posted on Sunday, 15th April 2012 by Steve May
When it comes to networking a property, Wi-Fi and dedicated cabling usually represent the two options open to installers. But time constraints, building limitations or a need to deliver HD video could conspire to make both unattractive options. One remaining solution is to adopt power line over Ethernet technology. Using the ring main to carry audio, vision and data around a house can be quick and easy. Traditional Powerline products are generally sold in pairs, and plug into any vacant wall socket in the room you want to network. Unfortunately they look inelegant and rather unprofessional.
UK start-up Power Ethernet has rethought this proposal, and produced the brilliantly simple All-in-One PE 2000AV T1000, aka PE Socket. Rather than plug a cumbersome adaptor into a socket, this is a replacement for the socket itself and fits into a standard UK 35mm double gang metal back box.
What's more, it doesn't offer just one 10/100 Ethernet port, but four along with a fully-managed network switch and a filtered power socket. It's a more versatile solution which offers integrators a quick and polished way to bring data networking and audio visual distribution to a property. Promising transfer rates up to 200Mbps (in reality a good deal less, but what can you do?), it's an ideal solution for networking everything from Smart connected TVs and Blu-ray players to media servers and PCs.
The PE Socket is based on the HomePlug AV standard for Powerline networking, and as such is backwards compatible with HomePlug AV products which are v2.0 or above compliant. Installing a PE Socket is as simple as unscrewing and replacing existing sockets and can be installed by anyone with the relevant electrical installation certification.
The units themselves are extremely well finished, but you might need to invest in some spacers should you need to compensate for any electrical cables which enter a back-box at an unforgiving angle. The brand claim that the PE socket incorporates almost 100 additional electronic components in order to improve both the network quality and also the durability of the unit. Certainly, the PE Sockets performed flawlessly during our review.
I installed three units around my property, each replacing traditional single-plug powerline solutions. The installation of each one took my electrician Michael about 15 minutes. The result was not only a far smarter, more professional finish, but greater versatility too. The option of four ports made the use of separate switches redundant.
One PE Socket was connected to a router in the garage, with the other two installed in living spaces networking a variety of connected devices, including games consoles, set top boxes, BD players and the like. Of course, more devices and additional rooms can be brought onto the network simply by installing additional PE Sockets.
Each PE Socket ships with a snap-on white plastic fascia (and plastic fascia removing tool), screws. It's worth noting that it's not designed to sit flush to a wall, there is meant to be an air gap for ventilation.
Three status LEDs beneath each port indicate whether there's a Powerline connection, network activity or mains power. There is also Join/Leave and reset buttons should units be paired using 128bit AES encryption. Each socket has a serial number and network password, which should probably be stickered onto the housing once installed. For general use this won't be required, but for in a more secure environment you'll want this to hand (along with optional management software). The system supports Virtual LANs, TOS bits and QoS.
Overall, I was plenty impressed with the PE Socket. Installation is straight forward and can be handled by any competent electrician. I can see it proving popular with integrators looking for a cost-effective alternative to running additional data cabling and switching for both residential and commercial projects. Business users currently employing plug-in power line units should also be tempted by the fact that this Powerline solution is far less likely to be unceremoniously unplugged by maintenance staff or the general unwary. It's also a great fix should parts of a property suffers from patchy Wi-Fi.
The PE Socket retails for £111 and is distributed in the UK by AV connectivity specialist Arktron. For more click here.
Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics
industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.