Remember when the only thing you had to worry about plugging your TV into was the wall? Maybe you don’t, but I do. And then we got a rooftop antenna. And then cable. And then receivers and surround sound, laser disks and VCRs. Now it’s a rats nest of cables and interconnects back there and they want to add Ethernet? Netgear’s Internet Adapter for Home Theater (XAVB5004) is a powerline solution much like the Belkin we reviewed previously except that it amps up the throughput to 500 Mbps and includes both a powerline 4-port router and a powerline AV500 “gigabit” adapter (in this way it also improves upon the 200Mbps XAVB1004 model released last year). The system is designed to deliver flawless HD video streaming and is capable of connecting up to four Internet-ready home theater devices, such as HDTVs, Blu-ray players, IPTVs, TV set-top boxes, media players or game consoles to the Internet – it’s even 3D-capable. The kit includes one 1-port adapter to connect to the router and one 4-port adapter to connect to the TV and your various peripherals. The solution’s four ports are conveniently color coded for simple setup and the entire system is really plug-in ready from the minute you unbox it.
Netgear has been offering powerline products and routers for years. It only makes sense that they’d have a new powerline solution that brings the two together. The way powerline products work is they use the existing power lines in your home to make a connection. We’ve seen products that do this for audio signals (for surround speakers), Ethernet, and more. You install one device into your home theater and a second near your router. With the Netgear Internet Adapter for Home Theater, you actually get 4 priority labeled ports for your gear and an AV500 adapter to source the signal from your Internet router. That means that if you want one piece of gear (like a game system or Blu-ray player that you use to stream Netflix) to be allocated the most bandwidth, you install it in port 1. For the most part, however, we find that people rarely use so many Internet connections at once. We do like the four port switch (Belkin only offers 3 at the same price point) as it gives you more ability to integrate additional gear into your system.
Like all Powerline products that we’ve seen, the Netgear Internet Adapter for Home Theater (XAVB5004) has an encryption system. Netgear is using a 128-bit AES data encryption that can be either set by a push of the button on the units or via included software if you have a computer running Windows Vista. There are also convenient status lights that indicate the data rate you are achieving
We slung the system up to our reference Samsung PN51D8000 plasma display and found the bandwidth to be excellent – even enough to handle streaming 3D television from the Samsung servers – which was incredibly taxing. VUDU also streamed flawlessly at HDX resolution and we were able to send lossless audio from our computer to the television without any issues. Relocating a second unit into our primary home theater system, we found the 4-port hub to be a great feature as it allowed us to connect our Xbox 360, Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, Denon AVR-3312 receiver, and DISH Network ViP 922 set top box to the Internet – all at the same time. Not having to use a separate router for this was terrifically convenient.