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Western Digital WD Livewire review

Kat Orphanides
2 Oct 2010
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
77
inc VAT

If you have lots of devices to connect via HomePlug, Livewire is a simple and cost-effective option.

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Powerline networking, which extends your network by using your home's electrical wiring to transfer data, is increasingly popular. It tends to have greater stability than WiFi, particularly if you live in a building with a lot of wireless interference. The most common implementation of Powerline involves two adaptors, one connected to your router and the other connected to whatever device you want to bring on to your network. Most adaptors only provide a single Ethernet port for every power socket used.

Western Digital's WD Livewire kit has a different arrangement. Each of its two 200Mbit/s HomePlug AV Powerline adaptors has a built-in four-port 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet switch. Because of this, they're bulkier than most HomePlug adaptors, with each measuring 32x86x119mm. Despite their size, there's no chance of the adaptors blocking adjacent power sockets or failing to fit into sockets positioned near the floor, as the mains connection is a standard two-pin figure-eight (C8) power lead attached to a three-pin plug which will fit anywhere. This is a welcome change from bulky integrated Powerline adaptors.

The adaptors work like any other HomePlug device. Buttons on each adaptor make it easy to form a secure network, which means that HomePlug-using neighbours or housemates can't accidentally wander on to your connection, even if they share your wiring. The usual HomePlug management utility is also supplied – this is generally only required if your HomePlug network includes some adaptors without push-button security.

Western Digital WD Livewire

We got fair but unremarkable performance from the Livewire adaptors when we performed our usual Powerline file transfer speed test. Throughput of 54Mbit/s in adjacent plug sockets isn't unusably slow by any means, but it's still not as fast as many current HomePlug AV devices. Western Digital is marketing the adaptors with HD video streaming in mind, but any HomePlug AV system is capable of that.

There are four ports on each adaptor, but connecting more devices means that your 54Mbit/s throughput will have to split between each port in use at the time. We re-ran our test, while simultaneously copying files across the connection. This time, our throughput test produced a transfer speed of just 22.7Mbit/s. Two connections running at that speed are still fast enough for video streaming, although speeds may drop if you're using HomePlug over longer stretches of wiring. Running bandwidth-intensive operations over all four ports would reduce transfer speeds to a crawl.

The main alternative to this kit is the Solwise Piggy6 adaptor, which has three Ethernet ports and six power sockets. Although you'll need a separate single-port adaptor to connect to your wireless router, it's a more convenient device than Western Digital's WD Livewire.

Still, considering the Piggy6 costs £60 and you'll need to buy at least one more Powerline AV adaptor (around £30, plus), the WD Livewire is surprisingly good value for a set with so many ports.

Details

Rating****
Powerline networking standardHomePlug AV
Homeplug stated speed200Mbit/s
Power consumption active2W
Number of adaptors in box2

Security

Push-button securityyes

Physical

Size32x86x119mm
Ethernet ports4
Number of power sockets0

Buying Information

Price£77
Warrantyone year RTB
Supplierhttp://www.kikatek.co.uk
Detailswww.wdc.com

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