The other week, Benny and I were discussing our favourite technologies of the year. Both of us decided that Ethernet-over-powerlines was definitely one of the coolest things we've used all year. True, it's not a new technology, but this year it's seen a decent speed boost and seems to have come to prominence in the market. Riyad, Benny and all make use of different brand kits at home, and I would definitely consider it an invaluable technology.
Using your power lines for connecting your network together is much more reliable than wireless, with faster speeds and transmission across greater distances. It's not as good as standard Ethernet cabling, but it's a lot more convenient for the home user who doesn't want to spend hours pulling up carpets and drilling holes.
The last two systems I've looked at have been based on HomePlug technology. However, the units I'm looking at today, use chips designed by Panasonic itself.
The kit we received (BL-PA100KT) comes with two units (BL-PA100E) under the brand name of HD-PLC, High-Speed Power Line Network. That's a lot of codes and numbers, but all of which are useful things to know if you're trying to hunt one out!
Included in the box, are the two units, a user manual and two power cords. There are no Ethernet cables supplied, which seems a bit Scrooge-like so you need to make sure you order these or have some to hand.
The units are very different to anything we've tested before – looking more like a miniature UPS than the Devolo or Solwise units. Instead of plugging directly into the plug socket, these use a two-pin figure of eight connector. Although it adds more cable clutter, this is quite beneficial. The homeplug units that plug directly onto the wall can sometimes be tricky to fit because of their size, while these plugs are standard size. You can also tuck the units away out of sight, or make a show piece out of them as they look quite swish.
One thing I noticed while wandering around Computex, was a lot of cheaply produced HomePlug kit that was all fitted for American plug sockets. These can't be sold in a UK market, so specific UK versions have to be made. With Panasonic's system, a cable depending on country can be included, so that the same units can be used in every country. This brings down manufacturing costs and should mean we see prices drop quite quickly.