The reason you need to jump through all these hoops is because the network is encrypted with 128-bit AES encryption so the devices need to be synchronised with each other before they will cooperate. We’re not entirely sure of the merits of this encryption, though, as it seems all you need to do to administer the network is connect another plug to the mains and install the software that’s bundled with the HomePlug. Using this software you can completely reconfigure the network without prior knowledge of the existing network password. The only threat this encryption would seem to stop is if someone were trying to tap into the mains network by some sophisticated means other than just buying a plug and plugging it in and the likelyhood of this is very slim. Still, it’s there if you value it.
Other features of the included software include the ability to update the plugs’ firmware, enable Quality of Service (QoS) prioritising, and show the list of attached devices. The QoS options are fairly limited, with no manual control of the prioritised traffic but rather it gives you three overarching options; Online Game/Internet, Audio or Video, and Voice over IP (VoIP). Essentially, these will prioritise rapid delivery of small packets to ensure a responsive system, overall bandwidth to ensure the bit rate needed to transmit video is maintained, and isochronous delivery of packets to maintain a steady stream of decipherable audio, respectively.
The new HomePlug AV devices are rated at 200Mbps, which is faster than all but the latest wireless standards. Of course, as with all network types, you will never actually see this figure in real world performance. In fact, testing with IOmeter revealed the real world throughput maxed out at 113Mbps when using two plugs in reasonably close proximity. However, this is actually by far the fastest result we’ve ever obtained from a pair of HomePlug devices and it is certainly plenty enough bandwidth to stream at least two HD videos over simultaneously without completely clogging the network.
So, in terms of ergonomics, ease of use, and performance, the NET-PL-200AV-PIGGY is an impressive device but then there’s always that stick-in-the-mud, price, to account for and it’s here things become a little less clear. At £54.95 per plug, even the most basic setup is going to set you back over £100, which is a high price to pay just to avoid laying a bit of cable. If you don’t need the mains pass through you can get one without for £48.52 and there are also slower 85Mbps and 14Mbps plugs available for around £25 each. However, these slower standards are not compatible with the new faster standard. Still, these complaints only put a minor dent in the HomePlug MPT’s value score.
By using your home’s existing mains power cables, the Solwise HomePlug AV Mains Pass Through (NET-PL-200AV-PIGGY) is incredibly easy to setup and once done so it is fast and secure. What’s more by incorporating a mains power pass through socket, it ensures using mains networking doesn’t hog all your plug sockets.