At a Glance
- LED connection quality indicator
- Rock-solid streaming
- No setup utility
- Must go to Web site for encryption-changing instru
This capable powerline networking kit delivers very good performance for HD video streaming and gaming, but doesn’t stand out from the pack.
Despite its moniker, Actiontec’s HomePlug AV Powerline Gaming Kit HPE200AV isn’t just for gaming–it’s good for any spot that needs a network connection, that you don’t want to run wires to, and that can’t pick up a Wi-Fi signal.
The kit consists of two shiny white wall-wart-style adapters with ethernet ports at the bottom. One adapter plugs into your router and into a power outlet. The other adapter plugs into a power outlet elsewhere in your home and provides a network connection for your remote device. The kit is completely plug-and-play: It’s ready to go within seconds, as soon as the two adapters detect each other and the lights come on. A green powerline LED indicates a good connection of 100 mbps or more, an orange LED lights up to indicate a connection of between 50 mbps and 100 mbps, and red signals a poor link rate of 50 mbps or less.
The Actiontec kit’s performance was almost identical to that of the other HomePlug AV kits we looked at contemporaneously–not a surprising outcome, given that all of them are based on the same Intellon chipset. The connection was green when I plugged into the newer circuitry in my 100-year-old house, and high-definition video streaming from my Slingbox Pro was quite good; I measured its throughput at 59 mbps–similar to the performance you’d get using 802.11n Wi-Fi in the same room as your router, but without the occasional dropouts and slowdowns that bedevil most wireless connections. Powerline may not work well with older or defective electrical circuitry, however.
Like other HomePlug AV kits, the Actiontec kit comes with a default encryption passphrase. You can switch to a new, random passphrase by pressing buttons on each adapter within 2 minutes. Though the passphrase-changing procedure is easy enough, the otherwise excellent quick-start guide forces you to go to the Web site for directions, rather than including them with the kit. The kit also lacks a software utility for setting a specific passphrase, prioritizing streaming traffic, or checking connection quality.
Some other powerline networking kits have slightly better designs or features, but overall the Actiontec MegaPlug AV is a very good system that will stream your high-def video and games with ease. Still, if raw throughput is your main concern, you should consider the D-Link DHP-303 PowerLine HD Network Starter Kit, by far the fastest powerline system in our tests.