WD Livewire Powerline Networking Kit

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The Western Digital Livewire is a pain-free way of extending an existing home network without any fuss. Being able to instantly turn any AC outlet into a network switch gives home users, particularly those who live in larger houses, a simple alternative to WiFi. No, it doesn't hold a candle to ethernet, especially gigabit, but unless your house has not been dry-walled yet, the wiring is arduous to implement. Livewire skips all of that hassle, piggybacking on your existing electrical system to give you a reliable, albeit slower, semi-wired connection. Like many network and transfer protocols, powerline fails to achieve promised speeds, but even with the 30 mbps you can reasonably expect to attain is enough for most high speed internet services and high definition video files. If you want to be able to move or backup large files quickly, wired gigabit ethernet is far superior.

Powerline has its issues as well, mostly with the electrical circuitry in your house, and whether you share the outlet with other devices. In older homes and large apartment complexes, noisy lines may also affect performance. Combined with power strips, extension cords, etc. you might be able to cripple the Livewire to the point where the speeds are unbearable. However if you provide it with reasonable accommodations, it makes a useful networking addition for video game consoles, networked multimedia devices, etc.

The WD Livewire kit currently sells for US$80 to US$90, which is a fairly solid value if you want to augment your current network without having to run ethernet cables or use WiFi. It's a bit on the expensive side compared to entry level HomePlug AV units, which typically plug straight into the wall like a battery charger, taking up space around the AC outlet, and provide just a single port. The WD Livewire adapters on the other hand are essentially network switches, allowing you to connect 3~4 devices on each end, and unlike network switches, they don't need a wall wart. These advantages make the WD Livewire well worth the extra cost over the more basic HomePlug AV products.

Our thanks to Western Digital for the Livewire powerline AV network kit.

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