Tuesday, May 29, 2012
A Streaming Player and a Powerline Network Adapter
I have two new toys to enhance my television viewing: A Western Digital WD Live TV Streaming Media Player and a Netgear XAVB5001 Powerline Network Adapter Kit (Amazon links).
The WD Live was bought not so much for streaming (which I prefer to do through my Tivo) but for taking video on the road. I record shows on my Tivo, transfer them to my desktop computer, edit out the commercials, and copy the end result (an mpeg2 file) to a thumb drive. I can then attach the WD Live to a TV (via HDMI cable), plug the thumb drive into the WD Live and watch the shows. Mostly I take movies, and shows from the History and Science channels, to my sister's house where they have no cable or satellite.
I got the Netgear powerline kit to compare it with my wireless network speed. With the filesize of HD content being what it is, speed is a big factor when transfering TV shows from one device to another within my home network. Not only do I transfer shows to my desktop to use with WD Live, I frequently copy shows so that I can edit out the commercials and then transfer the file back to the Tivo for viewing here at home.
Of all the streaming players available, the WD Live was my choice because it plays almost any video file format including the mpeg2 format I prefer. It's a popular choice for those who copy all their video to hard drives for on-demand streaming. A relatively small number of people copy television content - more people copy all their DVDs and Blu-Rays for streaming. The most popular streaming content through the WD Live comes from Netflix and Hulu Plus.
I really wanted to get the WD Livewire Powerline Adapters because each adapter has 4 ethernet ports. This allows you to use the remote adapter(s) for up to four remote devices plus you effectively add three ports at your router (one port there is used to feed the powerline network). However, the WD Livewire uses older technology which limits the throughput to 200Mbps where the Netgear XVB5001 allows up to 500Mbps. In both cases though, practical throughput is much less than the advertised maximum. My exerpience reflects what I've read on numerous forums - the 200Mbps adapters typically max out around 40-50Mbps and the 500Mbps around 80-100Mbps. High bitrate HD video and digital sound will need every bit of the speed provided by the faster adapters and the more serious video/audio-philes prefer MoCA (wiki link) to powerline networking adapters.
If you are considering powerline adapters, be aware that many things affect the speed you'll see on your home network. The wiring in your house and other appliances can cause problems. For example, many users have reported a charger plugged in to the same outlet as the powerline adapter can significantly reduce throughput. I had no problem in my setup but just be forewarned.