Twice as fast as HomePlug AV under the best conditions, but longer ranges and backward compatibility both caused problems in our testing.
HomePlug Powerline networking, utilising the electrical wiring in your home, is ideal for situations where running Ethernet cable isn’t desirable and Wi-Fi isn’t possible — homes with thick walls or several floors, for example. The HomePlug specification, which assures compatibility between devices from different manufacturers, hasn’t moved on since 200Mbit/s HomePlug AV was introduced in 2005. This is adequate for most file transfers and the streaming of HD video, but its actual data rate of around 50Mbit/s isn’t very quick by modern standards, and running HD video alongside other traffic can cause problems.
Which is where the Solwise NET-PL-1000M comes in. This uses the Gigle Networks GGL51 chipset to deliver 1Gbit/s HomePlug networking — in theory, at least. £45 buys one NET-PL-1000M adapter that plugs into a mains socket and connects to a router via its single Ethernet port, you’ll need two to create a connection of course. The adaptors don’t have passthrough sockets, so you can’t plug another device or a multiplug adaptor into the same socket.
Set-up is simple. Once plugged in, pressing a small button on each in succession establishes a 128-bit AES encrypted connection — and that’s it. The GGL51 chipset actually uses two simultaneous channels — one the proprietary MediaXtream standard for 1Gbit/s connections and one HomePlug AV for backward compatibility with 200Mbit/s adapters.
Since performance is dependent on the mains ring it’s running on, definitive Powerline network testing is difficult. For comparison, transferring files between two Gigabit Ethernet-equipped PCs, via a Gigabit router, gave an average data transfer rate of 210Mbit/s. The same connection made via Solwise’s 200Mbit HomePlug AV kit (PL-200-AV-PUSH) with two mains sockets in the same room gave an average rate of 49Mbit/s, while the NET-PL-1000M gave 95Mbit/s. Gigabit HomePlug certainly doesn’t provide Gigabit Ethernet levels of performance then, but it’s still twice as fast as HomePlug AV.
We tested again with the adaptors spread across different floors. Surprisingly, the NET-PL-1000M’s rate dropped to just 32Mbit/s — while the HomePlug AV connection only fell to 42Mbit/s. So, it looks like the GGL51 chipset is far more sensitive to the particulars of your mains wiring than HomePlug AV and performance isn’t as consistent as a result.
Connecting NET-PL-1000M and HomePlug AV adapters on the same network is easy and made no difference to data rates on the ‘Gigabit’ part of the connection. Data rates on a HomePlug AV to NET-PL-1000M connection made in the same room, however, plummeted to 12Mbit/s. With the HomePlug AV adapter on a different floor, the connection fluctuated from 1Mbit/s to 9Mbit/s, and frequently dropped altogether. So, while the NET-PL-1000M is technically backwardly compatible with HomePlug AV, it does appear to interfere with the older technology’s connections.
If your mains ring’s wiring is up to it, the NET-PL-1000M will be much faster than previously available kit, but it still won’t match Gigabit Ethernet performance. Those putting together a new Powerline network, should certainly give it a go if it’s all on a single floor. However, existing users planning to upgrade their current HomePlug setup, or those connecting multiple floors, should steer clear for the time being.
|Powerline networking standard||HomePlug AV/MediaXtream|
|Homeplug stated speed||1,000Mbit/s|
|Power consumption active||7W|
|Number of adaptors in box||1|
|Size||105 x 58 x 42|
|Number of power sockets||1|