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Netgear XE102 Powerline Adapter review: Netgear XE102 Powerline Adapter

Netgear XE102 Powerline Adapter

Matt Lake
3 min read
The latest wave of power-line products includes the tiny-and-trim Netgear XE102 adapter, which does everything its cable modem-sized predecessors did, but in a much smaller package. The XE102 is smaller than a two-pack of Twinkies and plugs directly into a wall power socket. Better yet, it requires no drivers. Only one thing about the XE102 let us down: it trailed other power-line products in CNET Labs' performance tests. While more than adequate for sharing broadband Internet access, the XE102's slower transfer rates will take their toll on file-sharing speeds and multiplayer gaming performance over a home network.
The best thing about Netgear's XE102 is its easy setup. You plug it into a wall socket or a power strip without surge protection; connect it to your PC, Mac, network printer, Xbox, or whatever; and you're done. You need at least two adapters to make a power-line network (one per network device), and you'll have to avoid surge protectors because they strip out network data as if it were a power surge. You'll also want to install Netgear's Powerline Encryption Utility, included in the XE102 package, to add security features and keep track of all of the power-line adapters on the network. The utility allows you to change the password for the adapter's 56-bit DES encryption code. Better yet, you can use the Powerline Encryption Utility to scan your network for other HomePlug-compliant devices and change all of their network passwords in one fell swoop. The Encryption Utility works with only Windows and is compatible with Windows 98 SE and later OSs.
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The Powerline Encryption Utility lets you assign a password remotely to each device on your network.
The bandwidth of the HomePlug power-line spec is 14Mbps, but networking overhead and noise on your electrical wiring is apt to result in a substantially lower throughput rate. In CNET Labs' Chariot tests, the XE102 was only able to achieve throughput rates below 4Mbps, which is still faster than many home broadband Internet connections can deliver, so you won't notice a hit on Web traffic or e-mail, but it's much slower than its leading competitor, the Siemens SpeedStream power-line Ethernet adapter and far slower than the leading wireless products based on 802.11g and 802.11a technologies.
CNET Labs' Chariot throughput tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
WPC55AG 802.11a
WPC55AG 802.11g
WPC55AG mixed
Siemens SpeedStream power-line Ethernet adapter
Linksys PLUSB10 2.0
Siemens power-line access point
Netgear XE102
Note: Throughput in Mbps

As its benchmark, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot 4.3 software on a console system with clients running NetIQ's Performance End Points 4.4. Our throughput tests measure the transfer speed of a file that a user might send across the network. This is known as the payload throughput and does not include packet errors and other data that might be transferred over a network. Payload throughput can vary widely from the bandwidth speeds vendors advertise and is a much better gauge of what you're likely to experience with a standard file transfer. For more details on how we test networking devices, see the CNET Labs site.
Netgear backs the XE102 with a solid two-year warranty and round-the-clock support options through Web, e-mail, and toll-free phone support, but the XE102 is so robust and easy to use that you will probably never need to call tech support. During our tests in an 80-year-old house, the product worked seamlessly, with no slowdowns or blackout spots across all four stories.