Extra Network Hardware Round-Up (Part 3)

5/31/2012 3:36:44 PM

Network Attached Wireless Adaptor

If you have a device that has a standard Ethernet connection, there are now adaptors that can provide them with wireless connectivity. A good example is the Netgear Universal Wifi Internet Adapter. This simple and compact device is powered by either a conventional power plug or a USB port and plugs into a device's Ethernet connection. It then connects wirelessly to your router and transfers the data sent and received to the Ethernet port. This allows you to wirelessly connect smart TVs, games consoles and set-top boxes that otherwise would need a cabled connection. It supports 802.1 1 n speeds and costs approximately £38. It works with PCs as well, giving you a valid alternative to wireless USB adaptors, which can be difficult to get working with operating systems other than Windows.

Description: Description: Netgear Universal Wi-Fi Internet Adapter

Netgear Universal Wi-Fi Internet Adapter

Access Points And Range Extenders

If you live in a small, modern flat or apartment, a single wireless connection provided by your router is usually enough to deliver connectivity to all corners of your properties. If you live in an old house with thick brick walls or have a particularly large house, there will almost certainly be wireless black-spots where the connection quality is poor or even unusable. This is where the plethora of range extenders and access points come into play. Some access points can double as range extenders, whereas others cannot. If in doubt, check the online documentation to see if the product is right for you.

Description: Description: Access Points And Range Extenders

A wireless access point is simply a wireless switch. You plug it into your existing wired network and it allows wireless access.

If you can run an Ethernet cable from your router to a remotely positioned access point, it will allow you to connect wireless equipment in those pesky black-spots. If you can't practically run a cabled connection, access points can be cleverly combined with Powerline adaptors to provide a high-quality connection anywhere in your home.

Repeaters are a little different. With these you position them at the furthest location from your main router where connection quality is still of high quality, and they extend its range further by repeating all outgoing and incoming traffic generated by the router's wireless antennas. This is perfect if you just need to extend the wireless reach of your router a little, but it probably won't help if you have extremely thick interior walls, where an access point and Powerline combination is a much safer proposition.

Powerline Equipment

Description: Description:  Logitech Alert 750e Outdoor Master System : Powerline Adapter

Logitech Alert 750e Outdoor Master System : Powerline Adapter

We've covered the well-understood Powerline adaptors elsewhere in this issue, but there is actually a bewildering array of choice in this now-crowded field. Basic adaptors are usually quoted as supporting a connection speed of around 200Mbps, but as with quoted wireless connection speeds, in reality you will struggle to get anywhere near this bandwidth. A good HomePlug connection speed is between 20 and 50Mbps and is still more than fast enough to stream even HD video without a broken picture.

More expensive HomePlug adaptors aim to offer much higher speeds. These come in 400Mbps and even speeds of over 1Gbps. Although these can provide considerably higher frequencies over modern wiring ring mains, or if the distance being travelled between HomePlugs is not too far, they can result in rather unpredictable consistency when used in older houses or over longer distances. Our advice would be to keep things simple and only buy the expensive fast HomePlug adaptors if your intended usage really needs the extra speed.

Simple Powerline adaptors just have a single network connector on each end and serve the same purpose as an extremely convenient Ethernet cable. It is, however, possible to buy more advanced Powerline adaptors that work as a switch, allowing you to connect multiple devices at one end to a single Powerline plug next to your router. If you already have a spare switch, you don't need one of these - simply plug a switch into the remotely located end of your Powerline network, but if you don't, they can be a handy space saver. This kind of product is ideal if you have multiple devices at one end of your Powerline network - for example, a television with games consoles and a media PC attached, all of which need network access to the router located in a different location.

If you need to add a third link to your Powerline network, you don't need to buy another two Powerline adaptors; just buy a single unit and pair it with your existing plugs. This third plug will then also be able to connect to the original plug you purchased next to the router. It's wise to stick to one manufacturer of Powerline network adaptor. Although many brands will interoperate successfully, you will get the most predictable and consistent performance when all of them are the same product!

Some Powerline adaptors don't work over extension blocks - particularly if they have built-in surge protection. Ideally, you want to plug your Powerline adaptor directly into an electronic socket. If you can't spare the power point, some Powerline adaptors come with plug-through sockets, allowing you to plug the adaptor directly into the wall, and then other devices into the socket on the HomePlug.

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