Unlike the HomePlug system, which is very much Plug-and-Go, the HD-PLC units take a certain amount of set up. One of the units is a master unit and the other is a slave (although both have the ability to be either). These must be paired together, by pressing the “setup” buttons simultaneously. This of course means that initially they have to be near each other before you position them around your house. Once paired though, communication uses 128-Bit AES encryption.
Connecting these up is the same method as the standard HomePlug units. An Ethernet cable goes from your router to the master unit, then a second Ethernet cable goes from the slave unit to your network device (notebook, PC, camera) or even to an 8-port switch where this connectivity can be distributed further. I say 8-port purely because this is the maximum Panasonic recommends.
To test these units, we replicated the same situation as the Devolo and Solwise kits, using two Centrino notebooks, a 100Mbit switch and the open source tool Iometer. Using this, we attained a speed of 50Mbit, which is slightly faster. Panasonic quote 190Mbit on the front of the box, but there is small print to suggest that this is a theoretical maximum. In its defence, Panasonic also quotes actual ratings of 70Mbit for UDP and 42Mbps for TCP transfers. For once, it would seem this is close to reality.
A really smart feature of these units, is in an in-built speed tester. Hold down the “setup” button for a couple of seconds and it will light up zero to three LEDs as an indication of performance. Three LED's meaning 30Mbit or more. This is a great way of testing to see if the outlet you have chosen to plug into is suitable, without having to resort to complex methods.
Performance of these units is excellent, beating wireless, and even previous units (albeit by a small margin). The Master/Slave pairing system is a minor annoyance that can be forgiven. However, I would be interested to see how performance scales when using the maximum 16 units Panasonic recommends.
Using cables instead of a fixed plug system has the advantage of being able to hide them away, as well as taking them abroad and setting up networks in your hotel rooms.
At £98.82 for the starter kit, minus Ethernet cables, this is slightly more expensive than the Solwise kit and offers a negligible performance improvement. However, the speed test is a useful feature that I would happily pay extra for.