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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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Easiest set-up in the world... ever!

Ok, so there’s the biggest difference from the start. The Netgear XE104 despite being handy for having four ports, is limited in speed to 85 Mbps. To be fair to Netgear they do sell a high-speed 200 Mbps product in the form of the HDXB101, which comes as a twin pack from around £118. The XE104 I’m using are sold separately, meaning that unless you haggle like I did, you’ll be spending around the same amount. See my final thoughts for what I think on this one.

Now let’s move onto the actual set-up, which really is so bloody simple that even a monkey could do it. Those who make a living from being a network admin or something shouldn’t start worrying just yet. Netgear explicitly state that the XE104 is not suitable as a business solution, so you can still sit smugly in front of your racks telling people to turn their systems on and off again to fix the problem.

But in a home environment, the Netgear XE104 is superbly simple, provided you follow some basic networking rules. Set your router to DHCP, if it’s a gateway modem router you’re laughing but if you use a separate modem you’ll have to direct the router to that as the gateway. Then plug the Netgear XE104 into a convenient plug socket, slap the other one wherever you need to, plug the network cables in as need and turn the sockets on. After about 15 seconds the two XE104s will have found each other and established a network connection. Provided you have the router set up properly, that’ll be it, your network is now up and running. It really is that simple and painless.

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Netgear do offer a few sensible tips for placement of the XE104, in fact all of their Powerline products, which are all pretty much common sense. First, plug it into a wall socket and not an extension lead or multi-plug as either of these can interfere with the signal quality. And definitely don’t plug into any sort of surge-protector or power cleaning device... this will balls everything up for you.

Oddly, Netgear say that for best results you need to keep the XE104s on the same ring as each other. An easy way to tell if you’re doing this is to look at your fuse box. If you have two separate fuses for upstairs and downstairs socket then you have two separate rings. But in use I’m running one XE104 upstairs and one downstairs with no problems. However, I’m in a house that’s just over two years old so the wiring is pretty much top notch. Older homes and homes with wiring laid to older building regulations might have problems as the common earth, which the XE104 uses for part of the network signal, might actually be two separate earths which will cause you problems.

So we’ve seen that the XE104 is a piece of the proverbial to set up and, if your wiring is up to it, works all through the house, but what’s the performance like?