HomePlug AV2 Powerline Networking Adapter Round-Up

Conclusion

Powerline technology has come a long way in five years. In a 2009 Tom's Guide article titled "Powerline Networking Nearly Fails Our Tests," the results showed adapters that didn't even reach 10 Mb/s! Thankfully, in every test we performed in this round-up, transfer rates reached at least five times that figure.

With Trendnet, ZyXEL and D-Link, we'd have a tough time recommending one over the others. They shifted positions frequently in our middle-performance tier. From an advanced configuration perspective, I'd lean toward Trendnet and D-Link, since ZyXEL's configuration utility software was more difficult to navigate. And if you have to choose between those two, based on a head-to-head performance battle, Trendnet takes second place more often than D-Link.

But our clear winner in every performance test is TP-Link. No matter where I moved the TL-PA6010KIT, throughput was highest through those powerline adapters.

D-Link DHP-600 AV

TP-Link TL-PA6010KIT

TRENDnet TPL-408E2K

ZyXEL PLA5215

To take a measure of powerline adapters, we have to realize that marketing numbers like 200, 500 and 600 Mb/s are really just theoretical maximums based on how each manufacturer implements the HomePlug AV specification. And those are PHY rates too, meaning that actual throughput falls in a much lower range.

Armed with this knowledge, we can more accurately gauge where we'd want to place powerline adapters in a home. The back of most powerline product guides typically recommend placing them in front of gaming consoles, smart TVs and other bandwidth-intensive devices. Watching a Netflix HD stream, according to the company's Internet Connection Speed Recommendations, takes 5Mb/s. Powerline adapters satisfy that requirement. And, based on the numbers we generated, these adapters can handle multiple HD streams at once. If I want to increase my Wi-Fi throughput, I can purchase powerline adapters to feed my gaming consoles and smart TVs so I can watch a Netflix HD stream on my tablet without downgrading or buffering.

So, where do we go from here? What if I want to send a 3D stream from my network-attached storage from one room in the house and watch it in another room? What if I want to watch 4K content on Netflix? Fear not. As the industry moves to reach one gigabit per second of throughput, we should begin seeing devices promising such speeds sometime in 2015. When that time comes, check back. There's a good chance we'll be doing another powerline adapter round-up. Until then, feel free to pass along your own feedback in the comments section below.

MORE: USB Wi-Fi Adapter 101
MORE: How We Test USB Wi-Fi Adapters
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Matthew Matchen is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware.

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This thread is closed for comments
27 comments
    Your comment
  • Glock24
    I'm curious about device interoperability. If all those devices you tested conform to the same standard, can you mix and match those devices in the same network?
  • heffeque
    Quote:
    I'm curious about device interoperability. If all those devices you tested conform to the same standard, can you mix and match those devices in the same network?

    Almost no PLC will work with other brands... and most won't even work between different versions of the same brand.
  • joex444
    On your conclusions page you link to an article that Tom's did in 2009 and claim the test result showed powerline adapters that failed to get 10Mb/s. In fact that link shows adapters that failed to get 10MB/s -- a factor of 8 higher due to your units error. The lowest rate in 2009 was 20Mb/s and many were in the 50-80Mb/s.
  • aldenf
    Good article. Thanks, Matthew!

    I read the linear 300m range, for the DHP-600AV anyway, as the maximum length of electrical wiring between adapters, not the allowable length of CAT twixt an adapter and device.

    Powerline networking has had ample opportunity to mature. If it can't sustain 200Mbps, it is of little use to me or my clients. Scenario: Someone wants an Ethernet drop in three rooms of his house. That's $300 in hardware alone... Does the hardware for multiple drops of Ethernet interfere with each other and how badly? I can only imagine that in extreme cases, where CAT5e/6 can't reasonably be run, would this even be an option. Too bad, really...
  • chalabam
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I'm curious about device interoperability. If all those devices you tested conform to the same standard, can you mix and match those devices in the same network?
    Almost no PLC will work with other brands... and most won't even work between different versions of the same brand.


    That's the point of the standards, to assure that each device is compatible with one of another vendor.

    If a device doesn't works with another, it doesn't works with the standard.

    A specific model will never be the best for ever. You will replace it with the future best one, and you don't want to replace all, or throw the present one to the garbage because they can't communicate with each other.
  • heffeque
    2081906 said:
    Quote:
    Quote:
    I'm curious about device interoperability. If all those devices you tested conform to the same standard, can you mix and match those devices in the same network?
    Almost no PLC will work with other brands... and most won't even work between different versions of the same brand.
    That's the point of the standards, to assure that each device is compatible with one of another vendor. If a device doesn't works with another, it doesn't works with the standard. A specific model will never be the best for ever. You will replace it with the future best one, and you don't want to replace all, or throw the present one to the garbage because they can't communicate with each other.

    Well this isn't the case. The fact is that they don't operate well when not paired up with equals, so what do you propose.
  • RealBeast
    The newest models (AV1200 with MIMO) get about twice the speed of these older units that you tested. I've tried three sets based on solid reviews and they have all performed quite well. The are a little more expensive and still nowhere near gigabit Ethernet, but all three got over 200Mbps on distant plugs, with the TP-LINK TL-PA8030P-KIT at $70 on Amazon hitting over 250Mbps consistently with low latency, IMO quite usable particularly for gamers.
  • dragget
    Quote:
    The newest models (AV1200 with MIMO) get about twice the speed of these older units that you tested.
    I find it really puzzling that they would review these older, slower devices instead of the new MIMO models. Several manufacturers have had these newer models out on the market for some time now.
  • jmaier
    Extollo's LANSocket 1500 seems to be the fastest on the market today. See articles from CNET: http://www.cnet.com/products/extollo-lansocket-1500-powerline-adapter-kit/ and TechHive: http://www.techhive.com/article/2981494/home-networking/extollo-communications-lansocket-1500-review-top-speed-and-a-power-passthrough-too.html

    It's based on the HomePlug AV2 standard and supports MIMO, it's using the latest powerline chips from Broadcom. It's a pass-through and a bit bulky. I believe the bigger size is needed for the multiple transmitters and receivers to support MIMO. Extollo has one of the best product manuals, it provides a fairly succinct overview of HomePlug's powerline networking concepts.

    Matthew Matchen, how did you omit the LANSocket 1500 powerline adapter from your list of adapters to test?
  • matchenm
    Hi joex444,

    Quote:
    On your conclusions page you link to an article that Tom's did in 2009 and claim the test result showed powerline adapters that failed to get 10Mb/s. In fact that link shows adapters that failed to get 10MB/s -- a factor of 8 higher due to your units error. The lowest rate in 2009 was 20Mb/s and many were in the 50-80Mb/s.


    Great catch! You're right that I need to correct that comparison. Hope to get that updated soon.
  • matchenm
    Quote:
    Good article. Thanks, Matthew! I read the linear 300m range, for the DHP-600AV anyway, as the maximum length of electrical wiring between adapters, not the allowable length of CAT twixt an adapter and device. Powerline networking has had ample opportunity to mature. If it can't sustain 200Mbps, it is of little use to me or my clients. Scenario: Someone wants an Ethernet drop in three rooms of his house. That's $300 in hardware alone... Does the hardware for multiple drops of Ethernet interfere with each other and how badly? I can only imagine that in extreme cases, where CAT5e/6 can't reasonably be run, would this even be an option. Too bad, really...


    Hi aldenf,

    You're right that it can be cost-prohibitive depending on how many nodes you need to deploy. However, for bandwidth-hungry devices like Smart TVs and gaming consoles, it may be worth evaluating to get a few to offload those bandwidth demands from the Wi-Fi to decrease Wi-Fi contention. Only when it makes sense cost-wise, of course.
  • matchenm
    Quote:
    Quote:
    The newest models (AV1200 with MIMO) get about twice the speed of these older units that you tested.
    I find it really puzzling that they would review these older, slower devices instead of the new MIMO models. Several manufacturers have had these newer models out on the market for some time now.


    Hi dragget,

    We agree! We'll have more reviews on the way to account for those newer models!
  • matchenm
    Quote:
    Extollo's LANSocket 1500 seems to be the fastest on the market today. See articles from CNET: http://www.cnet.com/products/extollo-lansocket-1500-powerline-adapter-kit/ and TechHive: http://www.techhive.com/article/2981494/home-networking/extollo-communications-lansocket-1500-review-top-speed-and-a-power-passthrough-too.html It's based on the HomePlug AV2 standard and supports MIMO, it's using the latest powerline chips from Broadcom. It's a pass-through and a bit bulky. I believe the bigger size is needed for the multiple transmitters and receivers to support MIMO. Extollo has one of the best product manuals, it provides a fairly succinct overview of HomePlug's powerline networking concepts. Matthew Matchen, how did you omit the LANSocket 1500 powerline adapter from your list of adapters to test?


    Hi jmaier,

    I would've liked to include them, but when I was looking up top sellers, they weren't included in the most popular.

    Thank you for highlighting LANSocket! We'll be sure to include their adapters in an upcoming review!
  • Joker41NAM
    Real-life example:

    When I moved into my house earlier this year, rather than run network lines I got two sets of NetGear PLP1200 (PowerLine AV2 compliant, but not certified). So it claims 1.2Gb is the max theoretical throughput. Real-life, I get about 80Mb on a good day with a large-file transfer. Max power cable length is probably about 140ft.
  • Greg__
    Reading up on powerline configurations, it seems that the units HAVE to be on the same electrical circuit. Was the testing done on the same electrical circuit or across breakers?
  • jmaier
    Hi Greg, the powerline signal can cross from phase 1 to phase 2 via the circuit breakers/busbars in the electrical panel. That being said, the powerline signal will attenuate (weaken) anywhere from 5dB to 25dB. The end result is lower performance when you have to go phase to phase.

    Extollo (www.extollocom.com/support) has a good white paper (Home Electrical Wiring....) on this very subject.
  • jdrch
    No AV1200 products?
  • epobirs
    On the matter of losing a wall outlet due to over lap, so long as there is no kind of power conditioning a powerline bridge will work fine with an extension cord. I've found some that are a mere three inches in length, making them almost ideal for this use.
  • dragget
    530844 said:
    On the matter of losing a wall outlet due to over lap

    Several manufacturers now make HomePlug adapters that incorporate pass-through plugs. If you buy one of these models you won't have to buy an extra extender.
  • jmaier
    1008922 said:
    530844 said:
    On the matter of losing a wall outlet due to over lap
    Several manufacturers now make HomePlug adapters that incorporate pass-through plugs. If you buy one of these models you won't have to buy an extra extender.
  • jmaier
    See Extollo's LANSocket 1500 on Amazon. It has a pass-through, supports AV2 with MIMO and does not block the electrical outlet above it like the Netgear Powerline 1200.
  • epobirs
    1008922 said:
    530844 said:
    On the matter of losing a wall outlet due to over lap
    Several manufacturers now make HomePlug adapters that incorporate pass-through plugs. If you buy one of these models you won't have to buy an extra extender.


    Note the example of such in the article. Despite having a passthrough, the device overlapped the adjacent outlet and made it unusable for grounded plugs. This annoyance is something I've run into several times with powerline bridges and why I find short extensions handy to have on hand. There is also commonly a problem with furniture blocking the preferred outlet, for example, and a short one or two foot extension can allow use of the outlets while clearing the furniture.

    This was also a common problem with wall wart AC adapters in times past but those usually merit protection and power strips with spaced plugs have become common. That wasn't always the case. In the 90s they were rare and Sega was trying to sell the combine Genesis game console, the Sega CD add-on, AND the 32X processing add-on. The three together meant three big wall warts had to be accommodated and none of the power strips then available would do this as the sockets were arranged too close together. At best you'd lose the use of some of the sockets. So Sega contracted a company to produce a Sega branded strip that was a little longer and had only five sockets instead of the typical six. In between each socket were letters spelling out S E G A in the blue font used in their marketing then. These are a bit of collector item today. I grabbed a bunch of them when the Good Guys consumer electronics chain was going out of business.

    See, there's always a story.
  • matchenm
    2085579 said:
    Reading up on powerline configurations, it seems that the units HAVE to be on the same electrical circuit. Was the testing done on the same electrical circuit or across breakers?


    Hi Greg,

    Testing was indeed conducted on the same electrical circuit, but across different breakers on that circuit.
  • kep55
    Good article. I've been debating if I'd be better off springing for a powerline network adapter to get better access in the lower level of our house instead of just 802.11g/n. Oh, the TP-LINK TL-PA6010KIT is currently (9-23-15) priced at $55.48 on Amazon.