowerLine HD Ethernet Kit looks very similar (and has a similar name), but has far lower throughput and lacks push-button encryption.
Overall, the D-Link DHP-303 kit is a top-notch performer with easy encryption setup and useful features such as a software utility and a power-saving mode.