WD Livewire Review – Extending Internet Access using Electricity Supply Sockets

Ever since the world of web browsing entered our lives, the need to be connected becomes ever stronger. Social networking, ordering online, reading the latest news and gossip or simply checking email – the Internet is an important factor in our daily routines.

It has become far more accessible and convenient thanks to wireless connections in the home, work and public places – yet there are times when this wire free technology isn’t part of your ageing hardware or the signal is simply out of reach.

The WD Livewire Powerline AV Network Kit includes a couple of devices that allow you to tap into a network that already exists in your home as believe it or not, the electricity supply can be utilised to transmit data. This essentially means, any room that features an electrical socket has the potential to hook up to all your online needs without the requirement to drill holes, lift carpets or redecorate.

So how does it work?…

Connecting the WD Livewire

Connecting devices through mains power supply to share Internet

Your home is already a network of power cables, feeding energy to your various gadgets, gizmos and other electrical paraphernalia. These feed into almost every room of your house, avoiding just those such as bathrooms where electrical outlets are unwise.

The WD Livewire taps into this power network and adapts it to send and receive data to share with your Ethernet compatible devices. WD Livewire is a package of two boxes, the first unit connects to a free power supply socket although this must be a direct connection to one of the wall sockets and not on a power extension – otherwise you will severely degrade performance. Then connect one of the included Ethernet cables to hook up the unit to a free Ethernet port on your router. At this point, you have now effectively connected your Internet connection to your homes power supply.

Next step is to place the second box where typically your wireless signal can’t reach or for devices that don’t feature wireless as part of their specification. Again plug the second unit into one of the free power supply wall sockets and with the second Ethernet cable provided, place this into a compatible Ethernet device of your choice – be it a television that is capable of connecting to the web, gaming console, Blu-ray player, computer or other hardware – feeding this back to the second unit.

With no configuration, no drivers and absolutely no hassle – you should now be able to enjoy the benefits of access to the web using your power supply as a means of transmitting data around your home.

So why would you need such a device?…

Incompatible Equipment

As the pace of technology rapidly increases, older hardware can sometimes be left behind. Wireless encryption to prevent others from accessing your home network can also make it impossible for much older devices to even connect. This is extremely problematic when so many electrical items we have and use around the home today feature some type of additional functionality when connected to the Internet.

Even my electronic digital keyboard I use to create musical performances can be connected online to receive rich and diverse types of content that enhance the satisfaction of owning such an instrument, but it doesn’t include any wireless connections as standard – only an Ethernet port. A USB dongle of a very specific specification can be used, yet it’s a far from ideal situation as the list of compatible devices is quite limited and tougher wireless security encryptions aren’t always supported throughout the entire range.

You may have a Blu-ray player or television that can connect online to download firmware updates or add additional content, yet lack wireless connectivity. This leaves you with the horrific thought of trailing Ethernet cable around your house to reach these devices so they never miss out on the extra functionality. Nobody wants to see cable, especially quite thick ones weaving around the house from room to room.

By using the WD Livewire, the technology from yesteryear can still connect to the online universe without worrying about wireless incompatibilities.

Wirelessly Out of Reach

Although wireless routers are improving as time progresses, I like many others still find locations slightly beyond the signal when sitting in certain rooms. As you move further away from the source of the router’s wireless signal, the speed and reliability decreases until it is lost altogether.

Watching high definition entertainment over your home network for example requires a constant stream of information that may easily exceed your wireless capabilities. Using the WD Livewire, you can ensure that not only is the reliability of the online connection increased, but that it is reached at all.

The complicated wireless settings can be overwhelming to those who aren’t well versed in this area, so reducing this aggravation even for the more tech savy individuals is certainly welcome as it really is just a matter of plugging in and away you go.

Performance

I decided to test the WD Livewire by transferring a 890MB file from my networked hard drive in one location, to one of my more powerful notebooks (laptops) in another. The wireless ‘N’ router is actually situated upstairs at the front of the house, so I chose to test two different scenarios by sitting downstairs to the rear of the property to push the limits of the range.

Without the WD Livewire, I would expect to use the wireless router signal and the built-in wireless features on my notebook to copy the 890MB file. Being quite a distance, the wireless signal although fine for surfing the web – inevitably struggled with a large file transfer. I could expect to wait a staggering 30-40 minutes for the entire file to appear on my notebook, which is far from speedy.

With the WD Livewire plugged in to the main power, the Ethernet cable connected from the WD Livewire to my notebook and finally replicating the procedure of the file transfer – I was amazed at the result. Instead of the horrific 30-40 minute wait I could expect using my typical wireless network, the WD Livewire connection using the mains power of the house as a wired network instead required just a few minutes to complete the file transfer.

This also had the bonus of allowing me to stream high definition video from my networked hard drive to my notebook without any stuttery interruptions, something I couldn’t have even attempted with such slow speeds using my existing wireless connections.

Performance will vary from home to home depending on a number of factors, but certainly from my performance tests – the difference between wireless and WD Livewire was quite staggering.

The two units come with 4 available Ethernet ports each, allowing up to 7 devices in total to share online access. I promise you my maths skills haven’t been compromised, as one of the units need to be plugged into your router remember. Your data is also encrypted and without one of the WD Livewire units, no one else can connect and due to the way power is distributed around a house – it is unlikely your neighbours would be able to access your information either.

System Requirements

  • Ethernet router
  • AC power outlet

Kit Contents

  • Two 4-port HomePlug AV adapters
  • Two Ethernet cables
  • Two power cables
  • Quick Install Guide
  • CD with WD Livewire utility software
  • Warranty and support guide

Final Thoughts

At around £75, The WD Livewire is perfect for those occasions when you need an online connection without the fuss of laying down a mass of network cable around your home, while still offering compatibility with devices that feature only an Ethernet connection.

By utilising the vast network of power cables that already exist in your home, you can ensure that none of your online devices miss any of the rich and diverse content on offer, without the complications of wireless configurations yet still safe in the knowledge that your data is secure.

James Woodcock

Freelance Journalist, Author, Blogger & Podcaster specialising in gaming and technology.

Ever since he experienced the first controllable pixel movement on the television screen, he has been entranced by the possibilities and rewarding entertainment value generated from these metal and plastic boxes of delight. Writing hundreds of articles including commentary and reviews on various gaming platforms, while also interviewing well known industry figures for popular online publications.