When it comes to networking a couple of machines together at you have always had two options. The first was to simply use wires, while the second is to introduce a wireless network into your house.
Unless those machines are in the same room the wires has never really been an attractive proposition. After all, why would you openly admit to wanting your house filled with trailing wires everywhere? So for the most part, we always opt for the wireless alternative.
A wireless solution makes perfect sense if you’ve got a laptop from work and want to be able to use it elsewhere in the house, however the wireless solution soon racks up in cost when you are merely dealing with a couple of desktop machines or games consoles. One company however, Devolo, thinks it has the answer.
Using the cabling you’ve already got in your house, the system plugs into any available electrical socket and turns your humble ringmain into a network.
We tested the Devolo MicroLink dLAN starter kit, which comes with two plugs and two cables. The first is pluged into an electrical outlet and then straight into your ADSL modem. The second can be plugged anywhere in the house and then into the device you wish to be networked; laptop, desktop PC, games console.
Setup was considerably easy, and done via a small software utility and addiitonal plugs are added to the network via the software that works on both Mac and PC.
Each unit is the size of a standard power adapter, offers a number of LED’s to let you know what is going on and connects to the chosen device via a standard Ethernet ended cable. The system is password encrypted, hence the software, and the network only picks up other Devolo sockets plugged into your electrical supply - making it secure.
Our first question was what happens if your electrical ringmains are spilt into an upstairs or downstairs, surely the two won’t be able to talk to each other? In tests this was quickly answered; it doesn’t matter. Because the cabling all comes into the house in one place a magnet flux is created around said cabling and the data is capable of jumping between the two. To use this doesn’t seem right, however when we tested it in a three-bedroom house with an upstairs and downstairs ringmain we had no problems connecting to the network from any plug socket.
In tests the connection between the devices worked well offering instant access to the network on machines that we connected. There doesn't appear to be a limit to the number of units (sold separately £55) you can attach to one network. Even better, none of the additional machines whether they were an Apple laptop or Xbox, needed to have any additional setup to get them to work. Internet access sharing was fast and overall we were happy with the results.
For the mobile user unless you have an extremely large house we would still recommend a wireless network as the cost of buying the wireless router modem compared to this starter kit is going to be the same. However, if you've got a number of desktop machines (ie a media centre) and a games console that you want to connect this is a good way of doing it without clogging your house with bundles of cable.