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Netgear HDXB101 Powerline HD Ethernet Adapters review



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The proliferation of broadband across the UK, and indeed the world, has led to more and more households creating a home network to share that high bandwidth goodness. Of course, most people aren't prepared to make the effort to run Ethernet cable throughout their house so have looked to Wi-Fi to do the business instead. However, what a lot of people have found - myself included - is that wireless just doesn't cut it for anything more than casually browsing the web. The combination of thick brick walls, interference from other devices, and an inherent limited range make it far too unreliable and slow. Luckily there is an alternative, Ethernet over power (EOP).

EOP has been around for a while but is still relatively unknown. It uses your home's existing power cables to carry the network signals. It's faster, more reliable, and more secure, than wireless and, of course, requires no rewiring - it really is a revolutionary technology. It will never replace wireless, as the ability to roam around your house with a laptop will always have its appeal, but if you live in a large house it is a very easy way of connecting the furthest parts of your home.

We've looked at several EOP kits before, like the Solwise HomePlug Ethernet PL-85PE and the Panasonic HD-PLC Power Line Network and have been impressed by all of them but today I'm looking at the Netgear HDXB101, the fastest rated version we've yet to come across, claiming to support up to 200Mbps.

The kit provides a complete solution for setting up your EOP network, including two HDX101 adapters, a pair of Ethernet cables, installation guide, and, setup CD.

The adapters themselves are very elegant with a white finish that merges nicely with the white of most power sockets. These are certainly the most attractive EOP units I've seen, though, just to prove that looks are a very subjective thing, Riyad thought they were decidedly ugly - there's no accounting for taste is there.

At 98 x 72 x 64mm the units are rather large and you will find you cannot fit them adjacent to another plug in a multi plug extension. Not only are they large, they also have a strange quirk whereby the unit is not raised above a standard socket switch so, by plugging them in, you switch the socket on. This isn't a huge problem but it does seem slightly odd.

With any device that is fitted into a plug, its size and shape and the position of its features will either work for you or not, depending on what socket arrangement you have in your home. For instance the Solwise kit has the network sockets on the bottom of the unit where, if your power sockets are low down on a wall, the network cable may interfere with the floor. Netgear have put the network sockets on the right edge of the HDX101 adapters. Therefore you should consider where you're planning to place these units before you buy them. To prevent any of these problems, Panasonic kit uses a cable to connect the adapters to a standard size plug. This is a clever way of dealing with the problem but it does mean even more cable mess.

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Guilherme Mello

February 19, 2009, 8:42 pm

How far were the two adapters away from each other when you achieved these speeds? I've been reading reviews around the internet and a considerable number of them claim to be achieving speeds below 2mb/s!

Steve Redway

May 3, 2009, 9:59 pm

Power Line Adapters whilst seemingly a good solution to home networking are essentially a very poor technology, polluting the radio spectrum, interfering with your neighbours radio and not adhering to the European EMC directives. Passing these sort of signals, from 2-30MHz down your internal house wiring allows these signal to radiate over several hundreds of meters, much the same as an illegal radio transmitter. The government and OFCOM know the problems regarding Power Line Adapters and will respond when complaints are made by your neighbours in removing the devices, so please ensure that the shop you buy this product from has a sale or return policy.

Home networking has a perfectly good wireless system based on the IEEE 802.11 standards called Wi Fi and operating at 2.4GHz it interferes with no one, is legal, adheres to all European EMC directives and allows you to transfer your broadband and gaming system throughout the house.

There are campaigns afoot both at local and governmental level to have Power Line Adapter removed from the shops and banned, so really they are not such a good idea at all.

Mike Flower

September 10, 2009, 6:15 pm

Sorry Steve, your comments dont hold water.The IEEE 802 basket of standards are good enough but not brilliant, but 802.11 based standards do interefere with other systems. The 2.4GHz spectrum was released to be made public, and unfortunately not to be used exclusively for one type of technology (Bluetooth is one example). As far as I am aware ethernet cabling is not shielded and therefore the interference you refer to woudl be a similar issue?

The current 802. standards in the 2,4GHz is crowded. In my own network at home I am competing against at least 5 neighbours, not to mention our own Wii, all our Bluetooth equipment and our video sender! Drop outs and loss of sychronisation is a regualr occurence. I prefer wireless though and the 5GHz band is far less cluttered at the moment.

Ethernet cable

July 3, 2013, 6:31 pm

The combination of thick brick walls, interference from other devices,
and an inherent limited range make it far too unreliable and slow.

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