Western Digital is introducing a new powerline home networking adapter today that’s specifically pitched as a way to get video into the living room: The WD Livewire Powerline AV Network Kit consists of two powerline adapters capable of transmitting data with speeds up to 200 Mbps over the power cables in your house, making it possible to plug one in right next to your router and another next to your home entertainment devices. Each adapter features four Ethernet ports, and the whole set retails for around $140.
WD says the adapter is a perfect companion for devices like its own WD TV Live Plus media player, which can be used to stream Netflix movies or locally shared content to your TV. The WD TV player doesn’t come with Wi-Fi on board, forcing users to either string an Ethernet cable through their living room or buy an external Wi-Fi adapter.
It’s an inconvenience, but WD is hardly the only cheapskate in terms of on-board Wi-Fi. So-called Internet-ready TVs and Blu-ray players often come with the same type of constraints. Have two or three of these devices in your living room, and the Livewire might actually look like a good deal.
The other reason to buy into this is obviously to overcome Wi-Fi connectivity issues. I had a chance to play a little bit with the Livewire kit over the last couple of days, and it actually seems to work quite well for this purpose. I’m not living in the largest house, but Wi-Fi does sometimes drop off when I try to watch TV in the bedroom. With Livewire, I didn’t have any of these issues. In fact, I could even use it with one of my basement power plugs and still download files from my NAS with 50 Mbit. That’s nowhere close to the advertised 200 Mbit, but still twice as fast as my Wi-Fi connection.
WD is not the only company offering these kits, and competitors like Netgear and Cisco sell products geared toward video consumption in the living room. Part of this is driven by the existence of the HomePlug AV standard, which is supposed to standardize entertainment networking via home powerlines. WD’s Livewire kit is compatible with HomePlug AV, which should mean that you can securely run multiple networks within the same home, but I wasn’t able to try that out.
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