If you find the idea of opening your PC to install a wireless card daunting, you might like a wall-plugged Ethernet switch. These devices provide an easy way to network by using a simple household wall outlet and the latest claim higher speeds than their first generation counterparts. While they do take the pain out of networking, The $99.99 Netgear XE104 does not provide consistent performance, and is a significant downgrade from a wireless connection.
The package comes with one XE104 wall-plugged Ethernet switch, a Cat-5 cable, a brief instruction card and a CD with a PDF with more detailed documentation and an encryption utility program. Each unit has four connectors, so you can plug in multiple devices. You will need to purchase at least two XE104 units to make this work.
The box suggests using the XE104 to share a broadband connection or for a LAN party where you can play games on multiple machines. You could also use it to share a printer, a backup device or other networked peripherals. For this review, I looked at sharing a cable modem connection. Ultimately, I found while it was this was a definite improvement over a telephone connection, it did not approach the performance of the cable modem on the source machine or a wireless connection.
It doesn’t take a computer expert to install a wall-plugged Ethernet switch. You simply plug the XE104 directly into a wall outlet, then connect one end of the Cat-5 cable to the plug unit and the other end to your router. That’s it. You will need an additional package for each computer you want to add to the network. If you are networking a printer or other peripheral, you only need to plug it into an open connector in the XE104. One minor complaint is that I found the supplied Cat-5 cable was too short unless your outlet was right next to your computer.
Testing The Cable Modem