WD Livewire Powerline Adapters
When I was at CES 2012 I got an opportunity to attend the WD event at Caesars Palace. During the event they had a drawing and as luck would have it, I won these WD powerline adapters. Powerline adapters have never been my favorite and not long ago I went around the block with several brands such as the Linksys, Netgear, and TrendNet with almost no success. They suffered from various issues from not connecting, to very poor performance, and many with very convoluted setups. When I got these I was very curious as to whether or not these would work any better than what I had tried in the past.
Software installation and Setup
The first issue I ran into was the software that came up after putting the disk in the drive. It had some sort of an issues with display drivers and would not display the text in the buttons. As you can see the writing on the button was blank forcing me to guess as to which button I was supposed to press and what it said. Once I got past this ridiculous screen, things got much better as it went into more of a standard install.
After the utility came up, it immediately found the second device. It allowed me to rename it as well as enter in the password which by default is on the device itself.
I used a very crude but realistic method of testing to replicate what I could expect in terms of performance. I did three things, viewed the utility for the connected bandwidth, file copy performance, and various videos for playback performance.
The first test was in the same room. As you can see it hooked up at 190 Mbps. Large file copy was about 5.85 MB/sec. 1080P video stuttered badly however a 4.4 Gig 720P MP4 played perfectly.
Same floor and opposite side of the house
Second test was on the same floor put at two furthest points in the house. Utility stated a much lower connection speed and large file copy dropped to 4.19 MB/sec. Video playback was about the same same and the 720P MP4 played just fine.
Furthest point in the house and the lower floor
The final check was to go at the extreme sides of the house from one end of the top floor to the opposite side of the lower floor. The utility did not show much of a change however the file copy dropped again this time to 3.33 MB/sec. Video playback of the MP4 was still smooth and seam to play without any stutter.
I am not sure whether or not to consider these a success. I guess that depends on what you want to do with them. They are the easiest and most robust units I have tested and worked where no others would. Other than the silly initial screen where you can not read the text, their software worked extremely well and was very easy to use. When connected, the connection was very consistent. Since you can hook 4 devices to one adapter, they are well suited for an AV rack where you can stream your VOD, update your guide data, or update firmware on your AV devices.
On the negative side, the performance was not very good for HD video streaming. If all you want is to connect to the internet or stream lower resolution content, these will work out very well since the signal is more consistent than wireless. However if you are looking to stream Blu-Ray content, crawl in the attic and start running Cat 6 as these are not going to work for you. They market these for streaming HD and I would say that is a bit of stretch. If you consider HD to be 720P with low to mid bit rates than yes, but if your version of HD (as mine is) is 1080P with a 20+ Mbs bit rate than no, these will not stream HD. Don’t get me wrong, these are best powerline adapter I have tested but you should know in advance what you are going to use them for. To me the powerline adapter technology is still inconsistent and is very dependent on your house wiring. There are newer more powerful units that may be worth trying but as far as these go, be clear on what your needs are before you shop. If you need multiple devices on one adapter then there is value to these, but if you want blazing speed, look elsewhere.