Netcomm NP285 Turbo HomePlug Ethernet

Netcomm's Turbo HomePlug adds the speed element that was so sorely lacking in the original HomePlug, making it a truly viable alternative to wireless networking, and a good complimentary solution to wired networking solutions.


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Design
Netcomm's NP285 Turbo HomePlug Ethernet looks almost exactly like its predecessor, the 14Mbps HomePlug -- so much so, that the only way you'll be able to tell them apart is the marking on the front of the adaptors that denote whether they're the older variant, or the newer "Turbo" variant, which tops out at 85Mbps transfer speed.

Like its predecessor, the Turbo HomePlug is designed to replace or compliment existing wired and wireless networks, especially where wireless signals won't penetrate or where it'd be impossible (for cost, landlord, physical or aesthetic reasons -- or perhaps all four) to lay down networking cable. The Turbo Homeplug uses existing electrical wiring to send data signals between power points for whatever purpose you need, from standard file sharing to connecting up home multimedia devices such as media centres and gaming consoles.

Keeping things identical with the earlier release, the Starter Kit we tested contains two Turbo HomePlug adaptors, two sections of ethernet cable and a setup CD-ROM. Once again you've got to make do with a PDF manual. That's not so handy if you're using it in a non-computer environment, like connecting up a games console to a router. The two HomePlug adaptors are very chunky affairs, so you'll be hard pressed to fit two of them on a double adaptor -- more on why that'd be a bad idea later. On each adaptor is a socket for ethernet cable, along with indicator lights for power, ethernet cable and network activity.

Features
When we reviewed the original Homeplug adaptors, we bemoaned the rather low data rate on offer -- at 14Mbps, they were only slightly better than the 802.11b wireless standard. The Turbo Homeplugs are a significant step forward, as they offer up to a claimed 85Mbps data rate -- that's better than standard 802.11g data rates, although a touch lower than the turbo rates offered by some vendor-specific wireless solutions, which typically claim rates over 100Mbps. While the basic pack contains only two connectors -- and realistically, in most scenarios one of those is likely to be utilised near a router, giving you only one "real" port per pack -- you can connect up to 15 Homeplug devices in one network. The older and slower HomePlug adaptors are compatible with the newer Turbo Homeplugs, although naturally you'll be dropping a lot of speed if you set up a mixed-mode HomePlug network of this sort.

Performance
Despite hundreds of claims -- and millions of dollars of advertising spent trying to convince consumers -- networking is never really easy. Still, the whole HomePlug concept strikes us as one of the easier units to set up, at least on the surface. Plug one adaptor in near a router or PC that you wish to network from (or share Internet with), and the other at the terminating ethernet end. Attach the supplied ethernet cables, step back, and watch the data ping around your power cables.

As with many things that appear simple on the surface, however, there's a catch. As with the original HomePlug adaptors, the quality of signal -- and whether you'll get a signal at all -- depends on both the internal quality of your electrical wiring, as well as how many extension cables, double adaptors and especially powerboards sit inbetween your devices. We hit an almost identical scenario to that of our original HomePlug testing with the Turbo HomePlug, in that the adaptors refused to "spot" each other initially. Because they're such binary devices, there's little you can do except play around with plug configurations -- once you find something that works, it should work for as long as the power keeps flowing.

The 85Mbps rated speed of the Turbo Homeplug opens it up for a great many more applications than the original HomePlug devices, especially for home entertainment purposes. We tested with a home media centre and Microsoft's Xbox Live service. While it's impossible to specifically state that Xbox Live performance was greatly improved by the Turbo HomePlug -- there are too many variables involved in system lag on Live to state too much of anything, really -- the appeal here is in the simple setup, as you don't need to fuss around with wireless bridges or adaptors -- and the same should hold true for the upcoming Xbox 360.

On the media centre front, the Turbo Homeplug is a great enabler. With the original HomePlug, we could stream audio without concern, but any kind of video file was always subject to errors, lags and crashes during display; switching over to a Turbo HomePlug network removed these problems instantly.

Wireless networking kit has become amazingly cheap in the past couple of years, to the point where it's almost not worth considering going with anything else -- as long as your setup area isn't already bombarded with lots of other spectrum-grabbing networks, interfering electrical devices or tricky retaining walls that turn wireless networking freedom into wireless networking frustration. Netcomm's Turbo HomePlug is a little costlier than comparable 802.11g wireless equipment, but for those who can't utilise a wireless network for any of the above mentioned reasons, it's a great alternative option.

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MichaelD posted a comment   

The Good:Works reasonably well with a Windows XP system most of the time.

The Bad:Clunky plugs. We have skirting power-points close to the floor. I can't connect the NP-285 without going via an extension lead, or a small power board. Should come with a small lead for skirting power-points.

When it works it great. It doesn't work with Windows 7. I have a new (Dec 2009) desktop PC from CPL in Melbourne, with a Gigabyte M/B and i5 processor. I have installed a brand new Windows 7 32-bit Home Premium OS and the Gigabyte M/B drivers. Nothing else. Windows 7 sees the LAN port, and tries to authenticate, but fails every time. Yet the same plugs work fine on a HP DX-2910 desktop with Windows XP (purchased Oct 2009). Why I don't know, but very frustrating!!!

 

jye posted a reply   

hmm i have window 7 and works fine

scan06disk
9
Rating
 

scan06disk posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Fast with Direct Connection

The Bad:Hates Surgeboards...

I'm on BigPond Cable and achieve speeds about 21Mbps/256Kbps, at a distance of 2M, only problem though is taking the risk of plugging the thing directly to the power socket, as it hates power/surge boards !

 

scan06disk posted a comment   
Australia

@adza These plugs can only handle UPTO 85Mbps, your average speed is 100Mbps, logically it has to be slower, what were u expecting ?! lol

 

courious posted a comment   

What is the story with adding another plug or two over the two that come in the box?

agog
1
Rating
 

agog posted a review   

Way over-rated. No where near the transfer rate and much worse than wireless. I hooked it up over a 3 storey house, it worked, but the transfer rate was worse than dial-up.

PC
8
Rating
 

PC posted a review   

The Good:• Gets reliable transfer speeds that rival 802.11G networks, even over long distances.
• Incredibly simple to set up, plug in and away you go.

The Bad:• Should be on a short power lead instead to avoid socket crowding
• Doesn't like protectors/power boards for max speed
• Expensive ($150 is still high).
• 85 Mbps is misleading, real world results would be more honest

I bought these on a sale to see if it could help sort out some of my wifi issues for my PS3 that was struggling to make it to the network with my G base station. Glad to say it works fine, and gets a reliable 2 MiB/sec transfer rate so the PS3 store works a lot faster, no dropouts or sluggish responses any more!

Since I knew roughly what I was to expect at 2 MiB/sec transfers, the NP285 twin set works great at extending your network where the wifi just doesn't reach or for devices where there is only Ethernet or the cost of an adaptor is prohibitively expensive (a well known company comes to mind).

If these dropped to maybe $75 Au for a pair (or even $100) and flat out stated they're to compete or complement 802.11G networks they'd sell a lot better than they do now.

sandy
6
Rating
 

sandy posted a review   

Am thinking of using this home plug but is it affected by surge powerboards on each end? I would not feel comfortable not using a surge protector and plugging the plugs in directly to the powerpoints.

KDtheGREAT
8
Rating
 

KDtheGREAT posted a review   
New Zealand

The Good:Easy to set up.
Reasonable speeds.
No drop outs in connection.
Good range.

The Bad:Not fast enough speeds for HDTV & other bandwidth heavy applications.

Brought this to extend the internet around the house, with a wireless router at the other end - worked perfectly. The speeds are more than adequate for general web surfing, even gaming, and streaming video. Sure, its not fibre, or even cable, but it does relatively well.

Ben
3
Rating
 

Ben posted a review   

The Good:Can be more reliable than wireless.

The Bad:Poor speed. 54mbps wireless can actually get near to 54mbps, this can't get anywhere close.

Could not get above 24mbps. I brought these to hopefully stream HDTV (32-48mpbs) because my 54mbps wireless couldn't cut it. These were much worse. Could not achieve anywhere near 85mbps even when plugged into two power points in the same room on the same line - and my house had just been completely re-wired.


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User Reviews / Comments  Netcomm NP285 Turbo HomePlug Ethernet

  • MichaelD

    MichaelD

    "When it works it great. It doesn't work with Windows 7. I have a new (Dec 2009) desktop PC from CPL in Melbourne, with a Gigabyte M/B and i5 processor. I have installed a brand new Windows 7 32-bit..."

  • scan06disk

    scan06disk

    Rating9

    "I'm on BigPond Cable and achieve speeds about 21Mbps/256Kbps, at a distance of 2M, only problem though is taking the risk of plugging the thing directly to the power socket, as it hates power/surge..."

  • scan06disk

    scan06disk

    "@adza These plugs can only handle UPTO 85Mbps, your average speed is 100Mbps, logically it has to be slower, what were u expecting ?! lol"

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