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 Linksys HomeLink Phoneline 10M Cable/DSL Router

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 5/3/2001


Model: HPRO200

Pros:

- Router plus HPNA2.0 bridge for less than an HPNA2.0 bridge alone!
- Built-in micro filter for phone line
- Aggressively priced

Cons:

- On the slow side
- Bring your own Ethernet ports

 

Linksys Router Help page

Review Updates

6/30/01 Added note about PA301 updated firmware.

6/18/01 Updated performance information based on retest & Summary.

5/30/01 Corrected comment on HPNA-HPNA speed.


The Basics

Indicators
  • WAN Link, Activity & "Diag"

  • LAN Link/Act, Full/Col, 100

  • HPNA Link, Act, Col

Connectors
  • One RJ45 10BaseT for the WAN

  • One RJ45 auto sensing 10/100BaseT LAN

  • Two RJ11 HPNA jacks

  • One RJ11 phone jack

  • Power

Comes with
  • printed User Guide

  • Tech Helper CD

  • one RJ11 phone cable

  • 120VAC Power supply

Other
  • Has Reset switch

  • Has Uplink or Normal / Crossover switch for LAN Ports

 

Introduction


Linksys continues to churn out variations on their runaway best-seller router line, with this latest variation including a HPNA2.0 bridge.  Although it's priced to kill off their HPNA2.0 bridge only product, the HPB200, it looks like Linksys has some work to do before that happens.

 

The Details


The HPRO came with 1.37.1 firmware, which supports port range forwarding and port range filtering (vs. the single port capabilities of earlier firmware revisions).  Since I've reviewed many other members of the Etherfast family, you can read the 4 port router review if you need details on their feature set. 

There's no indication of the HPNA operation on any of the admin pages, nor should there be since the HPNA ports are supposed to act just like the single LAN Ethernet port.  Two "HPNA" RJ11 jacks are provided, but this is just a convenience, since the jacks are connected in parallel.  The User Guide says that an RJ11 jack labeled "Phone" has a micro filter and that this is where you should plug in your telephone. For convenience in attaching the hub or switch that you'll need for more than one LAN Ethernet port, there's a Normal / Crossover switch so you won't have to hunt down a crossover cable. (See this page if you need help in adding additional ports to the HPRO).

 

Performance

Update 6/30/01 After a couple of conference calls with Broadcom (who makes the HPNA chipset in the HPRO200 and just about every other HPNA 2 product) and Linksys, we discovered the reason why my test results were slower than Broadcom's.  

Upgrading the HPRO to Linksys 1.37.4 BETA firmware fixed the UDP streaming test lockups and doubled Ethernet WAN to HPNA LAN TCP throughput results, but results were still significantly slower then Broadcom's.  But after I forced the Ethernet adapter on my test setup's WAN machine to 10BaseT Half duplex (instead of the usual autonegotiate setting), routing performance improved significantly, more closely matching Broadcom's expected results.

I also updated the NETGEAR PA301 HPNA test client to the 2.31 firmware [download here] that was posted in May, but didn't find that it made that much difference in the test results.

You should not encounter problems with normal use with Cable or DSL modems, but if you are using the HPRO as a LAN to LAN router, you should force the WAN side connection to 10Mbps/ Half duplex.  New test results are given below, but I am also including the older results for reference purposes.

OLD RESULTS

Given my experience with the HPB200 bridge, I was all set to breeze through the performance testing and put this review (and myself) to bed.  I started out my testing using the same Netgear PA301 10x PCI HPNA 2 adapter in the same computer that I used for the B200's tests and got the results below. (Details of how we tested can be found here.)

[Tests run with Ver 1.37.1 firmware]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

LAN Adapter: NETGEAR PA301 10Mbps HPNA

WAN - LAN

0.6

6 avg
22 max

480

4%

LAN - WAN

1.5

5 avg
7 max

locked up

 --

As you can see, something looked very wrong. Speeds were terrible and the router locked up on the LAN-WAN UDP streaming test consistently, requiring a push of the Reset switch to bring it back on-line.  "Maybe it's the Netgear adapter" I thought, although I'd used the very same adapter in my other HPNA testing.  So I tried a Linksys USB200HA Phoneline 10M adapter. That yielded the following results:

[Tests run with Ver 1.37.1 firmware]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

LAN Adapter: Linksys USB200HA 10Mbps HPNA

WAN - LAN

1.2

7 avg
12 max

329

33%

LAN - WAN

2.0

7 avg
17 max

locked up

 --

Better, but still nothing to write home about, with the router still locking up on the LAN-WAN UDP tests.  To round out the testing, I tried a Netgear FA310TX 10/100 Ethernet card which turned in the results below:

[Tests run with Ver 1.37.1 firmware]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

LAN Adapter: Netgear FA310TX 10/100 Ethernet

WAN - LAN

0.9

3 avg
12 max

499

0%

LAN - WAN

6

2 avg
23 max

490

 9%

Not very good at all.  Curiously, the LAN-WAN UDP test only locked up one out of 3 times and this time the Transfer Rate looked like I'd expect it to look.  I finally ran an old-fashioned web transfer test from WAN-LAN, to double check the poor numbers and got a reading of 0.8Mbps, which was within the range of difference that I normally get between timed transfers and the Qcheck Transfer Rate test.

Oh yeah, I also connected the Netgear and Linksys HPNA adapters and ran some quick tests between them (both on the LAN side of the router) and got about 4.5Mbps Transfer Rate.  
(Updated 5/30/01) This is about right due to the slower speed of the USB HPNA adapter.

If you have both HPNA1.0 and 2.0 devices on your network, your 2.0 clients will not reach 10Mbps speeds. This is not a problem with the HPRO, but the way that the HPNA spec works.  See this for the explanation!

So, try as I might, I couldn't get the HPRO to turn in a decent performance!

NEW RESULTS

Routing - HPNA LAN Client
[Tests run with Ver 1.37.4 BETA firmware 
& 10Mbps/Half duplex WAN client
]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

LAN Adapter: NETGEAR PA301 10Mbps HPNA

WAN - LAN

3.0

5 avg
7 max

499

0%

LAN - WAN

2.9

5 avg
7 max

404

 18%

Routing - Ethernet LAN Client
[Tests run with Ver 1.37.4 BETA firmware 
& 10Mbps/Half duplex WAN client
]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

LAN Adapter: NE2000 Compatible 10BaseT Ethernet

WAN - LAN

4.9

3 avg
4 max

499

0%

LAN - WAN

5.2

3 avg
4 max

499

 0%

While I was at it, I ran HPNA / Ethernet Bridging tests to see how well that part of the box worked.  Results show it to be somewhat of a weak link and not symmetrical in performance. 

Remember the following test does not include the router performance!

Bridging - HPNA & Ethernet LAN Clients
[Tests run with Ver 1.37.4 BETA firmware 
& 10Mbps/Half duplex WAN client
]

Test Description

Qcheck Transfer Rate (Mbps)

Qcheck Response Time (msec)
[10 iterations 100byte data size]

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

ETH LAN Adapter: UMAX 10BaseT PCMCIA Ethernet
HPNA LAN Adapter: NETGEAR PA301 PCI

HPNA -> Ethernet

2.4

4 avg
9 max

465

7%

Ethernet -> HPNA

5.2

4 avg
8 max

499

 0%

If you have both HPNA1.0 and 2.0 devices on your network, your 2.0 clients will not reach 10Mbps speeds. This is not a problem with the HPRO, but the way that the HPNA spec works.  See this for the explanation!

 

Summary

Update 6/18/01
The HPRO is priced very aggressively, but is weak in HPNA/Ethernet bridging performance.  The router portion is plenty fast to keep up with the slow HPNA to Ethernet Bridging performance, but if you do a lot of large file transfers between Ethernet and HPNA machines on your LAN, you'll probably notice a slowdown.

If you decide to go for it, be sure you download the BETA firmware from this page.  Otherwise, you could be in for setup or performance headaches!


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