Feeds
90%

ZyXEL PL-100 Powerline Ethernet adaptor

Boldly going where wireless and Ethernet can't

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

Before I started testing the two PL-100s supplied by ZyXEL properly, I plugged one into my wireless router upstairs and took the other downstairs to connect to my PowerBook. I wasn't expecting much - I was just mucking around, really. But it worked immediately, with no need to reboot this, re-connect that. I just turned off the notebook's Wi-Fi adaptor, fired up a browser and started viewing webpages. It was truly a plug and play experience.

It felt fast too. Browsing and downloading aren't ideal network performance benchmarks because the speed you get is dependent on outside factors as well as your local's WLAN's bandwidth. Whatever, accessing the 2Mbps broadband connection felt quicker with the PL-100s than my 802.11g WLAN.

Approaching the issue more scientifically, I set up two machines, a Mac and a PC, one upstairs, one downstairs, and connected them directly using manually set IP addresses (firewalls off) and connecting the Mac to a shared folder on the Windows XP machine. I then copied a series of files from the Mac to the PC, dragging from one folder to the other, and letting both operating systems take care of the rest.

ZyXEL quotes a throughput of 85Mbps, but that's not only a best-case, minimum-noise scenario speed, but it's undoubtedly the raw data speed before the effects of the operating systems and the various data-transfer protocols have taken their cut of the available bandwidth. I got 16.43-16.88Mbps out of the system. I should point out that both notebooks' adaptors were plugged into adjacent power sockets to each PL-100, and my North London flat's mains wiring is probably not the best in the world. It's also has a variety of other appliances hanging off it, potentially boosting the noise the PL-100s' error correction mechanisms have to deal with.

For comparison, I ditched the PL-100s and connected the two computers wirelessly via my Linksys 802.11g base-station. I kept the machines in exactly the same locations. Transferring the same files yielded a bandwidth of 5-6Mbps - around a third of that provided by the PL-100 link.

I was only able to try powerline networking with two machines, but ZyXEL claims each unit will talk to 15 others, and four groups of 16 - 64 clients in all - can operate on the same network.

Verdict

Powerline networking isn't going to replace wireless, but I can see it finding a place alongside it in homes and offices where there's no Ethernet infrastructure, wireless is considered too insecure, there are dead-spots, the airwaves are too full, or users are just too fed up of Windows XP's Zero Configuration system losing network connections.

Crucially, it's cheap: ZyXEL's PL-100 boxes are around £70 including VAT, and you don't have to pay a penny on cables. The PL-100 may not provide the same bandwidth as Ethernet - certainly not Gigabit Ethernet - but it is compatible with the very infrastructure you use to power your computer.

And it's quick, too - faster, I found, than 802.11g Wi-Fi. Unlike Wi-Fi, you have to put your networked devices in fixed locations, but if you're connecting, say, your desktop computer to a remote MP3 gadget plugged into your hi-fi, you're already used to working in specific locations, and you've got the bandwidth you need to transmit audio and even video smoothly. ®

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

90%

ZyXEL PL-100 Powerline Ethernet adaptor

Fast and secure SOHO wired networking - and you don't even need to lay down cables...
Price: £70 inc. VAT RRP

More from The Register

next story
Trying to sell your house? It'd better have KILLER mobile coverage
More NB than transport links to next-gen buyers - study
iWallet: No BONKING PLEASE, we're Apple
BLE-ding iPhones, not NFC bonkers, will drive trend - marketeers
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?
They can take our lives, but they'll never take our SPECTRUM
NBN Co adds apartments to FTTP rollout
Commercial trial locations to go live in September
Samsung Z Tizen OS mobe is post-phoned – this time for good?
Russian launch for Sammy's non-droid knocked back
Speak your brains on SIGNAL-FREE mobile comms
Readers chat to the pair who flog the tech
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?