Solwise Simple Connect powerline Ethernet adaptor
Can protecting a network really be this easy
Adding a third unit to the network is straightforward: press the button on one of the networked Pushes for two seconds, plug in the third unit, press its button for two seconds and wait. The three gadgets should communicate with each other and configure themselves with the same password. Initiating the process on an existing Push means it's impossible for someone to install one of their own and command your network.
With only two units, we couldn't test this process exactly, so we unplugged one unit, reset the password on the other, then attempted to connect the first device to the one with the new password - randomly generated by the box itself. You'll probably want to reset the password this way anyway, to erase the default that Solwise uses.
Plug and play
You have two minutes from initiating the device search on the networked units to press the button on the adaptor you want to add to the network. We waited a moment or two, pressed the button and... after a few seconds the boxes were hosting a powerline link and our MacBook Pro could once again talk to the Apple TV downstairs.
If you have a handy Windows PC, you can still run Solwise's network configuration utility, which allows you to change the password of a connected adaptor and others remotely over the network. It's straightforward, but you have to go and get all the device IDs off each adaptor, which isn't always easy if they're plugged in and running.
And you'll have to do this if you want to use one of the new units with 200Mb/s powerline adaptors from other vendors. Solwise's old PL-200AVs too, unless you first upgrade their firmware to version 2.0.
Of course, all this means the products aren't technically compatible with other powerline products, which are supposed to use a standard password to ensure out-of-the-box interoperability. But then Solwise is pitching the Push at folk who want a secure but easy-to-install network, and at that it succeeds.
Solwise is charging £50 for the Push compared to around £46 for the older PL-200AV. The technically proficient are better off going for the latter, but £4 a unit is a small price for anyone else to pay for the extra ease of use the Simple Connect system brings. Our guess is that it won't be long before the Push is a cheap as the old model.
We had no problem streaming a 1080i HD movie from a PC to a Mac across the Pushes' powerline link. The video took up around 19.2Mb/s of bandwidth. Copying a 5GB folder from one machine to the other at the same time was no trouble either, despite pushing the throughput to 55.6Mb/s. The video played smoothly throughout the transfer. Trying to do another, simultaneous 5GB file transfer killed the video, but that would be hitting the limit for powerline's capacity in any case, so was no great surprise. You should easily be able to handle regular network tasks using the Push, better than 802.11g can manage, certainly.
Finally, the new units are rated at 4.5W - 1W less than their predecessors. So you'll save energy too.
Solwise's push-button password system will seem a gimmick to techies, but it makes protecting a powerline network so much easier for everyone else - people without a PC, in particular.