Netgear Powerline 500 Nano (XAVB5101)
Strengths: easy setup, excellent speed, reasonably priced
Weaknesses: performance depends on the your home electrical system, only one ethernet port
Bottom line: highly recommended
Operating Systems: works with any ethernet device, optional software requires Windows XP/Vista/7 or Mac OS X
Powerline devices have been around for sometime, but the combination of lower prices and faster speeds have made them an excellent alternative to wireless networking. Netgear's Powerline 500 Nano offers the right combination of affordability and features.
What is a powerline? Powerline uses your existing electrical wiring to connect a computer or any other ethernet device to the internet. Your home's wiring will influence the speed, but the 500 Nano is capable of a Gigabit-fast connection. In general, you can expect considerably better performance than wireless. In some cases, your speed will be as fast as a direct ethernet connection.
How do you setup a powerline network? Simple. Plug one device into a electric socket and connect it to your router or modem. Plug a second device into another socket. Connect your computer to the second device with an ethernet cable and there you have it--a direct internet connection without cables running across your home. The two devices can be synced and the connection encrypted by pressing a button on each within a few seconds of each other. Add additional devices as needed.
The Powerline 500 Nano has a few features that sets it apart from its competitors. A "Pick a Plug" LED helps you choose an outlet with the strongest link rate. Netgear's powerline utility allows you to monitor all the devices on your network, manage security settings, and set other preferences. This software is not necessary at all, but it is a nice extra. With speeds up to 500 Mbps, the Nano can handle gaming and stream HD Video.
Not all electrical systems with work with powerline. For example, outlets on different circuit breakers may not form a usable connection. Home appliances can also interfere with performance. Generally, the device should be directly plugged into an outlet because power strips and surge protectors are also problematic.
Multiple devices can connect to the network. Netgear Powerline models XAV1004, XAV2001, XAV2101, and XAVN2001 are all compatible. Other brands that are HomePlug AV might also work. For what it is worth, I successfully added a TP-Link Adapter (model TL-PA4010) to my network without any problems.
The model reviewed here, XAVB5101, has only one ethernet port. If you need more connections, you can add an inexpensive multi-port ethernet switch.
Buy from Amazon: NETGEAR Powerline 500Mbps Nano Adapter - Starter Kit (XAVB5101)