Life Blog
Do More. Be More. Live More.
Shortcuts to an Organized Life.

A Superior Home Theater Network for 1080p Media Streaming

Get­ting my home the­ater net­work orga­nized and run­ning like a well-oiled machine is crit­i­cal for me because when I have down­time, I want the best expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble, instead of con­stantly reboot­ing devices to avoid buffer­ing. I wanted to share how I got a rock solid and fast home net­work set up with three goals:

  1. High qual­ity stream­ing of 1080p con­tent from online ser­vices like Vudu, Net­flix and iTUnes Movies on Apple TV.
  2. Stream­ing from in-home media servers (DLNA)
  3. Super-fast down­loads of updates and con­tent on media devices like the PS3

Solid Inter-room Networking

Of course the best solu­tion for this is a house that is wired with giga­bit eth­er­net  to all rel­e­vant rooms. Our house is older and like is the case with most folks, is not wired with eth­er­net (giga­bit or oth­er­wise) across all rooms. So the first chal­lenge was how to reli­ably get high band­width net­work con­nec­tions between rooms. The three things I tried:

  1. INFERIOR. First, I tried to con­nect each device (that sup­ported it) via wire­less to the home wire­less router. The stream­ing was just not rock-solid and high band­width enough for 1080p. Band­width reported by TV and PS3 was in the range of 1.5 — 5 Mbps in my case. Just not enough.
  2. DECENT. I then tried using a router in “eth­er­net client” mode  - where it con­nects to the home net­work via wire­less N, then pro­vides four local eth­er­net ports, with the TV, PS3, Roku etc. con­nected by wire. Again, the stream­ing was just not rock-solid and high band­width enough for 1080p. Band­width reported by TV and PS3 was in the range of 3.5 — 10 Mbps in my case, a slight improve­ment, because posi­tion­ing one device (the reverse wire­less client device) is eas­ier than try­ing to give mul­ti­ple devices (PS3, Roku etc.) bet­ter wire­less expo­sure via posi­tion­ing. The device I had tried: SMCWEB-N  EZ Con­nect™ N Pro Draft 11n Wire­less Access Point/Ethernet Client.
  3. SUPERIOR. I finally dis­cov­ered pow­er­line adap­tors. The per­for­mance of these vary from house to house, room to room, but here’s what I got: rock-steady band­width of 200–300 Mbps, with much lower laten­cies. My device of choice: Net­gear XAVB5001 Pow­er­line Net­work Adapter Kit (XAVB5001). I tried var­i­ous wall sock­ets (close to where I needed it) and checked band­width with a lap­top in find which one gave the best per­for­mance. Wasn’t much vari­a­tion for me.

Reli­able Broad­band Solution

Even though I am not a fan of cable TV (we use DirecTV for live TV today, wait­ing for the day when live TV is totally inter­net based — oh how I wish Google TV was avail­able in Austin, Texas), I am a HUGE fan of cable modem for broad­band from per­sonal expe­ri­ence. We have Time Warner’s DOCSIS 3.0 based wide­band ser­vice: 50Mbps down, 5bps up — it is ALWAYS at that level, bar­ring an occa­sional ser­vice dis­rup­tion (once a year or so). If you have some­thing sim­i­lar with fiber or oth­er­wise that is at least a con­stant 20Mbps and rock-steady, you’ll be fine for 1080p stream­ing from the internet.

Ser­vices and Devices for Supe­rior 1080p Quality

Below are my per­sonal obser­va­tions and preferences.

  • Vudu HDX — avail­able on Sam­sung TV, and on the PS3. Do not use this any­more as Apple TV 1080p movies are a buck cheaper.
  • Net­flix: avail­able on Sam­sung TV, PS3, Apple TV, Roku 2 XS — I have dis­cov­ered that the pic­ture qual­ity is best on the PS3. Apple TV and Roku are similar.
  • iTunes Movies: avail­able on Apple TV — I use for all my paid con­tent: movies, and TV show sea­son passes or sin­gle episodes.
  • Ama­zon VOD — does not seem to be 1080p, although Prime has some things that Net­flix does not. Actively use Prime from time to time, but not for paid content.
  • Hulu Plus — does not seem to be 1080p, and I dis­like ads on a paid ser­vice. Can­celed this promptly.
  • DLNA client for media stream­ing: I use the PS3 for this.
  • DLNA server: I use a Win­dows 7 lap­top for this, with an attached 3TB USB harddrive.
  • Youtube on the PS3, and movie trail­ers on the Apple TV.

My Net­work Hard­ware List

Here’s the “parts list” of my home net­work (rel­e­vant to home the­ater and media stream­ing), includ­ing model num­bers of things I actively use, by room.

Study (Inter­net access)

Cable modem: Ubee DDW3611 DOCSIS 3.0 (8x4) Wire­less (802.11n) Cable Modem Gate­way:  I have it con­fig­ured as a cable modem only (dis­abled wire­less and DHCP).

Wire­less Router: ASUS ASUS RT-AC66U Dual-Band Wireless-AC1750 Giga­bit Router.

Pow­er­line Adap­tor: Net­gear XAVB5001 Pow­er­line Net­work Adapter Kit (XAVB5001): one side installed in the study, from wire­less router to pow­er­line device plugged directly into wall socket.

Liv­ing Room (Main home theater)

Pow­er­line Adap­tor: Other end of Net­gear XAVB5001 device plugged directly into wall socket behind home theater.

Giga­bit switch: D-Link 8-Port Giga­bit 16 Gbps Desk­top Switch (DGS-1008G): Con­nected to pow­er­line adap­tor, and con­nects my TV, Apple TV, PS3, DirecTV HD DVR (via DIRECTV DECA Broad­band Adapter).

Mas­ter Bed­room (2nd media room)

Pow­er­line Adap­tor: Sin­gle unit Net­gear XAV5001 Pow­er­line Net­work Adapter (XAV5001) device plugged directly into wall socket.

Giga­bit switch: D-Link 5-Port Giga­bit Desk­top Switch (DGS-1005G): Con­nects TV and Roku 2 XS.

Sun­room (3rd media room)

Pow­er­line Adap­tor: Sin­gle unit Net­gear XAV5001 Pow­er­line Net­work Adapter (XAV5001) device plugged directly into wall socket.

Giga­bit switch: D-Link 5-Port Giga­bit Desk­top Switch (DGS-1005G): Con­nects TV, Win­dows HTPC (DLNA server, USB drive with movies), Sling­box HD (con­nected to DirecTV receiver).

 

Feel free to share your expe­ri­ences with set­ting up a home network!

One Comment


  1. Ric Fox
    Nov 28, 2012

    Great tips Adi. Obvi­ously lots of trial and error. Thanks for doing the hard part.

Leave a Comment, Question or Request