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When I first had my virgin media broadband installed I was having real problems connecting wirelessly to my desktop computer that was upstairs and I couldn't move my router from behind the TV downstairs without virgin coming out to my house again. A friend suggested to me that I invested in a powerline network.
Admittedly I had no idea what a powerline network was and hopefully I will be able to explain what they are sufficiently in this review.
SO WHAT IS A POWERLINE NETWORK?
A powerline network is a way of connecting your ethernet router to a network of computers using your mains electrical wiring.
In the case of the D-Link powerline HD 4-port DHP 343 there are six items that you require after purchasing the item.
When I bought it the six items in the box were an installation CD, the powerline HD Ethernet adaptor, a powerline HD 4 port switch, a power adaptor and two Ethernet cables.
If any of these items are missing then you need to contact the seller quickly because without one of these items the powerline network is useless. You do also receive an installation manual but I wouldn't say this is definitely required because installation is so simple anyway.
The beauty of a powerline network is that there is usually a spare plug socket within reach of whatever appliances you have in your home. If you are using your telephone line there isn't always a socket close to your router leading to wires being strewn across the room. It cuts the phone line out of the equation completely.
It is designed for the principal of there being no more wires once you swap from the phone line to the powerline.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
As I mentioned my router is behind my TV downstairs and I wanted to supply the Ethernet connection to my desktop computer upstairs. I was currently using an Ethernet cable that was about twenty metres long and went from behind the TV down the back of the radiator, up through the floorboards and then around the back of the radiator upstairs until it reached the back of my computer.
It was all very untidy and with the birth of my son not being so far in the distant future my girlfriend had become the most safety conscious person in the world and my girlfriend demanded I tidied it up.
First part of the installation is to plug the Ethernet adaptor into a spare plug socket but don't switch it on. Then take the 4-port switch to where you want it and use the AC adaptor to plug that into a socket as close to the computer you want to set up onto your network.
It is recommended that you plug the Ethernet adaptor and the 4-port switch directly into a plug socket rather than into a power strip because plugging directly into a socket cuts down the chance of interference.
Then connect one Ethernet cable into your router and connect the other end to the Ethernet adaptor. Then take the other Ethernet cable connect it to the 4-port switch and connect the other end to the Ethernet port on your computer.
Before you switch it on is recommended that you install the utility disc. If you don't the network should connect automatically and work fine but the utility disc includes other features that allow you to configure the network properly.
After installing the disc switch your power on and away you go.
You shouldn't have any problems, I didn't anyway.
The Ethernet adaptor should have at least on light on. It is a standby light that lights to tell you power is switched on. Once you switch the 4-port switch on upstairs then another light should glow green on the adaptor to show it is connected to the switch upstairs.
The 4-port switch has seven LED's on the front so you can see if your network is working properly. The first one is simple power LED if this is lit up your switch is working. The second light should be a solid light telling you that the switch is connected to another powerline device on the network. Different colours represent different data speeds:
Green LED: Power Line speed > 20Mbps
Amber LED: Power Line speed < 20Mbps or > 6Mbps
Red LED: Power Line speed < 6Mbps or link is down.
The third is called the AP LED. If lit it indicates that this 4-port switch is the master unit in the network.
The other four LED's are numbered one to four and light up when a computer is connected to the network depending on what port the Ethernet cable is plugged into on the back of the switch.
The 4-port switch also has a small button on the top that when pressed will bring up the utility suite on your computer and allow you to secure your network.
The 4-port switch as you might of already guessed has four ports for connecting Ethernet cables. This means that the switch can service four computers at the same time. Having only used one computer on the network I do not know how this impact on your broadband speed after you split it between other computers.
What I do know is that at the time of installing this device I was contracted to receive 50Mb download speed from virgin media. When connected straight through an Ethernet cable I was getting around 40Mb. When using the powerline network I was receiving around 24Mb on average.
Apparently this particular powerline network delivers 200mbps. Don't know what that means so I stole this from the d-link website. Maximum throughput based on theoretical transmission PHY rate. Actual date throughput will vary. Network conditions and environmental factors, including volume
of traffic and network overhead, may lower actual data throughput rate. Interference from devices that emit electrical noise, such as vacuum cleaners and hair dryers,
may adversely affect the performance of this product. This product may interfere with devices such as lighting systems that have a dimmer switch, short wave radios,
or other powerline devices that do not follow the Universal Powerline Association (UPA) standard.
In other words it cannot guarantee this speed and there are plenty of excuse's why it may not be as high as 200mbps. Again I don't think I ever had any problems, it always seemed to be performing at its maximum for me.
WHERE DID I BUY IT AND HOW MUCH DID IT COST?
I ordered mine online from a specialist shop in Bolton called scan. The website is www.scan.co.uk. It cost £41.15 with £3.99 post and packaging. Not majorly expensive but not exactly cheap either.
Unfortunately this model has been discontinued but hopefully this review will make people aware that these networks exist and that they are quite convenient. Any specialist shop like scan will stock various models of these powerline networks and I'm sure the staff would be able to point you in the right direction of exactly what network would suit your needs.
The powerline network was very convenient and did allow me to tidy away the long Ethernet cable I had strewn across the living room so from an aesthetic point of view it was very good. Even though I was very happy with the product their were a couple of points that irritated me.
Firstly the Ethernet cables provided are very short so you would need to station your router very close to the adaptor that was plugged into the wall mains socket. Not a problem for me because the router was close enough for me but it may mean you need to but a longer Ethernet cable if you don't have a spare one to use.
The main problem was the 4-port switch upstairs. The power lead is only around two foot long and the Ethernet cable supplied was around the same length. Once I plugged the 4-port switch into the mains, the switch was too far away from my computer for the Ethernet cable supplied to reach and plug in. Luckily I had a spare cable but again I would have had to buy a longer one.
Obviously you are not getting much value for money if you have to go out buying additional Ethernet cables.
You can run four Ethernet cables from the 4-port switch but then you are defeating the object of the device using less wires and being nice and tidy. The best thing to do would be to buy additional 4-port switches and plug them straight into the mains but then the network definitely isn't cost efficient.
Lastly if you are using anything above 20Mb download speed then it could render your higher speed pointless. I never got anything above 25Mb which was half of what I should have been receiving. I never really found it a problem. I mainly use my internet for playing video games on xbox live but I never felt it was seriously detrimental to my gaming in any way. It just meant that I was paying for a service that I wasn't really getting.
My overall opinion is that if you are having a problem with wires going from one room to another then a powerline network is definitely an advantage.
With this being something I had never encountered in the past I was very impressed with it from the beginning and I am glad I bought it. I definitely got my moneys worth and would recommend them to anybody.