ActionTec MegaPlug AV 200 Mbps Review
The Actiontec MegaPlug AV 200 Mbps (model HPE200AV ) is designed to use your home’s electrical wiring as a giant network cable to transfer data from one room to the next at higher speed than common wireless devices (54Mbps WiFi). It is particularly useful for homes where WiFi connections are spotty in areas that are far away from the wireless router (basement…). Given that most homes are not wired with Ethernet cables, powerline networking is often the next best option. This review will put the Actiontec MegaPlug AV 200 to the test and we’ll tell you how it compares to WiFi.

Test settings
We have tested the powerline networking across a couple of floors. We will setup two computers: a desktop PC located in the lower level (PC1) and a laptop in the upper one (PC2). The Router is located near the laptop (5 yards, no obstacles), on the upper-level and should provide optimal Wi-Fi speed. We will try to transfer data over WiFi, and then compare it with the wired powerline data transfer.

(Note: In theory, the HPE200AV can work with a maximum wiring length of 300 yards. If you plan to use it in a very large place, keep this in mind.)

Plug & Play
This is probably the most important thing: the system is Plug & Play. We took the pair of MegaPlug AV out of their box, connected each into an electrical plug on different level of an apartment and “voila” we had an instant Ethernet connection. Extra steps are required only if you want to encrypt the network packets.

The next question is “how does it compare with WiFi”? To test this, we are going to copy some files and see how long it takes;

WiFi-G (Theoratical 54Mbps)
Copy 264MB, 1 file: 5mn 02s
Copy 262MB, 312 files: 5mn 20s

PowerLine Ethernet
Copy 264MB, 1 file: 2mn 59s
Copy 262MB, 312 files: 3mn 11s

Is this case, powerline ethernet is quite a bit faster. Unfortunately, I have not updated my wired Ethernet with Gigabit-capable hardware. Instead I’m still using a 100Mbps switch otherwise, I suspect that we would I have seen even faster data transfer as this MegaPlug should be capable of 200Mbps (peak, theoretical) speeds.

AES encryption
Without encryption, someone might be able to tap into your electrical wiring and intrude your home network. To protect against this, AtionTec has included AES, an encryption system deemed strong enough for governmental use (128bit+ key). I’m not really an expert in cryptography, but basically, for someone who doesn’t have the key, it would take so long to decrypt the information that by the time the hacker gets it (thousands of years), it is no longer relevant. Anyway, all you have to do is to connect each Powerline Ethernet Module to your computer, and enter a password. The modules can decrypt each-other’s data (in hardware), but nothing else can.

The Actiontec MegaPlug 200 AV powerline Ethernet holds its promises of simplicity and performance. I think that pretty much anyone can install it in seconds and enjoy wired-speed Ethernet without having to worry about wireless network disconnection or blind Wi-Fi spots. But this comes at a price: $150 (for a pair), which is kind of expensive, but powerline Ethernet has an unbeatable range, is oblivious to obstacles and is compatible with current 10/100 Ethernet hardware. Take a look at your particular setup and ask yourself if you are willing to pay that much for a plug & play wired solution.

Test configuration
Router: Linksys WRT54GS
Switch: NetGear DS 108
VOIP provider: Lingo
PC1: custom-built PC, AMD 4400+, 4GB of RAM
PC2: Sony Vaio SZ, Intel Core Duo 2Ghz, 3GB of RAM

FAQ (from the user manual)

Will the Adapter work in any home?
=> The Adapter will work in any home with built-in copper wiring. It may not operate in some older homes (pre-1950) with alternate wiring.

Will the Adapter’s network signal pass through circuit breakers?
=> Yes, the Adapter’s network signal will pass through circuit breakers. It will not, => however, pass through power transformers.

Does the Adapter work with a 100 – 240V AC input ?
=> Yes.

Does using the Adapter cause any interference with other home network-ing devices?
=> No. The Adapter operates at a different frequency than other power line control devices and can co-exist with technologies such as X-10, CEBus, and LONworks.

Can my neighbor receive the Adapter’s network signal?
=> It is possible for a neighbor to receive the network signal. To prevent this, change the default 128-bit AES security encryption password on the Adapter (see chapter 3).

How do I find out what the current speed and signal strength of the Adapter’s network is?
=> Run the Adapter’s Configuration Utility to show current speed and signal strength.

How many Adapters do I need to set up a network?
=> Two, at minimum.

To set up the Adapter’s network correctly, do I have to install the Configuration Utility on each computer on the network?
=> No, the Configuration Utility is a diagnostic and security tool. Since the Adapter is fully plug-and-play compatible, it needs no software drivers to operate.

How many Adapters can be installed on the same LAN (local area network)?
=> Actiontec recommends using no more than 16 Adapters on one network.

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