Code Father's Blog

Powerline Network Adapter vs MoCA 2.5

A real-life test of two Ethernet-replacement options and the results


In late 2019, shortly after moving into a new home that was built in 2002, the need existed to get not just WiFi coverage around the house, but also Ethernet.  I had become accustomed to it from the house I moved from where there were two Ethernet jacks and two coaxial jacks in every room.

All of the Ethernet jacks had their advantage. I could simply put a switch in the entertainment center and connect as many devices as possible to Ethernet and a WiFi router to serve that area of the home.  The same applied on the second floor, basement, and third floor loft.  It was great.

The new house, however, didn't have this luxury.  Instead there was a coaxial jack is almost every room, but that was it.  The phone jacks were traditional CAT-3 lines, so re-purposing those was not an option.  Therefore, I finally tried out Ethernet replacement options, starting with Powerline Network Adapters (PNA) devices.

PNA Devices

The PNA devices served their purpose, mostly, for almost two years.  The devices I used were the Zyxel AV2000 powerline kits.  I had four of those around the house to ensure WiFi coverage and Ethernet access where needed.

They worked great for the Internet speed I had at the time, a whopping 80 Mbps!  There was no Internet lag and each random speed test showed me getting 75-82 Mbps regularly.  Keep in mind that the Zyxel AV2000 devices are supposed to be 2 Gbps devices, but in order for that to happen your electrical line noise has to be low, electrical lines good, and they must both be on the same circuit.  Two of those items are out of anyone's control and the last one simply doesn't make sense to use. I can't imagine why you would put two in the same room because they're not the cheapest of devices and there are very practical ways to run an Ethernet cable across a room given how much cheaper CAT-5e and CAT-6 cable is compared to two quality PNA adapters.

Then the need for faster Internet came.  I upgraded to 140 Mbps. Woo hoo!  These continued to serve their purpose but only because with this upgrade the DSL modem was moved and I had a dedicated 1 Gbps Ethernet line to the modem from my home office. Therefore, my work and file transfers to the NAS didn't suffer and despite the streaming services running at the same time when the kids were home things remained largely unaffected by it all.

Then one of the devices started giving grief.  This was about two years in and I decided to try the DECA adapters (DirecTV's implementation of MoCA for DirecTV devices) from DirecTV since I had three of four of those laying around doing nothing.  This worked great, but they're limited to 10/100 Mbps devices and therefore whatever devices went through the DECA network would not obtain the full 140 Mbps Internet speed.

So, here I was, running Ethernet, PNA and DECA to connect the routers and floors in my home. It's not the kind of spaghetti that I prefer to have.

MoCA 2.5

Come the Fall of 2023 it was time, again, to get faster Internet.  This time, however, I had to change my ISP to get that faster speed.  Enter 1 Gbps Internet. Zoom, zoom!

It was clear at this time that the DECA devices simply didn't cut it anymore.  Therefore, I purchased the ScreenBeam 7250 Bonded MoCA 2.5 devices.  This allowed me to continue to use the unused coaxial that's running all over my house as Ethernet, and at great speeds, too!

The use of these MoCA devices has really exposed the limitations that the PNA devices have, specifically related to speed when crossing circuits (breakers).  The PNA devices lose significant signal when they have to cross circuits, which is the real world use of them.  As I've said, there are more practical ways to run Ethernet across a room, but if you're room is that big, it's probably two circuits anyway.

Results and Speeds

So, after all this, what are the real world results that I found?  Well, it's pretty clear, based on what your Internet speed really is.  Now, your mileage may vary, but overall, if you're paying for more than 100 Mbps Internet the PNA devices are not for you.  Spend the extra money to get MoCA devices.  When you get above 1 Gbps make sure you get MoCA 2.5, not just 2.0 because the 2.0 version won't go faster than 1 Gbps and when you add in overhead (as you should with all network bandwidth calculations) you won't get better than about 920 Mbps.

Here are the speed results of devices connected to my PNA network, which is crossing circuits with a 1 Gbps Internet connection:

The above was on-par with historical speeds that I've always gotten from the PNA devices.

For my MoCA 2.5 network, on a rather busy day, these are the speeds I was able to get just five minutes later:

I made no changes to my network or other things between the two. I simply connected the same laptop directly to the PNA devices and ran the test, then connected directly to the MoCA device to perform the next test. That's it.

All of my routers and switches are gigabit, all cables are CAT-5e or CAT-6, and the laptop I was testing from has a 2.5 Gbps NIC, so none of those were the bottleneck.  However, my son was playing his Xbox (connected to the MoCA network) and there was a TV running with a bowl game on, so this is something to consider.

In the end, I've removed and replaced all PNA devices with MoCA 2.5 to support my current Internet speed and give me room to upgrade my Internet.  Unfortunately, my WiFi devices do suffer because the routers being used top out at 600 Mbps.  So if I do upgrade to a speed higher than gigabit I'll need to replace switches, routers, and even some cables.  That's not to mention that some of the systems that are hard-wired can't use more than 1 Gbps anyway because they don't have 2.5 Gbps or 10 Gbps NICs.