What are powerline plugs?
Well they’ve been around for a few years. Powerline adapters allow you to use the electrical wiring of your home or office to extend your network into unwired or wirelessly problematic areas, not unlike the way DSL uses your phone line to deliver an Internet connection.
The usually come in packs of two (but many more can be added if needed) One connects to your router via an Ethernet cable and then to a wall outlet (i.e. it plugs straight into the plug socket on the wall). The other plugs into a power outlet wherever you need it (usually by the computer that needs an internet connection). They then stream data between each other using the electrical wiring in your house. Simple.
What are the pros to having powerline plugs?
Well for starters they are incredibly easy to setup. No messing around with searching for wireless networks etc. then moving your PC about trying to get a signal. Just plug them in, wait for the lights to stop flashing and you’re done.
They are also incredibly reliable. Basically if you get them connected that’s it. They won’t cause you any more bother, unlike Wi-Fi, which constantly cuts out unless you are very lucky. In the 2 years I’ve had mine I’ve only had to turn them off and on once. No more getting cut off in the middle of a game or losing that important document you’ve been working on for the last 2 hours.
The speeds they transmit data over are phenomenal in comparison to Wi-Fi. Say you have a 10mb/s internet connection. Chances are you’ll only really get about 7mb/s, now if you add your Wi-Fi connection into the equation that may well drop to 3-4mb/s. Even though they quote the latest Wi-Fi speeds of 108mb/s, this it only theoretical and rarely gets anything like the speeds quoted. With powerline plugs however the speeds quoted are a lot more like the reality. So if you’re getting a 20mb/s connection through your router then providing you’ve got a 54mb/s or above powerline plug. That’s what you’ll get.
So far as I am aware there doesn’t seem to be any limit to the amount of powerline plugs you can have. So every computer on your network can have a solid connection to your router that’s as good as having it wired directly into it, without the need to run Ethernet cable all over the place.
They are not limited to computers. Anything with an Ethernet point can use one. PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, Sky HD box…the list is endless. They are just as secure if not more so than wireless. Basically the only way someone could intercept any of your data would be to buy an identical plug to the one you’re using, come into your home and plug it in. They only work on the same ring main. And if that bothers you still you can set up encryption just like a wireless router. This only takes a minute.
They can work better over longer distances and are not affected by thick walls, lead roofing or boilers, like wireless. Well they sound pretty good. What are the downsides if any? Well at the time of writing this article they are still fairly expensive, more than twice that of a typical wireless setup.
If you want to add more to your network I believe you have to buy the same make as the others.
With Wi-Fi you can move freely around your home or office with your laptop and providing you have a good signal you can keep your wireless connection to the internet. With powerline plugs you’d have to unplug the one you are using and physically move it to the location you wanted to move to. So these are more suited to desktop PC’s and other static peripherals rather than laptops.
They may not work in some large buildings with more than one fuse box. The only other issue I can think of is they use up a plug socket in each location you have one and for the best speeds you cannot plug it into an extension lead. It must be plugged directly into the plug socket.
What’s the future for powerline plugs?
Well the speeds they are capable of have increased very quickly 14mb/s, 85mb/s and now 200mb/s. Already way faster than Wi-Fi. And the later 200mb/s versions are capable of streaming a HD signal. So imagine you want to stream your HD signal from your Sky HD box in your living room to TV in your bedroom 2 floors above without running any cables and with no loss of signal. Get yourself a couple of 200mb/s powerline plugs and a couple of HD over Ethernet boxes and you’re done.
This technology is so good I suspect you’ll see these popping up as actual wall sockets in the not too far distant future and the prices and speeds are only going to improve.
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