What is a Power-Line adapter? It is a device that you plug into a power outlet in your home and then connect it to any port on your router via an Ethernet cable. Then you can plug in other adapters to various devices’ Ethernet ports around your home and then simply plug them into an outlet. The outlets are the ones doing all of the work of sending the information over the electrical lines in your home instead of wirelessly. Typically you can add up to 16 different devices throughout your home, but some allow you to go above that number.
So what does this mean in plain English? It’s simple; you can set up the original adapter at the site of your router, say upstairs in your office. You can then go to your bedroom, bathroom, various areas downstairs, and even your basement to hook up 16 additional devices that have an Ethernet port. So basically you can have your computers, HDTV, and anything else you can hook up a Cat5 cable (Ethernet cable) to running over your electrical outlets and transferring information.
This technology has been around for a while now, but some companies have recently released newer and better adapters for this kind of networking. When the newest adapter were tested the files and information that had been transferred over the network was done more quickly than with Wi-Fi. With some of the adapters the HD streamed video was flawless, while with others it experienced a temporary freeze of the picture. Most of the time this happened because other items in the house were using the currants the network wanted to use. For instance, when one tester used a 1600-watt hair dryer while the adapters were transferring information, the quality dropped significantly.
So what are the latest adapter and approximate prices for the new Power-Line adapters? One of the best tested was the Zyxel HomePlug AV ($79.99) as well as the Netgear HDXB101 ($155.99), and the Panasonic HD-PLC ($179.99). The Netgear and Panasonic adapters come with two units instead of just one.
The future of home networking is here and only getting better with each upgrade. I think the newest adapters for Power-Line networking are a lot better than the older versions, but there still seems to be some “glitches” that will need to be ironed out. Some people have found that even with a newer house and newer wiring, it can be difficult to get the adapters to “talk” to each other, especially if there are a lot of different items using the currants in the home. The biggest problem the testers have seen is with HDTV freezing and not running as smoothly as it should. For this to work better, the technology companies will still have to continue tweaking their adapters, but in the end consumers may have to wait for MoCA, which will send the data over cable wires instead. Until then I think they are on the right track with the newest version of Power-Line adapters. They seem to work well in a computer network scenario, have great range, and are faster than using a Wi-Fi connection or the best wifi extender. I think we are definitely on the right track to having completely networked houses.