Netgear HDX-B101

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Brace yourself for this one, folks: The HDX-B101 powerline networking hardware actually delivers on its performance claims. Take a moment to breathe.

The bottom line is that the HDX-B101 is fast enough to stream video—even high-definition video—from your media server to your living room.

We successfully streamed video content—including 1080i WMV movies—across the powerline network. UPNP packets even cross the powerline segment flawlessly—our UPNP-dependent streaming boxes worked without a hitch. Even the bandwidth hungry Media Center Extender and Xbox 360 worked with nary a hiccup or dropped frame.

If you’re interested in the actual performance numbers, the HDXB101 compares favorably to 100Mbit Ethernet—with an average throughput of 15Mb/s. It’s certainly not Gigabit Ethernet speed, but it’s fast enough for video. Even with the improved hardware, powerline networking isn’t totally bozoproof. In order to get HD-capable throughput, we had to experiment with several different outlets in our computer room an our living room—and using a surge suppressor borked the signal completely. For best results, you’ll need to plug this directly into the wall. After a little experimentation, though, we managed to find outlets in every room that delivered top-tier performance. We do, however, miss the convenience of the integrated four-port Ethernet switch, which Netgear’s XE104 included.

The box for the HDX-B101 tells an interesting story. Instead of listing a wildly inflated theoretical maximum bandwidth, Netgear makes one simple promise: “Stream HD video over Powerline.” The company delivers on that promise with the first HD-streaming solution that doesn’t require running Ethernet. Bravo, Netgear.

Month Reviewed: October 2006

+ HD TV: It works. It really works. And you can even stream HD.

- HD OPTICAL DISCS: Where's the integrated Ethernet switch? Twitchy at maximum speed.

VERDICT: 9
kickass=yes

URL: www.netgear.com

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