The ZyXel NBG318S is a router that combines ethernet, Wi-Fi and powerline connectivity with HomePlugAV.

Most routers give you two options for connecting a computer or printer to your network: ethernet and Wi-Fi. Ethernet is fast and dependable, but it isn't practical for going from room to room. Wi-Fi is slower and less reliable than ethernet. Neither is very good for transmitting internet-based multimedia content from a broadband modem at one end of your house to a TV at the other.

The ZyXel NBG318S offers a third option: HomePlugAV. The standard, three-pronged AC plug that powers the router connects it to other HomePlugAV devices in a building as well.

If you don't own any devices equipped with HomePlugAV, you can use an optional adaptor with a power plug on one end and an ethernet port on the other. In theory, you can plug such an adaptor into any ethernet-capable PC or peripheral and get a blazing 200 megabits per second (mbps) connection to the router.

When we first plugged the ZyXel NBG318S PLA-400 adaptor into a computer and connected to the router, it worked hassle-free at what felt like ethernet speed. But when we tried to set up HomePlugAV's built-in AES encryption (needed because the signal may be accessible from other units in your building), we hit a brick wall.

The router couldn't give the adaptor the information needed to allow them to talk to each other. Nor would the adaptor accept that information from me. A firmware update for the adaptor fixed the problem, but this experience shows that the technology is far from hassle-free.

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Something else that you should know about: HomePlugAV doesn't work with devices based on the older HomePlug 1.0 specification.

The ZyXel NBG318S lacks Wi-Fi Draft-N capabilities, but it doesn't stint on Wi-Fi; it supports 108mbps Super G (to take advantage of it, a client device must use a Super G chip, too). In fact, this is the only router without Draft-N to reach the far corners of our Wi-Fi-hostile home without a big drop in signal quality.

With devices in the same room, though, the ZyXel NBG318S falls a tad short. ZyXel gave the router only three LAN ethernet ports (plus the WAN port that connects it to your broadband modem). As a result, you can attach just three devices to the ZyXel NBG318S without messing with Wi-Fi or HomePlugAV. Most modems have four such ports, and some in the NBG318S's price range have five. There is no USB port, either.

NEXT PAGE: set up, ease of use and our expert verdict > >

The ZyXel NBG318S is a router that combines ethernet, Wi-Fi and powerline connectivity with HomePlugAV.

Setting up the ZyXel NBG318S is pretty easy. Once you've connected everything and browsed to the setup program's IP address, a wizard walks you through the setup and can even provide a randomized password.

The wizard doesn't do everything, however. For instance, to encrypt your HomePlug network, you must enter the more intimidating Advanced Setup page. And neither the setup program nor the brief quick-start guide explain everything you may want to know.

For example, the wizard page "Bandwidth Management" contains no explanation, and only one option: "Enable BM for all traffic automatically." Luckily, the included CD holds a far more detailed, 286-page PDF user guide that explains bandwidth management.

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ZyXel NBG318S: Specs

  • 117x39x162mm
  • 185g
  • 128-bit AES, WPA, WPA2
  • IEEE 802.11b/e/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED
  • Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, HomePlug AV (HPAV), IEEE 802.11b. IEEE 802.11g
  • 108 Mbps
  • DDos attack prevention
  • DoS attack prevention
  • Dynamic DNS server
  • Firewall protection
  • Media Bandwidth Management v2
  • NAT support
  • Quality of Service (QoS)
  • Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI)
  • Super G technology
  • Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) support
  • 2.4GHz
  • 4-port switch
  • DHCP, PPPoE, PPTP
  • 117x39x162mm
  • 185g
  • 128-bit AES, WPA, WPA2
  • IEEE 802.11b/e/g Wi-Fi CERTIFIED
  • Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, HomePlug AV (HPAV), IEEE 802.11b. IEEE 802.11g
  • 108 Mbps
  • DDos attack prevention
  • DoS attack prevention
  • Dynamic DNS server
  • Firewall protection
  • Media Bandwidth Management v2
  • NAT support
  • Quality of Service (QoS)
  • Stateful Packet Inspection (SPI)
  • Super G technology
  • Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) support
  • 2.4GHz
  • 4-port switch
  • DHCP, PPPoE, PPTP

OUR VERDICT

Does the ZyXel NBG318S make sense as a way to share multimedia? It isn't any less complicated than Wi-Fi, but it may be a better alternative in some situations.

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