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Review: Netgear XE104 Powerline Ethernet Switch

by Nick Haywood on 6 August 2007, 11:39

Tags: NetGear (NASDAQ:NTGR)

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Can be pricey but shop around for a deal

So, what’s the first thing you do when you look to spend a not insignificant sum on a new bit of kit? You go off and read up about it, checking out as many reviews as you can find. Now despite searching all over the net, could I find any mention of whether or not all the different Powerline and Homeplug kit supported a switch. This was important as I have so much kit I wanted to network in two main locations, my office and the living room. You’d have thought this would be supported without any trouble, after all it’s just a network connection, but could I find anywhere that details this? Could I buggery.

So this is why I was drawn to the Netgear XE104. First, it’s a reputable name in networking and second and most importantly, Netgear seem to be the only people doing a Powerline product that has more than one port. So, with the kit downstairs by my LCD TV needing 3 ports and the PCs in the office needing 4, a couple of the Netgear XE104s with their four networks ports each, seemed a perfect solution.

When they arrived the very first thing I did was not to just rip the packaging open and plug them in but to rip the packaging open and read the instructions. Yes, I know this goes against everything a ‘real man’ should do but I was about to hook up my work PC, the source of my livelihood, to a 240v AC socket... the prospect of giving myself a high-voltage induced afro before dying, or worse, blowing up my PC, was not something I was going to take lightly... so I read the instructions. Also, I was keen to know whether I could plug a switch into the Netgear XE104, so please forgive my slip into ‘new-man’ mode, I did have a good reason, honest!

Click for larger image

Anyway, the documentation for the Netgear XE104 is brief. Very brief. In fact it’s pretty much along the lines of “plug in the XE104, plug in the other XE104, plug your kit in and turn everything on”. No really, that’s about it. Maddeningly, there’s bugger all about running a switch except for one diagram that shows the Netgear XE104 hooked up to a router and a PC also hooked into the router. That means you can plug a switch into these... Damn... have I just paid more for something I don’t need?

Yes, I have. Bugger. You see, the reason I went for the Netgear XE104 was because it has four ports built in. I could’ve gone for the devolo stuff as in Bob’s review, but without any idea about switch support I went for ports over speed and in doing so I’ve limited myself to the Netgear XE104’s 85 Mbps whereas I could’ve had 200 Mbps with the one port devolo kit. Bugger bugger bugger!

And, just to make it clear, the two Netgear XE104s I’m running aren’t review samples sent by Netgear for testing. I went out and spent my own hard earned wonga on these. And they’re not cheap either. Online prices average around the £55 mark but range from £44 and upwards. The thing is, it was the weekend and I wanted my network sorted by the start of the working week and I found myself in PC World arguing with the manager about the £35 difference between their online and shop price. To their credit, PC World did discount down to just above the online price but jeez, what a nightmare!