When it comes to home networking, it seems that most people are served very well indeed by a relatively straightforward wireless router. There’s no real mystery to it, a router just has enough coverage to envelop most houses. Still, there are some who, for one reason or another, just can’t use a router. In those cases, IP over power can be a refreshing change.
People can have any number of reasons for moving away from wireless: for some it’s just that their house is too big (or of too-dense construction) to allow solid wireless access, for others its that their desktop is their gaming machine, and on the wrong end of the house to their router. These things happen. Indeed, our Country Manager recently found himself in such a bind…
For a long time, he made do, using his netbook for web until eventually (inevitably), something pushed him to sort out a more solid connection for his desktop. In his case it was Star Trek Online, but we’ll try not to judge here. Anyway, reasons aside, he moved over to IP over power as an alternative to a fairly flaky wireless connection that wouldn’t allow the connection speed that phasers require.
So far, he’s been using this IP over power setup and having success enough to ask us to write it up as a review for any of you who might have some unusual home networking issues.
“The concept of networking through your power cables has been an exciting idea on the cards for many years. There have been a few first generation products on the market, but the interesting thing about Belkin’s starter kit is that it’s one of the first entry level products offering Gigabit speeds. Okay, so you won’t actually get up to gigabit speeds over the line – factors like Ethernet, wiring quality and noise on the line all degrade the actual signal – you will get far, far faster than the sub-100mbps we’ve been seeing in the first gen products.
Out of the box the Belkin product is simple to use – two mains plugs with an Ethernet port each, two Ethernet cables and three lights on each unit to indicate the status of the line – if it’s got power, has established a connection and also to indicate the status of encryption on the line. To get it working you plug in one end to your router, and the other into your PC… In my case, that’s the living room and my desk upstairs in the house.
No installation of software, no fiddling, no pressing buttons to get them to search out and connect to one another… The only button that needs pressing is for the encryption: Press the button on one unit, run downstairs and press it on the other, and they’ll sync to one another and establish the 128-bit key.
Only practical advice is to plug the unit straight into the mains rather than an extension, as the signal degrades dramatically if you do; and beware that the units are about three times the size of a normal plug, so may crowd out the other plug on the line if it too is oversize. I have both units plugged in next to standard sized plugs – one that runs to the extension for my PC, the other that powers the router – and they fit fine.
Speed wise it’s hard to judge house by house, as the signal can be degraded by things like distance, noise on the line (plug in a hairdryer on the same circuit, for example, and you’ll see a dip) and the way that your house is wired – how many circuit breakers the signal has to transverse between points, for example. However, the improved bandwidth of the Belkin over its predecessors will help get more signal to far flung locations. For my own part, I’ve been browsing, gaming and downloading with no apparent loss of signal out to the net – no lag issues, most importantly of all. If you’re a lucky bugger of a UPC customer getting obscene fiber speeds into your house you might notice it, but for anyone on anything less than 150mbps it should be fine.
All in all, a product that does what it says on the tin. Can’t ask for more. And the missus is very, very glad that I didn’t resort to drilling a hole in the ceiling and running a cable to my PC, which doesn’t have the expansion slots available for a WiFi adapter anyways.”
Belkin’s Gigabit Powerline HD Starter Kit is essentially a two-pack of the IP over power lines, which should be enough for you to equip one of your machines on the far side of your house with a decent network connection. The whole thing works by moving data around via your house’s electric wiring, so it’ll work better in houses that have been built more recently, with Ryan from our RMA department saying that, in most cases, you’ll get the best performance in houses that have been built or wired since the early eighties… anything older than that and performance mat vary.
Belkin’s Gigabit Powerline HD starter kit will set you back €123.49, which isn’t a bad old thing at all, considering the raft of problems you can use it to get around.