If your current 802.11g network can't cut the mustard for streaming HD content or you're simply tired of wrangling a wireless network (maybe your house isn't well suited to it), you have another option: power-line networking. The Zyxel PLA-400 HomePlug AV Ethernet Adapters let you use your home's existing electrical system to create a data network that can support enough throughput for demanding applications such as HDTV and VoIP. With each adapter costing about $95 (you can find them online for less) and each network requiring a minimum of two adapters to start, though, it's not an inexpensive solution. And in our Labs' test, we found the PLA-400 to be slower than a similar product from Netgear.
Power-line networking lets you take advantage of a preexisting home network--your electrical system--to transmit data between networked devices. Each electrical outlet serves as a node on the network and any device, such as a digital media adapter or a PC, that's connected to the electrical system via an adapter is part of the LAN. Zyxel's previous iteration of the product, the PL-100, is based on the HomePlug 1 spec. The PLA-400 device is based on the new spec--HomePlug AV--which specifically address the need for QoS for latency-sensitive services such as HDTV and VoIP (HomePlug AV is backward-compatible with HomePlug 1). The theoretic throughput of HomePlug AV products is 200Mbps, but real-world performance is pegged at around 100Mbps.
The Zyxel PLA-400 uses the same design as its predecessor, the PL-100. The compact silver-and-black brick houses four LED indicator lights on the front and a power port and an Ethernet port on the back. The bottom of the adapter has two holes for wall-mounting the device.