Sunday, November 23, 2008

PowerLine Ethernet Adapters

Many years ago, I recall reading about Ethernet running over power lines. The idea was you get two adapters, plug them into your wall socket and they then transmit Ethernet over the electrics. The early devices were slowish, and until recently, not of much interest. But the newest devices are quite quick, and in my case, have solved a long standing problem.

I have an old cottage, where the phone (and the ADSL) comes in to the building at one corner, whilst the computers are in the far other corner. Getting the place properly cabled is something that would be nice to do, but I’ve just not ever done as given the building, it would be quite expensive to install). I did try wireless, both a wireless router and a wireless bridge. But these did not work due to the construction of the house. So when I put the ADSL in, I just ran a long Ethernet cable from the router upstairs, to the firewall downstairs. It was not very sightly, and there have been regular requests from the resident saint (my wife) to get rid of it. She was convinced that there had to be an easier way. And she was right.

When I was recently in PC World, I noticed the NetGear HDX101, which were on sale – so I bought two. Today I installed them and have removed the long draping cable. They “installed” very easily – just unpack them, plug them into a wall socket, then plug in the Ethernet cable. It took around 10 minutes to get it unpacked, installed and working.

Turns out, Netgear have a wide set of PowerLine Ethernet products. They have three separate ranges of Powerline Ethernet adapters (in addition to a wireless “extender” and switches). The Entry level (the XE102 model) supports up to 14mbs, while the Mainstream range (there are several models) handles up to 85mpbs. The Performance range (the HDX 101) supports up to 200mbps. The XE104 is a 4-port switch that operates at up to 85mbps.

The performance figures given on the web site, of course, may vary in practice. Given the complex wiring in the cottage, it’s hardly any surprise that the performance of the devices is a bit lower than what’s quoted on the web site. The setup utility reckons I get around 55mbs across the link. But since my ADSL in only 4mbps (and is unlikely to go much above that anytime soon), the performance loss due to the complexity of wiring is more than acceptable.

With the improvements in speed, these devices could be an alternative to a wireless network, although the individual units are not ultra cheap. The  HDX 101 costs around £50 (each although had I shopped around, NetGear also sell them in packs of two (at a lower price per unit) and there are some sites on the web that would have undercut PC World.

In summary, these devices solved a long-standing problem in a pretty neat, easy and relatively inexpensive way. About the only downside is that you have to use a wall power slot (which are in short supply here!). The manual clearly states not to use a power lead - and in my case (of course I tried it!) it simply did not work. Using the wall socket was instantly successful.

1 comment:

Jack said...

These guys offer some great stuff as well, found they really do specialise in the right areas!
ethernet over power