Quick overview - powerline networking allows your computers and networkable devices to talk over the existing mains wiring in your house, with no need for any cabling. If you rely on wireless but there are so many other routers in your area that you get a terrible and unreliable signal, then this can offer an effective way to connect your computer to your router without outside interference.
Most powerline network adapters offer a one-to-one connection between your router and a single computer or networkable device. The Livewire scores highly here as each adapter contains a four port switch, effectively allowing seven devices to be connected to the outside world. If you have a computer and a couple of games consoles in the same place, maybe alongside an ethernet capable set top box, then there's simply nothing more cost effective out there for getting them all online.
Setup is straightforward too - simply install the utility from the supplied disc, connect one of the adapters to the mains and also to an ethernet port on your computer, and plug the second just into the mains. You'll see one local and one remote device show in the control panel. If you wish, you can enter the passwords printed on the back of the adaptors to allow you to manage them remotely, but for some reason you can only do this to the one not directly connected to your computer. Swap them around to do both. Then just hold the encryption button for a couple of seconds on one adapter, do likewise on the other, and they'll create and share a code to protect your new network. All done!
The Livewire kit works on the Homeplug AV standard, which has a theoretical maximum data rate of 200mbps. This is nearly four times quicker than a standard G wireless connection, but most manufacturers urge caution with this figure. The problem is that the mains cables in your house are already working hard, and the number and nature of devices plugged in can have a major effect on the speed of your adapters. I'm currently seeing a stable 170mbps across two floors of a house with quite old wiring, which is exceptionally good.
- Everything needed comes in the box
- Tidy and unobtrusive design
- Simple setup
- Mains cable allows device to be tucked away instead of hanging off the wall
- Four ethernet ports on each adapter
- Great speed and stability
- Supplied ethernet cables are a bit short
- Strange password glitch when managing remote adapters
Verdict - brilliant performance and flexibility for a fraction of the cost of buying multiple adapters. Highly recommended.