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.