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Aztech HomePlug AV 200Mbps Ethernet Adapter HL108E
Wireless/Networking | First Looks
Tue 06 Feb 2007

Plug and Play Goodness


How many ways do you know of setting up a network at home with Internet connection? For most, the two likely answers would be to either slavishly lace your home with a labyrinth of unsightly Ethernet cables or simply purchase a wireless modem with router capability and let that be the end of it. But did you know that those pinhole plugs that you use you to power your electric kettle can also be used to create a network at home? Yes, there’s a third way of creating a home network and it is done through products like the Aztech HomePLug AV 200Mbps Ethernet Aparter HL108E.

Plug and Go

The technology behind the HomePlug is not really a new brainstorm. In fact, data transfer via power lines first came into existence as far back as the early 1900s (specifically during World War I). The communication was ahead of its time as commanders and tacticians finally had a communication technology to link them to soldiers on the field. Fast forward to the present and ignoring its military beginning, one now can easily purchase plug-and-play adapters (comes in pairs) to achieve a home network through your household power lines.

An important characteristic of these adapters is that they are capable of transmitting signals of up to 200 meters along power lines, but this also unfortunately also means that there is a good chance signals would get transmitted into neighboring apartments or business establishments - if the adapters are used within office buildings. To plug this security hole, the HomePlug kits comes standard with an encryption system to ensure all data bits in transmission stay within the domain of your home and nowhere else. The system uses auto MDI/MDIX that essentially allows you to manually configure IP addresses and manage encryption rate – such as 128-bit AES. However, these configurations can only be done on Microsoft Windows systems. In addition, HomePlug compliant devices have a common out-of-the-box password to ensure compatibility across all brands.

Quite the Performer

The current HomePlug AV standard suggests raw data rate of up to 200Mbit/s with actual throughput rates of around 100 Mbit/s, making voice and video streaming possible.

Where power is concerned, the HL108E is pre-programmed to go into power saving mode 15 minutes after inactivity or after network cable has been unplugged.

In our test, we found setup to be hassle-free: we simply plugged the unit into the socket, connected it our test computer (an Apple iBook) via the Ethernet connection, configured the settings, and proceeded to download files. Using a 1.5Mbps broadband service and with 10 meters separating the router and the computer, a 108MB HD WMV file was downloaded within an average of 3 minutes and 56 seconds. When the same process was carried out with a standard built-in AirPort Extreme card at a distance of five meters, the average time for the wireless download was surprisingly 13 seconds faster than the HomePlug. The comparison may not have been a fair one where actual speed transmission is concerned but it nevertheless proved beyond doubt that the HomePlug technology works.

The real beauty of the technology however, is that it can quickly equip any home with a wired network and it does so without any of the usual mess from lengthy and unsightly cables. Granted the Aztech HomePlug AV 200Mbps Ethernet Adapter HL108E works with both 110-130 and 220-240 voltage standards, it’s also ideally suited for travelers wanting to use the Internet while laying back on sofas or resting on beds in hotel rooms. Just about the only problem that users might encounter occasionally is “split phase” difference. This usually happens when devices such as your TV and hi-fi system are operating at different phases, which could cause interferences with one’s power lines.

Final Thoughts

Paired with a separate router, the Aztech HomePlug presents a solution that is very ideal for those looking to setup a wired network for several computers within their homes. For folks living in private houses where the router is located at the first floor, the Aztech HomePlug could well be an invaluable purchase.

Product Specifications

  • Protocol/Standards: HomePlug AV 1.0 specification, IEEE 802.3 10/100 Ethernet (100Mbps) and IEEE 802.3u Fast Ethernet Compliant, 10/100 Mbps Auto MDI/MDIx Support, co-exists with existing 14Mbps HomePlug 1.0 and 85Mbps Turbo HomePlug 1.0
  • Modulation Support: OFDM 1024/256/64/16/8 QAM, QPSK, BPSK and ROBO Modulation Scheme
  • Frequency Band: 2Mhz to 28Mhz band
  • Security Support: 128-bit AES Encryption with key management for secure powerline communications (Utilizes Windows 98SE, 2000, ME, XP to enable encryption)
  • Platform Supported: OS Independent with TCP/IP protocol installed
  • Power Supply: Switch Mode 100V – 240V
  • Dimensions: 92 X66 X 50 mm (L X W X H)
  • Weight: 150 grams