We have to hand it to Western Digital for doing something different in what has become an increasingly stagnant - not to mention crowded - Ethernet-over-power market. While we've seen powerline Ethernet adaptors (network devices that use your house's existing power cables) with built-in switches before, we've never seen one with so many ports as the Western Digital WD Livewire - four on each of the adaptors, to be precise. Okay, so cramming four Ethernet ports on each end of the powerline section of the network isn't exactly a Nobel Prize-worthy innovation, but it's an innovation none the less.
What's more, despite the extra functionality that those eight Ethernet ports add, the WD Livewire isn't particularly expensive. In fact, at a little over £70, it's significantly cheaper than the Netgear XAVB1004 kit, which only has a single four-way Ethernet adaptor.
We particularly like the design of the WD Livewire adaptors. Rather than plugging directly into a socket, the adaptors are powered over two standard figure of eight cables. As such, and unlike many so many single-port adaptors, the WD Livewire doesn't encroach into the space of adjacent sockets. We found it curious that the adapters have their own power switches, seeing as it's as easy to just turn off the wall socket. Moreover, the switches are pretty fiddly to use, but as you don't actually have to do so, we can't complain too much.
Otherwise, the design is entirely unremarkable, in a way only matt black plastic can be. We'd be more annoyed that the 'sync' button gives next to no indication whether it's been pressed or not, were it not that it will only be used once. Once synced, data transferred between adaptors is 128-bit encrypted, so you can remain confident that no-one is snooping, if you're the paranoid type that really does believe MI6 is desperately interested in your holiday snaps.