In power-line networks, simplicity equates functionality. The Belkin Powerline AV Starter Kit falls under this category, and is designed for individuals not wishing to go into the trouble and expense of decking their entire homes with unsightly Ethernet cabling. The set works like any that feature the HomePlug standard, establishing a PC network via the house’s electrical system. The throughput of such a setup is quite good, albeit a tad more expensive than a few other releases that also support HomePlug.
The kit comes with an adapter that plugs into sockets using the regular two prongs. These are changeable with a power extension cable for those outlets located in really tight places.
Two HomePlug 2.0 networking adapters in a piano-black finish are connected via two Ethernet cables and two power cables to the computers and to electrical sockets, respectively. The power cables serve as five-feet-long extension cords, but the adapters themselves can be made to plug directly into outlets. There are also a couple of three-pronged socket adapters available, in homes equipped with the corresponding sockets. Like most other power-liners, Belkin’s adapters are a bit on the bulky side, with measurements of 4.5 by 3.4 by 1.6 inches. More often than not, users will find themselves relying on the power cables to be able to plug in tight spaces. It should be noted, though, that these cables are not interchangeable with the usual extension cords or power strips, since the cables are designed to have the power-line network achieve maximum throughput.
The two adapters are similar in appearance to each other, except for one having a single Ethernet port for connecting to a router and the other having three ports for multiple PC connectivity or sharing among similarly networked devices. Both adapters comes with Encryption and Reset buttons each, and indicator lamps to signify the statuses of Security, Powerline and the Ethernet link. Pressing the Encryption button will produce an access code randomly as a 128-bit AES security measure, while the Reset button returns the settings to the factory defaults. Once encryption is enabled, the Security lamp lights up in solid blue. It reverts to a flashing blue light in cases when the same encryption fails. The LED for Powerline will also light up in solid blue if the system is running normal, which means a link that is 80 Mbps or stronger up to 200 Mbps. The lamp will change to an amber color whenever the signal becomes weaker than 80 Mbps. The last lamp, Ethernet, will light up a constant blue to denote a ready status, blinking intermittently in the case of an ongoing data transmission.
Setting the whole kit is easy as pie. Simply plug the adapters into electrical outlets, and connect the single-port adapter to the router via Ethernet cable. The other adapter can be used to connect the devices that are to be networked, which connects using Ethernet cables as well. Once the entire kit is in place, the network is established among the different connected devices.
Tests to determine its throughput produced pleasant results. A transfer test using a 100 MB folder finished in 24 seconds, and a 500 MB folder in less than two minutes. While these signify slightly faster speeds than other popular power-line products, the gap widens as the size of the file transmitted becomes progressively larger.
Another test made involved the multiport adapter and two PCs, one of which is doing online video streaming. A separate laptop was also connected and made to transfer a 4 GB folder to both PCs. Both transfers finished in about thirteen minutes. This proves that the adapter is able to handle several connections without any considerable degrading in its throughput performance.
While the Belkin Powerline AV Starter Kit has a steeper price tag than most similar power-liners, this is somewhat obviated by the fact that individuals can connect up to three devices at quick transfer rates typical of HomePlug 2.0 devices. It does lack a wireless router as a part of the set, though. Still, the Kit is a very good buy for most average users.