But with more and more gadgets hooking up to the internet – everything from games consoles to televisions and radios to fridge freezers – it's becoming essential to have a reliable network within the home.
Wi-Fi provides a partial solution, but it's difficult to cover every inch of a typical home and garden from a single router. And in older houses with stone walls Wi-Fi can be next to useless.
One solution is to run dedicated network cables throughout the home. While this provides the best possible signal it's very messy and only worth considering as part of a complete rewiring job.
There is another solution, though. Powerline adaptors plug into standard three-pin mains sockets and allow owners to run a high-speed network over existing power cables.
Most devices are built around the HomePlug AV standard and compatible with each other, but I'd recommend sticking with one manufacturer to ensure compatibility when using advanced features such as encryption. Encryption is important here – there's a common misconception that Powerline network signals can't leak beyond the electricity meter, but I've heard first-hand reports to the contrary, so it's important to enable encryption as you would with a Wi-Fi signal.
Extra adaptors can be added easily, most economically in pairs, to extend the reach of the network to other rooms and devices. Standard adaptors offer a single network port but other models are available that offer several ports or even allow Wi-Fi to be broadcast from any room in the house.
I tested the TP-Link 200Mbps kit which comes with two identical adaptors and a pair of short network cables. Following the instructions, I placed one of the adaptors within reach of my broadband router and the other one in the room with my PC – in my case, the garden shed. The instructions recommend connecting the device directly to the wall socket to achieve the best possible connection. That wasn't practical, so I connected the unit to a trailing socket at each end.
Despite the less-than ideal conditions – two trailing sockets and almost 100ft of cable, much of it buried under the lawn – the device provided a fast, reliable internet connection where before there was none. The connection was fast enough for web browsing, radio streaming and television, but it began to choke on high-def content on iPlayer. Other owners have reported no such problems, so I suspect connecting the adaptors directly to the wall as the manufacturer suggests would fix that.
Positives Quick, simple networking that works straight out of the box.
Negatives Ties up another mains socket.