NETGEAR Powerline AV Adapter Kit Review

Arthur C. Clarke’s 3rd law states that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I suspect Arthur might have felt somewhat vindicated if he ever played with NETGEAR’s powerline ethernet kits. There’s something uncanny about having a router work with one missing wire. I expected someone in a bad suit to run in and pass a metal hoop over the router to prove it wasn’t connected to a network.

There’s some satisfaction for me that these Powerline devices make a secondary use of existing cabling. They somehow cram their signal straight down the power cables, so anywhere you have a wall socket, you can have networking. Our current house has plenty of crawl space for running Cat6 (and I have), but the rigmarole I conducted at previous dwellings would have been unnecessary with this kit.

The downside is these devices can be a bit slower than a standard wired network, and are susceptible to electrical noise (like that caused by large appliances turning on and off). I didn’t notice any issue with this. I had no problem shuffling big files around and streaming video across the powerlines within my house. This particular kit comes with a four-port router on one end, so you can plug multiple devices in. To cater for the noise issue, the router has priorities on each port, so if the signal is degraded, the lowest-priority ports lose their speed first. The idea being that you plug your important media streaming device into the high priority port, and it should keep on working even if other devices are slowing down.

Mood: pleasantly surprised. If you need wired networking and aren’t a cable guy, grab your magic wand and a NETGEAR Powerline Ethernet Kit.

Whoops! After Rob’s comment below, I realised I have completely omitted the security facility in these devices. Each unit has a “security” button, and if pressed within a few seconds of each other, they automatically pair up with a unique code, prohibiting other devices from connecting. This would be especially useful in an apartment environment.

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  1. …but do check your firewall!

    I did a network forensics course with with Laura Chappell a year or two back
    ( ) and she talked about how easy it would be to leach off a neighbours broadband if they had a powerline network, given how adjacent houses are often electrically linked (on the same earth circuit at least)

    1. Oops. I’ve updated the review. There’s a security feature on these devices that effectively pairs them up with a unique code.

      Still not impenetrable: if you hacked one to always listen for the “pairing” status for example.

  2. Thanks Rob, I was going to ask what prevented “leakage” out of your house or apartment. So – nothing then.
    I have often considered these as an alternative to wireless, but not being that geeky, I was unsure of the cons and comparative speed, can you advise Ben?

    1. They’re meant to be similar to G wifi but they wouldn’t compete with N, especially the “Dual N” routers that are full duplex.

      The benefit of Powerline would be if you have an issue with interference or wifi reception in your house.

  3. Can you pair more than two of them together? Can you evesdrop during the pairing process? A quick search didn’t turn up a description of their security system, but at a guess, if you can force re-pairing you can probably grab the encryption key.

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