The scoop: Amplifi PowerLine AV 500 4-Port Gigabit Switch, by D-Link, about $200.
What is it? Like other powerline networking equipment, this device will turn your existing power outlets into an Ethernet port, using your electrical wiring to create a data network. Unlike other powerline adapters, this model (DHP-500) includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports that can then attach to the powerline network (other adapters basically include one Ethernet port). The system includes QoS Traffic Optimization and advanced software for prioritizing high-bandwidth traffic for those who require it.
[BACKGROUND: Powerline Ethernet adapters advance]
Why it's cool: The growth of connected devices in the home with Ethernet connectivity (TVs, Blu-ray players, game consoles, etc.) has led to a situation where in certain locations (such as your living room), you have multiple devices in the same location all needing Ethernet connectivity. If such a location happens to be in an area where wireless coverage is spotty (dead spots, or for devices that don't include a Wi-Fi adapter), this adapter offers a solution. In my case, I could attach my Internet-capable TV, two game consoles and a Roku streaming media player to the DHP-500 and get Gigabit Ethernet connectivity (up to 500Mbps) for all of the devices. If you want to use the device in a small office setting, you could connect four computers to the adapter and run it through the powerline network, although I think most people will use this for home entertainment data devices.
Some caveats: The system does require purchasing an additional powerline adapter (the $100 DHP-500AV) that needs to connect to your home router -- you can purchase that separately or buy the $160 DHP-501AV PowerLine AV500 Adapter Starter Kit, which includes two adapters (one for the router, one extra one).
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five)
The scoop: Linksys RE1000 Wireless-N Range Extender/Bridge, by Cisco, about $90.
What is it? This device will extend the range of your existing 802.11n home wireless network or provide additional wireless strength for dead spots within the home. The device plugs into any power outlet in your home within range of the existing network -- after it's configured, it then provides additional signal strength and range. The device supports existing wireless security standards, so if your network expands its range, you can still secure it like your original network.
[ROUNDUP: 5 ways to speed up your home network]
Why it's cool: In my case, there's a small area in my living room where there seems to be a wireless dead spot -- whether it's caused by walls, devices or furniture, at times I get a weak signal. It also happens to be in the area where we use devices like the iPad or my notebook, which require a good wireless signal. Plugging in the RE1000 about halfway between this dead spot and the router (it sits in the basement), I was able to get a good wireless signal and eliminate this dead spot. The device can also act as a wireless bridge (there's an Ethernet port at the bottom of the extender) for clients that don't have Wi-Fi.
Some caveats: After the initial configuration, some of my client devices (iPad, notebooks, etc.) had some difficulties connecting to the network, but these problems seemed to go away after a few days.
Grade: 5 stars
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter - @shawkeith.
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This story, "2 Tools That Can Kill Dead Spots" was originally published by Network World.