Ask LH: Does My Home Media Centre Need A Separate Network?

Ask LH: Does My Home Media Centre Need A Separate Network?

Hey Lifehacker, I’m considering using a iPad mini as a dedicated media ‘hub’, using Airplay to send Plex, YouTube and other content to a gen 3 Apple TV. Currently I’m using an Airport Extreme for Wi-Fi, along with a separate NetComm modem for internet connectivity. Is there any advantage to creating a second dedicated Wi-Fi network just for my media needs, or can I stay with the one network? Thanks, Media Mogul

Picture: Jon Hume

Dear MM,

In short -– there’s not going to be any significant benefit based on my experience.

I was faced with a similar question when setting up my digital lounge room a while ago and concluded that it was easier to just use a single network. Running different networks can be complex with the need to run multiple DHCP servers with different address ranges and other configuration required.

From a performance point of view, unless you’re hitting your wireless access points with lots of devices – and for consumer access points I’d say around 15 devices is getting quite a heavy load – you’re unlikely to hit any significant performance bumps.

I assume you’re running a recently made router so you’ll be using 802.11n. If you’re running an older 802.11g router then upgrading to a more recent device – one that runs 802.11ac would be my suggestion – will ensure that you get enough wireless bandwidth around the house.


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  • If you’re streaming uncompressed FLAC around the house then it may help, and a Sonos with its own wifi will help. However an iPad / YouTube confection is rather lo-fi.

  • I honestly think it’s down to how much network traffic LAN to LAN, WAN to LAN you’ll be using on other devices as well as the TV streaming, if it’s next to none you’ll be fine. On the otherhand you may (and I mean may depends on the setup aswell as the routers capability) see a slight decrease in transfers which could potentially interrupt TV viewing.

    And then I suppose you could go into HDD speeds if your streaming off one that is, they can always bottle neck andddd finally if you’re doing on the fly transcoding that could also set you back a bit which a mediocre CPU.

    Just remember Plex uses the CPU to transcode (not direct play) not a graphics card, that is a pain in the arse for NAS users with a low GHZ CPU..

  • if you have a good quality router that has QOS (Quality Of Service) that actually works . a lot of QOS is retarded. but if u get good one then it would be fine! Tune specific network ports for different tasks, like streaming media files ect and give them higher priority on the QOS

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