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File Transfer Performance
Our first test compares the Livewire kit to other networking standards. The adapters were plugged into their own dedicated outlets on the same electrical line without any extra devices being powered by the outlet to give best case scenario results.
The Livewire didn't exactly perform as expected, given the diagnostic utility was reporting a speed of 150 mbps. In reality, our best result with one or two of the adapters isolated on their own outlet was 66 mbps in our large file copy test, about 20% slower than 100 mbps ethernet, and well short of the gigabit. It still managed to produce results 2.5 to 3 times faster than 802.11g however.
Note we weren't able to provide 802.11n results as a new router router was recently installed that doesn't perform any better on the N standard. For what it's worth, with our old router, 42 mbps was the best result we experienced when copying over a single large file.
Western Digital recommends that the adapters be placed on their own electrical plugs rather than shared with other devices using a splitter or power strip. On the same electrical line, simply placing the adapters on power strips with nothing else connected resulted in a 9 mbps loss in our large file test. Adding three devices to the power strips brought the performance down close to 802.11g levels. Moving the power strips and extra devices onto adjacent plugs rather than sharing had no impact on speed at all.
Unfortunately more likely than not, the adapters will not be on the same line which is best for performance. On separate lines and dedicated plugs, the Livewire was slower by 8 mbps in our large file test compared to running on the same line. The slow down was even greater when the adapters were connected to power strips. Adding devices to the power strip added to the snowball effect, resulting in poorer speeds than WiFi. Interestingly, a power strip with devices connected to an adjacent plug affected speed somewhat as well, though this was not the case when we were testing on the same electrical line.
Assuming you are able to place both units on their own electrical plugs, we expect to see anywhere between 30 and 40 mbps in real world conditions, which, while isn't exactly impressive, is enough to be considered as an effective replacement for WiFi, at least 802.11g. Powerline doesn't hold a candle to being wired though, even compared to old fashioned 100 mbps ethernet. The most obvious application is streaming high definition video, which has demands well within the capabilities of the Livewire (it's no accident that Western Digital also has a well known network video player, the WD TV).
We managed to stream a 22 mbps test clip smoothly over the network in all of our testing conditions except for the worst scenario in which the adapters were on different lines, sharing power strips with multiple devices. Most ripped high definition content is encoded with less than 20 mbps, so you won't encounter trouble unless you're trying to stream full Blu-ray backups and the like.
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