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What you get for your money
The PL-85PE is another HomePlug 1.0 compliant device on the UK market. This highspeed variant supports the latest transmission speeds of up to 85Mbps that we saw with the Devolo HomePlug devices in another review. The 85Mbps devices will work with the older 14Mbps devices, but the maximum speed will be lower than if it was just a Highspeed network.
HomePlug hardware uses the mains wiring of a property to carry your Ethernet signal around the building, thus avoiding the need for adding extra unsightly or potential trip hazards to connect computers together. In short, if you can connect two devices using an Ethernet network cable, then the PL-85PE offers the option of cutting this cable out. It gives you portability around the property, for example connecting an XBox in the lounge with another XBox in the kids bedroom, or taking the output from an ADSL modem with Ethernet output which is sat next to the BT master socket to whereever you want to actually use the connection.
Solwise sell the units as individual devices, but you will need at least two of them to make a network. The units should be compatible with other HomePlug 1.0 standard devices, so mixing and matching different manufacturers should be possible.
There is not much in the box, apart from the Homeplug Turbo unit itself, a software CD, Easy Start guide, and a short Ethernet patch cable. The software CD is only needed if you decide to change the default network security password on the units.
The 3 pin UK mains plug is moulded into the case, and interestingly the units are multi-voltage supporting 110V to 240V, which for people who travel may be useful.
The front of the units are as simple as you can get. There are just three LED's, one showing the unit has power, another that will light up when a powerline device is detected, and another showing whether an active Ethernet cable is plugged in. The latter two LED's will flash to indicate both Ethernet and Powerline activity.
If you have bought two or more of the Solwise units then there is no configuration needed, they are all plug and play, since the units have the same network security key of HomePlug. If you are adding the units to an existing Powerline network where you have perhaps altered the security key, then there is software supplied that will run on a PC that lets you alter the key.
The CD supplied with the PL-85PE should autorun once it is put into your CD drive, and will install the PowerPacket utility.
To change the key on a HomePlug unit the simplest method is to plug an Ethernet cable from the PC you are running the software on, into the HomePlug unit (referred to as the Local Device in the Power Packet utility). To alter the network security key, click onto the Privacy tab which brings up the screen below:
You can alter the key on this page, and also if any other devices are visible across the mains network set those as well. Once I altered the key to match my existing HomePlug network the PowerPacket utility displayed the network below:
This shows three devices, one plugged into the PC running the software (Local Device) and two other units visible over the mains. For the review we had two Solwise units, the third unit is actually one of the Devolo Highspeed units. The layout was one unit in a bedroom next to the BT master socket and ADSL router, one in the lounge and the PC running the software was in the kitchen.
The Solwise PL-85PE units behaved precisely as one has come to expect with the HomePlug devices, they are proving to be some of the simplest to use networkng devices we have seen. Mixing and matching the the two differnet brands we have was no problem, and even using the older slower Devolo 14Mbps units worked fine. The HomePlug standard is compatible too, as we were able to alter the network key on the Devolo units using the PowerPacket software.
Reliability wise, the units seem flawless, and able to cope with heavy network use. We tested the speed by dragging files around the network, and depending on the length of mains wiring between units we got around 14.5Mbps to 20Mbps of actual throughput. So a respectable speed, and considering the network will reach places in a building where even turbo 802.11g networks may struggle the speeds are very good.
The PL-85PE seems to be another handy option for people who are likely to come across weird networking requirements, for example getting a broadband connection from the ground floor to the top floor of a house and keeping the connection reliable.
With several highspeed HomePlug units on the market now, it is hard to choose between them, particularly as there is very little in the way of special features to tweak on them. The software of the Solwise units was perhaps simpler to use, but given you will use this perhaps once or twice to set the units up, it is not a very big factor. Price wise, the Solwise units have a lower list price, but we have seen the Devolo units online for similar amounts, we suspect for many the choice will be down to the cost of postage and packing from the various suppliers.
£36.62 - Single Solwise PL-85PE 85Mbps Ethernet HomePlug Adapter (£43.03 including VAT)
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The contents of this review should not be relied upon in making a purchasing decision - You should always discuss your requirements with your service provider.