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At $80, the Netgear Powerline AV 200 Adapter XAV2001 is about $10 cheaper than the recently reviewed Plaster Network PLN3 adapter. However, the fact that it has only one Ethernet port (as opposed to two in the PLN3's case) makes it less of a good deal if you want to connect two computers at the far corner via the house's electrical wiring.
Other than that, the two adapters are very similar in regard to speed and the snap-in design, with the Netgear being about 20 percent more compact overall but noticeably thicker. The XAV2001 doesn't come with a fancy online service like the PLN3, but it makes up for it by having a convenient push-button solution to activate its security feature.
If you are looking to quickly connect a computer to your network via your home's electrical wiring, the Netgear XAV2001 is a good solution, especially when it costs only around $130 when you buy it in a kit that includes two units.
Design, setup and features
The XAV2001 has a typical shape of most power-line adapters, looking just like a two-prong power adapter for a small electronic device, such as a cordless phone or an external hard drive. It comes with only one Ethernet port. This means you will need a hub (or switch) if you want to connect more than one computer at the far end of the connection. What's more important at the far end is another power socket, as the as the XAV2001 doesn't feature a power pass-through and it, like all HomePlug AV power-line adapters, is not designed to work with power strips or surge protectors. To our surprise, it worked with a few strips we tried, but there's no guarantee that it will work with yours.
The XAV2001's setup process is like that of any typical power-line connection. You'll need two adapters, preferably of the same company, though the XAV2001 is compatible with any other HomePlug AV adapters. After that, say if you want to create a connection between the existing network and a device in the basement, you hook the first adapter to the network via the router (or the hub). The second adapter is connected to the Ethernet-ready device at the far corner. After that, you just plug both adapters into the power sockets. If the two locations share the same electrical wiring, which they do in most cases of homes or apartment buildings, the network connection is now established. This whole process takes just a minute or two, and you can't make a mistake.
We had no problem setting up the two test XAV2001 units and believed nobody would run into any issues. After the initial setup is done, the XAV2001 has a nifty security feature that you can enable by pressing on the button on its side. You need to press this button for all XAV2001 units at the same time or within two minutes of one another. After that, a secure connection is created between all of the XAV2001 units. This keeps others from tapping into your network by plugging another HomePlug AV adapter into the same electrical wiring, a necessary security measure for those who live in an apartment building.
We tested the XAV2001 using the same methodology we use for wireless routers, and it offered about the same speed as the average speed of a wireless-N router at a distance of 100 feet. The adapter registered a speed of around 22.9Mbps, just slightly faster than the 22.6Mbps of the Plaster Network PLN3. At this speed, the XAV2001 adapter can finish transmitting 500MB of data in slightly less than 3 minutes.
This speed, though not as high as we hoped, will provide enough bandwidth for most Internet-related activities, such as surfing, playing online games, or even streaming Web videos.
When it comes it stream high-def content, especially from another network computer, though, we found that the adapter can only handle a single stream at a time. And even then, when a movie that's very large was used, the player would have to stop to rebuffer once in a while, especially when we jumped from one part of the movie to another.
Note that the adapter's performance depends on the electrical wiring and will vary depending on the location.
Overall, the XAV2001 adapter's performance met our expectations. It's a decent and reliable replacement for a wireless signal and is definitely better than having to run network cable to that far corner of the house.
Service and support
Netgear backs the Powerline AV 200 Adapter XAV2001 with a one-year warranty. Though we believe you won't need much support for the adapter, on the company's Web site, you'll find lots of support information, including troubleshooting, a knowledge base, and firmware, driver, and manual downloads. The company also has free 24-7 phone tech support.