Feeds
90%

ZyXEL PL-100 Powerline Ethernet adaptor

Boldly going where wireless and Ethernet can't

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

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. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

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
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Virgin Media struck dumb by NATIONWIDE packet loss balls-up
Turning it off and on again fixes glitch 12 HOURS LATER
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
Ofcom tackles complaint over Premier League footie TV rights
Virgin Media: UK fans pay the most for the fewest matches
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.