The ZyXel NBG318S is a router that combines ethernet, Wi-Fi and powerline connectivity with HomePlugAV.
Most routers give you two options for connecting a computer or printer to your network: ethernet and Wi-Fi. Ethernet is fast and dependable, but it isn't practical for going from room to room. Wi-Fi is slower and less reliable than ethernet. Neither is very good for transmitting internet-based multimedia content from a broadband modem at one end of your house to a TV at the other.
The ZyXel NBG318S offers a third option: HomePlugAV. The standard, three-pronged AC plug that powers the router connects it to other HomePlugAV devices in a building as well.
If you don't own any devices equipped with HomePlugAV, you can use an optional adaptor with a power plug on one end and an ethernet port on the other. In theory, you can plug such an adaptor into any ethernet-capable PC or peripheral and get a blazing 200 megabits per second (mbps) connection to the router.
When we first plugged the ZyXel NBG318S PLA-400 adaptor into a computer and connected to the router, it worked hassle-free at what felt like ethernet speed. But when we tried to set up HomePlugAV's built-in AES encryption (needed because the signal may be accessible from other units in your building), we hit a brick wall.
The router couldn't give the adaptor the information needed to allow them to talk to each other. Nor would the adaptor accept that information from me. A firmware update for the adaptor fixed the problem, but this experience shows that the technology is far from hassle-free.
Something else that you should know about: HomePlugAV doesn't work with devices based on the older HomePlug 1.0 specification.
The ZyXel NBG318S lacks Wi-Fi Draft-N capabilities, but it doesn't stint on Wi-Fi; it supports 108mbps Super G (to take advantage of it, a client device must use a Super G chip, too). In fact, this is the only router without Draft-N to reach the far corners of our Wi-Fi-hostile home without a big drop in signal quality.
With devices in the same room, though, the ZyXel NBG318S falls a tad short. ZyXel gave the router only three LAN ethernet ports (plus the WAN port that connects it to your broadband modem). As a result, you can attach just three devices to the ZyXel NBG318S without messing with Wi-Fi or HomePlugAV. Most modems have four such ports, and some in the NBG318S's price range have five. There is no USB port, either.
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