PowerLine Buying Guide

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors

Top Deals On Great Products

Picked by Techconnect's Editors

Digital networking is a great way to send bandwidth throughout your work or living space, connecting not only computers and printers but also HDTVs and game machines to one another and the Internet. But a network can't always reach every spot where you might want to use a networked device. An alternative is PowerLine technology, so named because it transmits network data through your electrical outlets and wiring. In other words, PowerLine technology lets you turn a home or office's existing wiring into one big Ethernet. This is a helpful solution when your wireless router doesn't cover every corner of your home or office, and when you don't want to run cables over long distances. D-Link offers a range of PowerLine options, and in this buying guide we'll show you how to pick a model that's just right for your needs.

PowerLine products work in pairs: One adapter plugs into a wall outlet to transfer the network signal from a wireless or wired Ethernet connection to your electrical wiring, and another adapter connects a computer or device that you want to add to the network. Each adapter within a group is interchangeable, but it's best to purchase all your PowerLine adapters from the same vendor to minimize incompatibilities and support issues.

Setting up PowerLine adapters is no trouble at all. Plug one into a wall outlet and connect it to your network router, and plug another into a different wall outlet and connect it to your computer or other device using the included Ethernet cable. Once they're plugged in, you're good to go. They should work right out of the box — one of the few computing technologies that are truly plug-and-play. PowerLine throughput (typically 200Mbps) offers speeds that are comparable to a wired Fast Ethernet connection and is fast for most common network activities.

What kinds of devices can you connect with PowerLine adapters? Really, anything that has a power cord and a wired network interface, including computers, Internet televisions, game consoles, and printers.

PowerLine isn't for every situation, however. The adapters don't work well when plugged into surge protectors, which you might want to use if you live an area with frequent electrical storms or power outages. And if your office is outfitted with multiple AC circuit-breaker panels, PowerLine won't work with those, either.

Cut to the Chase

Let's identify your PowerLine needs and recommend specific D-Link models. What's your networking situation?

You have an existing network and want to add one PowerLine connection. The D-Link DHP-307AV kit is everything you need. Just plug in one adapter to the device you want to connect, and plug a second adapter into your existing network router or wireless access point. Later on, if you need to

add devices, you can purchase additional adapters.

You have a wireless network and want to add multiple wireless devices, but they're out of range. Say you have a wireless-capable laptop, HDTV, and game console in the living room, where they're out of range of your existing wireless network. The DHP-W306AV PowerLine Wireless N Extender is ideal for extending wireless range to areas of your home that were previously unreachable. You'll need to connect a DHP-306AV adapter to the router to complete the PowerLine connection.

You're building a network from scratch and want both wireless and PowerLine options. If you're in the market for a new router and want one that offers the convenience of wireless operation plus the flexibility of PowerLine, then the D-Link DHP-1320 is for you. It uses the most recent Wi-Fi standard (Wireless N). And when you plug it into a power outlet, every other outlet in the house becomes a PowerLine connection. You'll need a D-Link DHP-306AV adapter for each device you want to connect via PowerLine.

Critical decisions

There's one major consideration when purchasing PowerLine equipment: Whether to buy your PowerLine adapters in pairs, or whether you need a router or switch that has PowerLine built in. If you want to connect a single device, such as a PC or a printer, to the network, then choose a pair of adapters. If you want to connect more than one device, then a PowerLine extender or switch with PowerLine built in will be more cost-effective. Likewise, if you're building a network from scratch, you may be better off starting with a router such as the D-Link DHP-1320 that combines wireless and PowerLine features.

Networking flexibility

PowerLine gives you the flexibility to create the network you need in the space you have, by using your electric wiring to connect computers and other devices. It's a simple solution to what can be a sticky networking situation.

This story, "PowerLine Buying Guide" was originally published by BrandPost.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon