I love 802.11x wireless networking, but it makes me crazy too. It’s solid technology that keeps calling attention to itself – routers stop working or signals aren’t strong enough or laptops suddenly refuse to associate with an access point or signals step on each other in crowded office buildings. Now there’s a flurry of wireless devices that aren’t necessarily compatible as the industry inches painfully towards a new standard that eventually might improve things.

Netgear has introduced the HDX101 Powerline Ethernet Adapter, which might be an alternative for some home users. A cable runs from the router in one room to an electrical outlet and plugs into one of these adapters. Another adapter is plugged into an outlet in another room, and a network cable connects to the computer or XBox 360 or Playstation in that room. The two adapters find each other automatically and network traffic flows immediately.

There was a previous generation of similar devices but they never got much attention – speeds were barely adequate for Internet browsing and wholly insufficient for gaming or moving audio/video around the house. Netgear has licensed different technology and claims that the new adapters can move traffic at 200Mb, twice as fast as Cat5 cables. That’s unlikely – a few early reports said the range is more like 60-90Mb. But that’s still pretty impressive and more than enough to handle most people’s demands in their homes.

The adapters are pricey, about a hundred bucks apiece, but it might be worth it for a stable connection to a single location that’s otherwise hard to reach.

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