The problem is common enough: you want to network a computer without an Ethernet adapter in a building without Ethernet wiring. Power-line networking seems to fit the bill, but you've heard that the adapters are bulky and run hot. Fortunately, you won't hear that about the Phonex Neverwire USB adapter. It looks like a tiny DC-power adapter with a long USB cable instead of a power cord, and it turns any USB port on a Windows PC into a network port. Factor in its reasonable price, encryption-based security, and easy installation, and you have a compelling way to network USB-equipped PCs. Too bad its Web support is sparse.
Assuming you already have a power-line network with HomePlug 1.0-compatible products, hooking up the Neverwire USB is simple. You install Windows drivers and a configuration utility from the accompanying CD onto the computer you want to connect. Then, plug in the Neverwire USB directly to a wall power socket and connect the included, seven-foot USB cable (or any USB cable) between the unit and a USB port on the PC. Your USB port is now a networking port, and the Neverwire USB adapter sends network data traffic through your power lines to other devices on the network.
If this is your first HomePlug device, you will need to repeat the setup process at another PC to create a network. In our tests, networking three computers took 15 minutes, including the time it took to race up and down the stairs. Using the handy configuration tool, you can judge exactly how well each node on the network is responding. If one adapter seems to be lagging behind the rest, you can change power outlets and try it again.
The Neverwire USB adapter is an almost featureless black box, with three green indicator lights that show connection, activity, and packet collisions. It's conveniently compact--about the size of a business card (2.04 inches wide by 3.12 inches long) and just more than an inch thick, so it shouldn't bother anything else while it's plugged into its socket.
The Neverwire Configuration Utility has many handy features, including a meter that gauges the throughput between the Neverwire USB adapter and each of the other power-line adapters on the network. It also easily changes the network password on each of the network's adapters. The Neverwire USB adapter offers 56-bit DES encryption, which you enable by setting a network password.