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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.
In CNET Labs' throughput tests, the Neverwire USB adapter maintained a very good data transfer rate of 5.6Mbps--only half of its 12Mbps maximum, but still better than that of other USB power-line adapters, such as the Siemens SpeedStream 2501, the Linksys PLUSB10, and the Gigafast PE901-UI. In our informal testing, we found that peak data rates ranged from 8Mbps to 10Mbps between any two Neverwire adapters.
|CNET Labs throughput tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
Although there are faster Ethernet-port power-line adapters , such as the Siemens power-line Ethernet adapter, the Neverwire USB is a front-runner among USB adapters; it's almost five times as fast as a typical broadband Internet connection. The device is also remarkably resilient when it comes to distance, unlike wireless networks. We didn't notice any drop-off in data transfer rates, even when the adapters were separated by three stories.
Phonex supports the Neverwire USB with a 30-day, money-back guarantee; a one-year warranty; and round-the-clock, toll-free phone support that, based on our experience, is both speedy and helpful.
Unfortunately, Phonex's Web support for the Neverwire USB is skimpy. There are downloadable PDF versions of the generally excellent manual but no drivers at all. E-mail support would be nice, too.