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Review: Netgear XE104 Powerline Ethernet Switch

by Nick Haywood on 6 August 2007, 11:39

Tags: NetGear (NASDAQ:NTGR)

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qajjj

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The other big name in networking goes for your plug socket

Home networks, huh? Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em. Ok, so that might be a bit strong and personally, I’ve never had too much trouble setting them up. It’s all pretty easy, just set your router to do the DHCP, set all the connected equipment to receive an IP address from the router and the job’s done. If you’re using a gateway modem router it’s even easier as you haven’t got to worry about directing the router to a gateway.

But what can be a pain in the ass is the cabling. I have a significant number of machines, far more than your usual home network. There’s four PCs here in the office, then one each for both my kids... then there’s the Xbox 360 devkit, the standard Xbox 360, the PS3, the PS2 and the Wii. Oh, and a laptop too which, as a laptop should be, has no fixed abode. So that’s 12 networkable devices that need a connection and that is a cabling nightmare.

Click for larger image

Now up until the arrival of the Netgear XE104, my only option was to run a couple of switches and then lay Cat5 between them and the router, which would keep the cabling to a minimum. But, as anyone who has ever tried to run cabling up a flight of stairs or around the edge of a room with laminate flooring will know, this is a major problem to keep it discreet. Perhaps it’s my half-arsed DIY skills but I always end up with something looking like a scene from Star Trek after the Enterprise has taken a hit... cables dangling everywhere. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a semi-conscious Seven Of Nine lying in the hall too but I’m never that lucky.

So, after doing some research I started looking at Powerline networking, the technology that allows you to run a network using the power cables in your house. Bob’s excellent review of the devolo MicroLink dLAN Highspeed Starter Kit and his positive thoughts got me thinking about using this as an option. After all, I’m in a two year old house, so the cabling will be up to scratch and it means I won’t have to have the less than aesthetically pleasing Cat5 laid along my skirting board.

But on perusing all the products on offer, I ended up going for the Netgear XE104... why? Read on to find out...