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HomePlug AV2 Powerline Networking Adapter Round-Up

Conclusion

Powerline technology appears to have made some progress in five years. In a 2009 Tom's Guide article titled "Powerline Networking Nearly Fails Our Tests," the results showed in tests similar to those performed in this review such as the directory copy peaked at around 47 Mb/s. In this review, a comparable directory copy speed yielded double that throughput!

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.

Reasons to buy
+Plug and play, three-color throughput rate indicator, power-save mode
Reasons to avoid
-Lack of advanced configuration, no rate of speed reference for throughput rate indicator, no MIMO

D-Link DHP-600 AV

Reasons to buy
+Plug and play, small form factor, advanced configuration utility available
Reasons to avoid
-No MIMO, lack of throughput speed indicator

TP-Link TL-PA6010KIT

TRENDnet TPL-408E2K

Trendnet TPL-408E2K

Reasons to buy
+Plug and play, three-color throughput indicator with speed reference, advanced configuration utility available, power-save mode
Reasons to avoid
-No MIMO

Trendnet TPL-408E2K

ZyXEL PLA5215

ZyXEL PLA5215

Reasons to buy
+Plug and play, outlet pass-through, three-color throughput indicator with speed reference, advanced configuration utility available, power-save mode
Reasons to avoid
-Difficult to use advanced configuration utility, large form factor

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: Powerline Networking 101
MORE: How We Test Powerline Adapters
MORE: All Powerline Content



MORE: All Networking Content

Matthew Matchen is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware. Follow him on Twitter.

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