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Siemens SpeedStream Powerline Ethernet adapter review: Siemens SpeedStream Powerline Ethernet adapter

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The Good Small; inexpensive; easy to install; fast throughput.

The Bad Doesn't always work with power-line adapters from other companies; short Ethernet cable in box.

The Bottom Line The speediest and most space-conserving way yet to network through power lines.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.6 Overall
  • Setup 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Support 7

Review Sections

While companies such as Netgear, Phonex, and Linksys jumped into HomePlug Powerline networking six months ago, Siemens's networking division, Efficient Networks, held back until it had a product with an edge. Here's that edge: The SpeedStream 2502 Powerline Ethernet adapter plugs directly into a power socket--no power cord needed--and takes up no more space than a couple of decks of cards. Its tiny size isn't the only advantage. In CNET Labs' throughput tests, it pelted data across power lines faster than competing HomePlug power products and 802.11b wireless-networking devices (though it fell short of its theoretical maximum of 14Mbps). For a first-generation HomePlug device, it's the smallest and fastest we've yet tested. When you plug in the SpeedStream 2502 Powerline adapter with its single Ethernet cable attached, it looks like a large power brick. You half expect to find a cell phone or a CD player at the other end of the Ethernet cable. But when you follow the clear and helpful quick-start guide and plug the adapter into your computer's Ethernet port, the SpeedStream takes on a different cast. It turns your home's power grid into an Ethernet network carrier. How? The SpeedStream is based on the HomePlug 1.0 standard, which uses the existing power lines in your home to connect PCs, Macs, routers, and Ethernet-based Internet devices such as radios and game consoles. To learn more about this technology, read our feature on the ABCs of power-line networks.

Quick Start Guide. Plugs into empty wall socket.

Setting up a power-line network is easy. The SpeedStream plugs directly into a power socket--no power cord needed--and takes up no more space than a couple of decks of cards. Next, plug one end of the included Ethernet cable into the RJ-45 port on the bottom of the adapter and the other end into any Ethernet-ready Windows, Mac, or Linux computer. The SpeedStream can also plug directly into network hubs to expand an existing network (as long as your hub sports an uplink socket or you can supply a crossover Ethernet cable).

If you want to troubleshoot or install encryption on your power-line network, you'll need to run the included SpeedStream Powerline Configuration Utility software, which works under only Windows 98 SE or later. Although we had no problems setting up a small network between two SpeedStream adapters, we wound up installing the utility software when trying to plug them into an existing power-line network. It didn't work right away, and Siemens tech support doesn't handle problems with other adapters.
Like all Ethernet HomePlug Powerline network adapters, the SpeedStream 2502 comes with 56-bit DES data encryption and a theoretical data rate of 14Mbps. And because of a limitation with the first wave of HomePlug chipsets, only 16 adapters can exist on the same network (a threshold that will be addressed in the next HomePlug Powerline standard), and you can install only three of them without drivers. The SpeedStream Powerline Configuration Utility software lets you change the DES encryption-key password, which is stored in the device itself, not on its host computer.

The configuration utility's Security tab.

The SpeedStream 2502 adapter adds some other useful features. Each adapter has four indicator lights: Link shows that there's a power-line network present; Ethernet confirms that the Ethernet cable is plugged into an Ethernet adapter; and the Activity and Collision lights blink when the network is active.

It's a little nitpicky to criticize a network adapter for being larger than the average power brick, but it does have to plug into a power outlet (power strips won't do), so size is important. And the SpeedStream is a little large for some power outlets, sometimes covering the second outlet. The Ethernet cable that ships with the device has the opposite problem. It's a stumpy three feet long, which limits its usefulness in a home setting.
In CNET Labs' tests, the SpeedStream 2502 adapter turned in better performance than the Netgear XE602 Powerline Ethernet adapter and the Phonex NeverWire 14 Powerline Ethernet bridge. The SpeedStream network fell just shy of 6Mbps, averaging 5.8Mbps on our suite of tests.

Certainly, the SpeedStream's speeds lag far behind the theoretical maximum of 14Mbps, but it's much faster than a lot of broadband connections and is perfectly adequate for home- or small-office-based file- and printer-sharing needs.

Chariot throughput tests
Measured in Mbps (longer bars indicate better performance)
Siemens SpeedStream 2502 Powerline Ethernet adapter
5.8 
Netgear XE602 Powerline Ethernet adapter
5.2 
Belkin wireless cable/DSL gateway router (802.11b)
4.9 
HP wireless gateway hn200w (802.11b)
4.9 
Phonex NeverWire 14 Powerline Ethernet bridge
4.3 
 
Response time
Measured in milliseconds (shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP wireless gateway hn200w
3.0 
Siemens SpeedStream 2502 Powerline Ethernet adapter
3.0 
Netgear XE602 Powerline Ethernet adapter
3.0 
Phonex NeverWire 14 Powerline Ethernet bridge
3.0 
Belkin wireless cable/DSL gateway router
4.0 

For practical throughput tests, CNET Labs uses NetIQ's Chariot software as our benchmark. CNET Labs' response time tests are also run with Chariot software using the TCP protocol. Response time measures how long it takes to send a request and receive a response over a network connection. Throughput and response time are probably the two most important indicators of user experience over a network.
The SpeedStream 2502 Powerline Ethernet adapter comes with a one-year limited parts-and-labor warranty, but the company ups its coverage by another year if you register the product online. (You will need to enter your name, address, phone, and e-mail--nothing too invasive.) Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. CT, which are long hours by any standards. We found the online knowledge base skimpy in troubleshooting help; most of our queries pointed us to the online version of the Quick Start Guide that came in the box. But the tech-support phone service was quick and thorough. After we navigated a typically long voicemail tree, our support techie picked up immediately and went through an efficient troubleshooting routine to solve a configuration issue. You can also fill out an online incident report with any questions you may have and submit it directly to the Siemens support department.

Siemens's support page.

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