Friday, February 17, 2012

Enhancing UniFi HyppTV Experience with Powerline-Ace

Back in mid-2010 when I had just got my UniFi high-speed broadband service installed, I wrote a detailed post describing my setup. Since then, I had received numerous questions from blog readers pertaining to UniFi installation in general. It’s 2012 now and I’m writing this post because I’ve got an interesting technological bit to share. Read on…

My UniFi Setup – A Recap

As described in my earlier post, here’s how my devices are set up: The fibre broadband termination unit (BTU), the residential gateway and the DECT phone are situated near the middle section of the house. The IPTV set-top-box (STB) is located next to the TV in the living room. I felt that it wasn’t practical for me to pull a cable from the middle section of the house to the living room to stream IPTV content to the STB; so, I settled for a pair of HomePlugs (or Power Line Communication Adapters). These HomePlugs transmit network data via existing home electrical wiring. No unsightly long cables. Pretty cool right?

The HomePlug “Gotchas”

The HomePlug solution does work…well, to a certain extent. Yes, I was able to get UniFi HyppTV to stream to my TV. However, the streamed video would occasionally stutter—visibly seen in the form of pixelated blocks on screen. The experience is analogous to watching Astro while it’s raining…if you know what I mean.

Although my Aztech HL110E HomePlugs are rated at 200Mbps, from what I understand, the numbers are usually no where near that under real-world scenarios.

It’s recommended that for best data transfer rates over power lines, HomePlugs should be plugged straight to the wall socket but unfortunately, I don’t have that luxury. As mentioned in my earlier post, both my HomePlugs are plugged into a power strip on each end, respectively. Having other devices sharing the power strip introduces “noise” to the power line and therefore impacting the data transfer rate. In fact, other appliances within other parts of the house are also adding noise to the power line.

During usage, the Aztech units in my setup were mostly showing “red” on the data transfer rate LED (green = best, amber = good, red = fair, none = failed). This is certainly far from ideal!

The Solution for the Solution

It came to my attention lately that there’s a new add-on device that can solve the transfer-rate issues typically associated with HomePlugs. This device is developed by Cal-Lab (the Malaysian-based company known primarily for its patented lightning isolators) and is called Powerline-Ace. I had the privilege of testing the product out during this pre-launch phase.

DSC02836

The Powerline-Ace model as shown in the picture (above) has three sockets. One socket is reserved for the HomePlug and the remainder two sockets are for attaching other electrical items like a power strip. Apart from being a power line network conditioning device, the unit is also a lightning isolator. On the side of the unit, there are two available grounding points for attaching earth leads from Cal-Lab LAN lightning isolator—for example.

In my test setup, two Powerline-Ace units were added to the mix i.e. one unit on each end. Other than that, nothing else changed.

The Result

After about a month of usage, all the video streaming issues that I had mentioned before has gone. Even the HyppTV HD channels like Travel Channel and LUXE.TV streamed flawlessly.

This was evident by the transfer rate LED on my HomePlug. Both HomePlug LEDs sustained at green (previously red) throughout usage.  I have a mini-HiFi which is on the same power strip as the TV and STB. Even with all of these appliances turned on at the same time, IPTV streaming remained smooth and the HomePlug LED remained at green.

In fact, when other noise-generating appliances (e.g. the water heater, rice cooker, etc) from the other parts of the house were in use, the Powerline-Ace units remained steadfast—performing admirably.

In the following video, I documented how turning on the vacuum cleaner did not negatively affect the HyppTV viewing experience at all. Also, take note of the middle LED on the HomePlug.

Powerline-Ace Test – Streaming UniFi HyppTV content over power line with vacuum cleaner turned on.

For a more robust experience, Cal-Lab also offers a single-socket power line network conditioning device (see below – left) for attaching to noise generating appliances. I had the opportunity to test these units out too.

DSC02899

Since I already had good results without these additions, there was nothing much else to look out for (with respect to my HyppTV viewing experience). I suppose these units would make a difference if the HomePlugs were used for regular Internet usage (i.e. surfing, P2P transfers) where squeezing every bit of the bandwidth matters more or if complete lightning protection is required.

To sum it up, the Powerline-Ace units performed exceedingly well and it definitely enhanced my UniFi HyppTV viewing experience. Now I know there’s finally a technically viable solution for HomePlug or power line network related issues!

Update (October 2012): Powerline-Ace is now available in Malaysia.

20 comments:

William said...

Dear Jason,

I was using homeplug ( with ac output version ) to connect from 1st floor to 2nd floor for the IPTV. For the beginnig of using, it was working fine and indicator showing Green the whole time. After several day, the connection seems getting bad and start showing Red.
As I heard from my mum, normal day the IPTV work fine, sometime it freeze or got artifacts. But once i reach home and start downloading, the artifacts getting more and freezing occur more than usual. The indicator showing Red whole time.
I removed other applicance that connect from the homeplug and let it alone, yet it still the same and no improvement.

For the PowerAce product, I got youtube check it out, it seems a good solution. I'm downloading games or movie all the time, so I hope it can help me solve the problem. I wanted to know where I can get it and how much does it cost? I saw you posted 2 of the product, which 1 do you recommend?

Jason said...

Hi William, the last I know, the product was in pre-launch phase. I'll be updating this blog once I've received more info on the general market availability.

On your last question, the first one is the one you'll need as it has a dedicated socket for the homeplug. A pair is required for best results.

The second one is to complement the pair I've mentioned and is only needed if you have noise-generating appliances that have severe negative impact on the powerline signal.

iki summer said...

hi jason.. i'm just wondering, have you heard about yumy satellite tv. is it compatible with Unifi or not?

Jason said...

hi iki, I'm afraid I'm not too familiar with yumy. If it requires an internet connection, I don't see why it shouldn't work with UniFi.

Gary said...

Jason,

I need to install ip camera and watch through my iphone but setting is quite tough for me. Any idea?

The iptv in HD always lagging, can it be solve with the power ace?

Thanks,

Gary

Jason said...

Hi Gary,

As for your first question, sorry, I have no idea how to implement that.

Powerline-Ace works well with HD streams...at least for me. :)

Arif Yusof said...

Hi Jason,

I read your inspiring blog with great interest and am happy to know I am not the only nut around doing this sort of thing. ;)

I would really like to know the market availability of the Powerline-Ace by Cat Lab.

I am attempting to do as you did. However my Homeplug setup is similar but additionally I have internet, IP Cams and streaming media all working and doing their own thing with varied success.

A question, since Aztech Homeplugs work on syncing each unit to the base unit and auto assigning encryption/code within their perimeter, if I add another new Homeplug base to my setup and sync it to another new Homeplug client (another perimeter) .. will they get confused because they are essentially using the same electricity lines. For example one Homeplug pair for IPTV and another for extending wireless range but in the same area of the house.

In theory this will work, I have yet to try it though.

Thanks,

Arif

Jason said...

Hi Arif,

As for Powerline-Ace market availability, I'd suggest emailing Cal-Lab directly at callab@callab.com.my for more info.

As for the second question, yes, you should be able to create multiple networks on the same electrical infrastructure. All you have to do is to assign a distinct private network name key to all homeplug units sharing the same network. You can manually assign the private network names using the utility software that come with the homeplugs.

Robert Ikin said...

G'day Jason,
Really interested in the Powerline Ace, I run a home network on WD PLAs, they work fine during the day but when my mains power switches on low tariff heaters and water heaters my PLA network falls over, it recovers when the the low tariff devices are switched off (they must generate heaps of noise in the my home power grid). According to the info from Cal-Lab these things they may be the answer to my problem. After trawling the web for info on these devices it appears that your blog is the most up to date source, therefore the question "Do you know or can you give an indication on a retail release date?" I did note that in one of the Cal-Lab summaries they reckoned it would be released near the end of this year (2012), any info welcome.

Jason said...

Hi Robert,

I was earlier told that it'll probably be released around the last quarter of the year. For the latest on this, I'd suggest emailing them at callab@callab.com.my. I'm sure they'll look forward to your enquiry.

Paul Chang said...

Hi Jason,

This is Paul from CAL-LAB.
I am extremely gratified by your posting and appreciative of those who left comments about Powerline-Ace.

The wait is over!

We have just received a Patent-grant in Malaysia (while USA & others are still work in progress).

Powerline-Ace is now available in Malaysia.

More info in: http://cal-lab.com/index.php?act=TRM-PLC_Series_Applications_Illustrated_120921a

Warm regards,

Paul
CAL-LAB

Jason said...

Thanks for the update, Paul!

By the way, congratulations on the Malaysia patent-grant for Powerline-Ace.

sekar said...

Hi Jason,

Any suggestion for a good brand & model of the homeplug.

Jason said...

Hi Sekar,

I am using the Aztech HL110E. Works fine for me so far.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all your info regarding Hypp, Jason, it's been very useful indeed, as have the comments - I've just moved here from the UK, and while I have slightly geekish tendencies, IPTV is something I haven't dealt with before. My D-Link homeplugs refused to work, but am now happily watching Hypp via Aztech, with only the occasional glitch... which I hope to solve with Powerline-Ace.

However, I have a question that I'm hoping you might be able to answer. I've brought my rather unusual and very fab TV with me. It's a Sony and it's wireless - it has a separate box that you connect your equipment to via HDMI, and the screen is basically a wireless monitor with only a power line. I'm used to being able to control everything with one remote via IR blasters, so all my equipment is hidden and can be controlled through the TV. But I can't seem to get this to work for the Hypp STP. Is there any way to get the IR to work, or is the box just not capable of this?

Cheers!

Daisy

Jason said...

Hi Daisy,

Nice setup you have there!

I haven't dabbled with IR blasters though; and so I can't really offer much advice on this.

You can try posting your question on forums like Lowyat.NET. Hopefully, there are techies out there who can help you out.

Anonymous said...

i found the online store for purchasing powerline-ace as below : http://site.callab2u.com/main/3141/index.asp?pageid=74313&t=online-store

however i didnt see the one that u posted in your blog. may i or we know which one we should get ?

Jason said...

Hi (Anonymous),

I'm not sure what have changed since I last blogged about the units.

I'd suggest contacting Cal-Lab for recommendations on the exact model to get based on your current setup.

skum4r said...

hey jason, thanks for the info...im having the jitters on my maxis iptv...but only on some occasions...im wondering if i should try the cal-lab powerline ace hardware. are u still using it?

Jason said...

Hi skum4r,

Yes, I'm still using it. Works great so far with my UniFi IPTV setup.