Wireless networking sometimes doesn’t work so well in UK homes. Thick walls can block signals, and devices that are far away from the router may drop connections or suffer dropouts that makes downloading files painfully slow – and streamed video can get decidely choppy.
Networking computers via your home’s power lines is one ‘wire-free’ alternative, as it provides a more robust connection. Unfortunately, it usually means you’ll be tethered once again by ethernet cable at the remote end of the powerline connection.
D-Link’s DHP-W307AV Homeplug kit addresses this issue, as one of the adaptors has wireless antennas attached, to creates a separate 802.11n wireless network that may provide a better connection for nearby devices.
Data is sent and received from your router to the adaptor via the power line, at a nominal 200Mbps, while the wireless-n network has a theoretical 300Mbps speed.
The D-Link W307AV has a built-in web server for securing the wireless network and adjusting settings. It supports the older WEP security as well as the newer standards of WPA and WPA2 with either TKIP or AES encryption. There are also Quality of Service (QoS) settings and a brief status page.
The adaptors require matching encryption keys to prevent unwanted users from connecting, which we had to reset using software on the bundled CD.
This useful software also monitors the strength of the connection between the two powerline adaptors, which can vary depending on the quality of the wiring in your house, and how much noise is on the line from other appliances.
Plugging the adaptors directly into a wall socket provides a better connection than plugging them into a mains distribution board.
We tested it by transferring a large file via FTP between two PCs, both over the powerline and wirelessly, and compared it with the speeds from our existing router’s wireless network.
Over the powerline network, the D-Link DHP-W307AV averaged 5.2MBps, while using its wireless connection was a fraction slower, at 4.4MBps.
We suspect the wiring in the building where we tested the devices was throttling its powerline performance, as our router’s standard wireless-n network outperformed the D-Link W307AV, managing 7.8MBps.
It’s still much better performance than the 1.8MBps we achieved with an older 802.11g wireless router though.
We also tried the adaptor in a garage 25 metres away from the router. Here the router’s wireless network barely connected, but with the D-Link W307AV we achieved similar transfer speeds to inside the house, with 4.8MBps over the power line, and 4.1MBps wirelessly.