Here we have another homeplug kit, as the technology starts to gain increased coverage. At its simplest, it's Ethernet over power (EoP) -- allowing you to use the electrical wires in the walls to transmit network signals, rather than setting up dedicated cables or using wireless. This particular set is from Billion, well known for its affordable, yet high performing ADSL2+ modems.
Coming in a box that approaches a level of pink to make even Hello Kitty blush, the devices themselves are thankfully a more neutral white. They're a decent whack larger than the Netcomm and D-Link homeplugs we've seen, and unlike the aforementioned brands, they don't plug directly into the wall, but use a one metre long figure eight power cable instead, meaning the homeplugs themselves will likely sit on the floor. This is actually a good thing, as it stops the homeplug blocking out neighbouring power points like a giant power adaptor.
Three LEDs are present, one for power, one for when a network connection has been made, and one when it's connected to an Ethernet device. We did find however that the most useful light, the network connection one, seemed to happily shine whether it was able to resolve itself on the EoP network or not, which is not a plus for first time users. Bizarrely, the power LED blinks when you press the broadcast button, making us wonder if Billion got things a little mixed up.
There's only two remaining physical features -- the network port on the device itself, and the aforementioned broadcast push button. This push button serves three functions -- for your primary homeplug to broadcast across the network that it's there, for subsequent homeplugs to join this network, or if you hold it in for 10 seconds it will disconnect from the current powerline group.
A CD is included with a manual and software for the device -- while the software isn't necessary, it does give greater diagnostic ability, lets the more savvy users fiddle with Quality of Service (Qos) and enables the user to update the firmware in the device if necessary. Also in the package is a pair of network cables, and a printed quick start guide and warranty card.
It must be said here that the usual caveats apply with homeplugs -- they'll never reach the advertised 200 megabit speed, they are unpredictable on power strips, and speed and latency is greatly affected by the quality and length of wiring in your house, and whether or not they're communicating over the same circuit.
Hooking up the BiPAC P102s in the same room, we managed to transfer files at an average of 8.3MB/s -- pretty much the top level of what you'd expect to get out of these devices. The room next door gave the same results, indicating it was on the same circuit. When we moved the device to another circuit, the transfer fell dramatically to an average 3.1MB/s. At three separate points we tested, there was simply no connection.
Billion's homeplug is much like any other, although it's certainly the fastest maximum speed we've seen, indicating it handles interference perhaps a bit better than its competitors. It makes a great substitute for getting online through wireless, or a way to get network access to a wireless access point if you're having signal strength trouble. Still, most don't know the electrical wiring of their home, so make sure before you buy one that you can return it if things don't quite turn out as expected. These caveats of the technology aside, this device come recommended.