If you’ve not come across Powerline adapters before, these provide a way to get a network signal around your house using your mains circuitry, rather than wi-fi. The adapters are simply chunky plugs in which you plug in an ethernet cable – one is needed to plug into your router and the other goes into your PC, laptop, whatever.
The ZyXEL “Starter Kit” is an ideal way to get started with this technology. Inside the small box are two Powerline adapters, 2 ethernet cables, a quick start guide and CD (on which is the manual and some configuration softw2re that you may not even need).
In my case I simply plugged the adapters in and they worked. There’s also an encryption button on the side, but due to the positioning of the adapter in my 8-way surge socket I couldn’t access it (it would be nice to have the button somewhere where it can’t be obscured, such as the front or bottom) – when pressed on all adapters, this will encrypt the data sent.
As mentioned before, data is sent via your mains supply, so bad wiring or the use of (ahem) adapters and extensions can affect them.
As a “real world” test, one went into the surge protector by my PC, and the other into an extension cable in the next room and connected to my Netbook. I then copied a folder across my LAN – it was around 98MB in size, consisting of 21 files (the equivalent of a music album, which I think is a fair test of the kind of use it will be put to). The ZyXEL performed the copy in 50 seconds. However, my wireless connection did it 4 seconds quicker.
Moving my Netbook upstairs, I tried the same copy again. The wireless, although now a weaker signal, did it in the same time, but the Powerline took a whole minute. All of this is probably down to the wiring in my house.
But just bear in mind that if your main use for any home network is internet connection, rather than sharing files across PCs, then these speeds will not affect your browsing pleasure (the slowest wi-fi is far quicker than internet connections). Even if you do share files, would you really spot the difference in these speeds? And, certainly, if you have problems with wi-fi, or simply don’t want to use it, then this solution is ideal.
What I was most impressed by, though, was just how easy they were to use. I didn’t have to consult the manual on the CD at all.
The cheapest price, as time of the review, appeared to be a smidge over £52 from Amazon.co.uk.
Summary of ZyXEL PLA-401 Powerline AdaptersIncredibly easy to set up and providing wireless speeds, these are ideal for those struggling with wireless or who simply don’t want to use it.
Reviewed by David Artiss on 26th July 2010.