Get wired performance from your Wi-Fi network

Becky waring By Becky Waring

Although the Wi-Fi arms race isn’t going to let up any time soon, wireless can never be as fast and reliable as wires.

So why fight it? Get the best of both worlds with a hybrid Wi-Fi and powerline network, perfect for streaming high-def video.

Why Wi-Fi doesn’t cut it for streaming video

Recently I was asked to redesign a home network for a client who couldn’t get reliable wireless Netflix streaming to his home theater. He was also frustrated by the feeble throughput in much of his house, despite investing in four (count ’em, four) 802.11n Wi-Fi routers.

Although his was an extreme case, with a 5,000-square-foot house spread over two wings and a central connector, his network challenges were typical of those upgrading from older Wi-Fi routers: how to get reliable and dropout-free throughput for media streaming as well as faster overall performance for high-bandwidth tasks such as network backup and storage.

You might think dropping U.S. $150 on the latest 300Mbps 802.11n router should do the trick, but in many cases even the fastest Wi-Fi routers can’t deliver smooth streaming video where it’s needed, and network backups might take hours or even days to complete.

Wireless throughput drops rapidly with distance from the router and is also subject to interference from a myriad of sources — from cordless phones and microwaves to neighboring Wi-Fi nets. Even momentary glitches in a video stream can be enough to ruin the movie-watching experience.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2011-04-14:

Becky Waring

About Becky Waring

Becky Waring has worked as a writer and editor for CNET, ZDNET, Technology Review, Upside Magazine, and many other news sources. She alternates the Best Software column with Windows Secrets contributing editor Scott Spanbauer.