Wires and Wireless with Linksys Powerline 

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Powerline communications provides a convenient way of using the mains wiring to extend the range of one’s home Ethernet network. In addition to doing this, the Linksys PLWK400 Powerline AV Wireless Network Extender Kit also provides a wireless connection which is particularly useful if one has a Wi-Fi only tablet.

The kit consists of two adapters and Ethernet cables together with a set-up disc. In addition to both adapters, each having an Ethernet port, one also supports wireless data at up to 200Mbps. Physically, the wireless adapter is roughly 7.5 x 11.5 x 4cm deep while the non-wireless one is about 1cm shorter. They are black in colour and, by the way, when they are plugged into a wall mounted power socket all the annotations are “upside-down”. This is initially an inconvenience but one soon gets used to it. However, the Ethernet connector is at the top of the unit so will put a greater strain on the cable than other adapters where the connector is on the underside and the cable just drops down.

It was a straightforward task installing the units although it would have been better if the Ethernet cables had been longer than 1.5metres as this is noticeably shorter than the total length of a laptop power connection i.e. the mains lead and the power brick’s cable. The smaller adapter (without the wireless connection) is placed near to one’s router and plugged into the mains and connected to the router using the provided Ethernet cable. The other adapter is plugged into the mains close to where you want to use your laptop or tablet.

Once plugged into the mains and Ethernet connections are made, one has an active wired Internet connection. However, it is good practice to change the network password. This is done by using the “Homeplug Simple Connect Button” on each adapter.

Similarly, the WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) button on the wireless adapter, which will support up to 8 devices, is used to retrieve the WPS security setting from the router and so connect to the existing wireless network. Here, care must be taken to press the correct button as they are close together.

In reality, it is sensible to employ a stronger form of security. Here, the Cisco Powerline AV Utility on the provided CD is needed. As well as enabling one to set up WPA with its passphrase/key it is used to set up QoS (Quality of Service) as SSID naming etc.

While it was very easy to connect one’s remote laptop via Ethernet, it requires some knowledge and understanding to get the best out of this kit and, for example, set up a secure wireless connection.

At a list price of £109.99, but available on Amazon for £79.98 this kit is noticeable dearer than a wired-only kit. Nevertheless, many will consider that it is a price worth paying so as to provide WiFi connection for their iPad or other tablet in a part of the house where previously they could not make the connection.

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