Get rid of those unsightly network cables
I’m still dreaming of a day when I’ll be able to cable out my home properly, so that every network-able device connects directly to a network outlet.
I’ve nothing against WiFi, or Homeplug devices, I just know that the best possible connection would be a copper CAT5e cable plugged straight into the back of my network switch. For now it remains but a pipe dream, so in the meantime I’ll have to make the best of a bad lot with devices like the TL-WA890EA from TP-Link.
The TL-WA890EA is described by TP-Link as an “Entertainment Adapter with 4 ports”. In reality, it’s essentially a wireless bridge that allows you to connect up to four wired network devices to your home network, without having to connect them directly to your wireless router.
Imagine the scenario; your games consoles, Smart TV, media PC and network drive are all in your living room, but your WiFi router and other devices are upstairs in a bedroom. You could connect some of the devices directly with WiFi, but what about the devices that only have a wired network port? You could resort to using Homeplug technology, but that would take up a power socket, and might look unsightly.
In this scenario, the Entertainment Adapter could be used to connect all of your devices to your WiFi router with one single wireless signal.
Out of the box
The TL-WA890EA comes with a single Ethernet cable and a micro-USB power supply. You also get a setup booklet which takes you through the automated and manual setups for the adapter.
The automated system relies on WPS technology to quickly and easily connect the adapter to your router. just press the WPS button on your router, then the WPS button on the adapter and you’ll be set up in a matter of seconds.
If your router doesn’t support WPS, or you just can’t get it to work, then it’s a pretty simple affair to get the adapter set up manually using a computer with a wired connection. Just connect your computer up to the adapter with the supplied Ethernet cable and then access the web interface as per the instructions.
I found both methods worked very well, with WPS being up and running in seconds and the manual connection taking about 5 minutes. It’s worth pointing out that you may want to access the adapter via its web interface, even if using WPS. As with most network devices, the web interface has a user name and password, which default to “admin”. If you don’t go in and change these then you run the risk that an unscrupulous neighbour or passer by might try and get into the adapter and mess around with the configuration.
Once the adapter has been setup then it’s just a matter of connecting up your network devices and you should have access to your network pretty much straight away. It’s worth pointing out that TP-Link recommend that all connected devices obtain a network address automatically via DHCP. In practice, I haven’t had any issues with devices that I’ve given fixed IP addresses, but if TP-Link feel that it’s worth mentioning then it may be an issue for some users.
In terms of wireless performance, I’ve found the TL-WA890EA to be as good as any other device of this sort. When connecting to my wireless N router using the 2.4GHz band I’ve maintained “five bars” of signal strength with the adapter placed at the other end of my apartment, going through two walls in the process. When using the 5GHz band there is a noticeable drop off in signal strength, but no more so than with any other dual band device.
In terms of throughput, I’ve seen consistent Windows file transfer speeds of around 75mbps, which is more or less what I achieve when connecting the same PC directly to my network using a built in WiFi card.
While this falls well below the published transfer speed of 600mbps, it’s important to remember that these published speeds are only applicable in ideal lab environments, with no interference from other signals and a clear air patch between devices. To me, 75mbps is a respectable throughput, and more than satisfactory for streaming HD media and online gaming.
If you need a device that will allow you to connect up to four wired devices to your home network, without any unsightly cables, then the TL-WA890EA is definitely a device that will keep you happy.
Wireless throughput and range are as good as any other similar product out there, and the inconspicous design won’t draw too much attention in a modern living room or bedroom.
The only downside to the design of the adapter is that it’s lightweight to the point that the weight of attached network cables will quite easily topple it over. This can easily be fixed with a blob of blu-tac, or you could make use of the two mounting holes in the base and screw it to a wall or the back of your entertainment centre.
You can pick up the TL-WA890EA for around £35 online at the moment, and at that price it offers a very attractive solution to a common problem; how can I connect my wired devices to a router in the next room?