Powerline 1200 maximum speed reviewed

Matthew Nuzum —  — Leave a comment

I have a problem. The wifi in my office is weak. It usually works just fine, but my nightly backups are failing because the network connection drops very briefly on occasion. Usually this is imperceptible but if I’m doing a big download or backing up the task usually fails without completing. So I bought the Netgear Powerline 1200 adapter, the one without the passthrough port. It was cheaper and didn’t block the top power outlet so I don’t really care about the passthrough.

My goal was to see how it affected bandwidth with my MacBook Air (2011). To make matters complicated, my Air does not have an ethernet adapter, nor does it have USB 3.0. I only have one Thunderbolt port and it’s hooked up to a DisplayPort monitor. That means I’m stuck with USB 2.0 speeds. Turns out, the USB 2.0 speed is not a problem. Here are the performance results.

Best case scenario

I tested the USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter in my USB 2.0 port plugged directly into the router. USB 2.0 has a maximum speed of 480Mbps so I know that, even if I make a gigabit connection, my actual transfer rate is going to max out at about 50MiB/s. I have a Western Digital MyBook Live 3TB hard drive. It plugs directly into the router using 100mbps ethernet, which is far slower than the theoretical speed of my USB 2.0 port.

In order to test the speed I used FTP, figuring it was the simplest protocol and it would show me the throughput. The results I got were:

229 Entering Extended Passive Mode (|||5046|).
150 Opening BINARY mode data connection for SourceTree_2.0.5.2.dmg (46953038 bytes).
100% |***********************************| 45852 KiB 26.16 MiB/s 00:00 ETA
226 Transfer complete.
46953038 bytes received in 00:01 (25.77 MiB/s)

After a few tries it ranged from 25.77 to 27.80 MiB/s. That is actually better than I expected. I figured the ethernet speed would max out at about 12.5MiB/s, since 100Mbps / 8bits per Byte = 12.5MiB/s. (if anyone can explain why it’s faster, I’d love to hear)

This set my expectations pretty high. I figure that, since the Powerline adapters are rated at up to 1,200 mbps (which could be as fast as 150MiB/s) I should have no problem getting 25MiB/s.

Best case Wifi scenario

Next I wanted to test my Wifi speed in ideal situations. With my computer near the router I ran the same test.

229 Entering Extended Passive Mode (|||5037|).
150 Ok to send data.
100% |***********************************| 45852 KiB 6.80 MiB/s 00:00 ETA
226 Transfer complete.
46953038 bytes sent in 00:06 (6.78 MiB/s)

Wow, what a let down. My speed varied between 6.78MiB/s on the low end to 10.09MiB/s on the high end. And that was with my computer 3 feet from the router! I was connected using 802.11ac and the port speed said 867mbps. So, yeah, port speed isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Powerline reality (disappointing)

Next I plugged the Powerline adapter into the socket near the router. I then wired it into a gigabit ethernet port on the router. Then I went up to my office and plugged the other unit in near my computer. I turned off wifi and then plugged in the USB ethernet adapter. Here’s what I got:

229 Entering Extended Passive Mode (|||5032|).
150 Ok to send data.
100% |***********************************| 45852 KiB 7.37 MiB/s 00:00 ETA
226 Transfer complete.
46953038 bytes sent in 00:06 (7.27 MiB/s)

That’s a lot slower than the 25MiB/s that I got while connecting to the router directly! Several runs showed speeds of between 6.51MiB/s and 7.80MiB/s. Essentially in the same range as wifi was when I was next to the router. I got frustrated and was about to throw it back in the box and take it back to the store.

Wifi reality (very disappointing)

I decided to test with Wifi at my office before I give up hope.

229 Entering Extended Passive Mode (|||5038|).
150 Ok to send data.
100% |***********************************| 45852 KiB 3.54 MiB/s 00:00 ETA
226 Transfer complete.
46953038 bytes sent in 00:12 (3.53 MiB/s)

Wifi speed in my office transferred at speeds ranging from 3.53MiB/s and 4.36MiB/s. So about half the speed of the powerline adapter. And, as mentioned previously, wifi will sometimes drop the connection, causing my backups and downloads to fail. So in this case, maybe the rate of 7.27MiB/s isn’t anything to complain about.

Summary: I’ll keep it

I did test another outlet in my office. It was less convenient and lower speed. I also tested plugging into a powerstrip, which I figured wouldn’t work at all. It did cut the speed to about half, but worked.

I also tested sending larger files. The speed levels off pretty close to 7.4MiB/s.

All things considered, this will work and it should be better than I had before. 7.4MiB/s (60mbps) is a far cry from 1,200 mbps in the name but better than my wifi speeds and still better than my Internet download speed. It’ll do.

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Matthew Nuzum

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Web guy, big thinker, loves to talk and write. Front end web, mobile and UX developer for John Deere ISG. My projects: @dsmwebgeeks @tekrs @squaretap ✝