No, I haven’t suddenly taken a liking to chocolate flavoured coffee, I still like my coffee to taste like, well, coffee. I’m also not talking about the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. What I’m referring to here is a relatively new standard (established in 2004 but I haven’t seen a lot of actual product on the market until fairly recently) for running multimedia network traffic over the TV cable in your home.
The MoCA I’m referring to here stands for The Multimedia over Coax Alliance and so far it seems to be the answers to my multimedia streaming woes at home. At the cottage I don’t have any streaming issues as I’ve got an Asus O!Play HDP R1 wired into my WiFi router and in turn an old Dell computer running Vail which is also wired directly into the router and both of which are in the same entertainment unit the my TV sits on. As an aside, even though it doesn’t have the greatest UI in the world O!Play is a great device and will play pretty much any media format you can throw at it, even to the point of being able to stream MKV files and to be able to directly stream from ISO files.
At home, sadly, the story is quite a bit different. For one thing, while I do have a more recent O!Play – the O!Play Air which has built-in 802.11n Wifi I’ve never had much luck with streaming media from my Windows Home Server, which is in the basement to the O!Play in the living room. I’ve tried it all so far, the built-in 802.11n, sticking an 802.11n bridge into the ethernet port on the back of the O!Play, range extenders, various types and brands of WiFi routers and repeaters, even a couple of cracks with Powerline networking, with varying degrees of “success” none of which were satisfactory. For the most part I was able to stream standard definition AVI files but even those would occasionally stutter and/or lock up. When it came to streaming 720p or above, forget about it! My wife and I would start to watch a movie over the network and invariably I’d have to shuffle off to the basement, copy the movie to a USB drive, bring it back up stairs and plug the drive into the O!Play directly which really defeats the whole purpose. It is kind of funny but as a geek I’m much more forgiving of when technology gets in the way of what I’m trying to do than is my wife who is a little bit of a luddite. I knew that whatever solution I came up with would just have to work.
Enter the Netgear MCAB1001 MoCA Coax-Ethernet Adapter Kit. I came across this device on the web through some random searching and was intrigued so I started doing some research and came across its product page on amazon.com which had a fairly astonishing 4.5 star average review based on 104 customer reviews. After doing a bit more research I found the device available online from DirectCanada.com at what looked to be quite a good price so I ordered one on Saturday. The device arrived on Tuesday and half an hour after it arrived, 15 minutes of which was consumed by having lunch, I had the kit installed and working. Setup was a breeze in that aside from plugging each adapter into the coax, the network, and power, there was none. Within seconds of plugging in the second adapter the lights on the units indicated that they were communicating with one another and that was it.
So far I’ve tested streaming standard def AVI files, some 720p and 1080p MVK files, ISOs, blu-ray rips, you name it, I’ve tried it, and with nary a single hiccup in the stream. Although the devices are “rated” by Netgear for 275 Mbs of throughput I never really expected to see that level of speed for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that I ran the coax in the house myself when the house was being built nearly 19 years ago and I used RG-59 cable (MoCA recommends RG-6) and there are a couple of splitters between the adapter in the basement and the adapter in the family room. According to the O!Play which measures and reports on network speed every time you select a new media file in its UI, I’m getting a pretty consistent 35 to 45 Mbps speed which is plenty for streaming hi-def video.
Some of the reviews have knocked the device for its configuration utility and yes, it is a pain in the ass in that to access the configuration utility you have to disconnect each adapter one at a time from the coax and the network and then connect it directly to a computer, do whatever configuration you want to do, and then put it back on the coax and the network, but like I said, I didn’t have to do any configuration at all. At some point I may enable encryption between the two devices but I’m not overly concerned about someone sniffing my multimedia traffic . One simple but greatly appreciated feature is a button on the back of the adapter that allows you to turn off the LEDs on the front of the device. The first thing my wife asked me when we sat down together to watch a movie last night was, “Can you turn off those darn blinking lights”?
So, in a nutshell if you’re like me and want to be able to stream hi-def content and aren’t fortunate enough to have a wired connection to use, I can strongly recommend the MCAB1001. Finally a solution that delivers on its promises.
Now if I could just find a way to download The Young and The Restless for my wife, I could drop cable TV completely. Ah well, that’s another project for another day.