HomePlug AV2 Powerline Networking Adapter Round-Up

Powerline technology can help augment the demands placed on your existing Wi-Fi network, but at what speeds? We tested four powerline adapters to find out.

Choosing the best powerline networking adapter is no easy task. They have many optional capabilities, including outlet pass-through, antennas to repeat or extend Wi-Fi signals and multiple Ethernet ports, with more on the way. How can you find the one that performs the best?

We decided to test the fastest single-purpose powerline networking adapters to see what speeds are achievable when vendors focus on nothing other than optimal powerline throughput.

In reviewing the best sellers for powerline network adapters on Amazon, we chose the following vendors, which marketed powerline adapters in the 500 Mp/s and up range: D-Link, TP-Link, TRENDnet and ZyXEL. Many of the companies we spoke to advised us that they were working on updated versions of these adapters to meet the HomePlug AV2 specification, and that the new versions would be released this year. Should today's review postdate some of those launches, consider the results as a baseline to which the newer powerline adapters can be compared. Let's see how our chosen few line up along technical specifications.

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

MORE: All Networking Content

A Note About Standards

Before we jump to discussing each powerline network adapter, I have to rant a bit about the HomePlug AV2 standard and a consumer's ability to verify that the product is certified. If you haven't read about the process, check out the HomePlug Alliance Certification process in our How We Test Powerline Network Adapters piece. Understandably, the HomePlug Alliance is very choosy about how vendors display the HomePlug Alliance Certification Mark as well as when it can be displayed.

The primary way to verify that a product is HomePlug Certified is to look for the HomePlug logo. Allegedly for consumer convenience, the HomePlug Alliance also provides a list of Home Plug Certified Products. Great! It's time to search. Admittedly, I'm biased in my desire for easy-to-access results, but let's take a look at an example using the first product in our round-up, D-Link's DHP-600AV. If you visit the list, you're informed that there are currently 180 products on it. How do we search for the DHP-600AV? Well, we can't enter the model number as a search term because that option isn’t available. Hmm…

What if we apply one of the category filter options (think tagged content) and select HomePlug AV2? As of this writing, that returns only four results?? That seems low, right? D-Link does have a product listed in the results, but it's not the DHP-600AV. OK, maybe it hasn't yet received HomePlug AV2 certification. Let's see if the results are different when we apply the HomePlug AV filter option. Nine pages of results look promising, but I don't want to have to scroll through nine pages, so is there a sorting option? Nope! Paging through nine clicks later, I find no mention of the DHP-600AV.

As a last-ditch effort, I try the site-wide search option. No luck. Just to eliminate my possible misunderstanding of how the product may be listed, I go back to those four pages of HomePlug AV2 products to copy an entry. I copy the product entry, throw the term in the search field and hope. Here, too, we reach a wall as no results come back.

What I learned from this experience is that it seems the only way I can verify if a product is certified according to the most recent HomePlug AV standard is to trust the vendor, look for the logo or request a copy of the letter of certification. <end rant>

So, why is being able to verify a product important? In this case, it lets us more easily sift through powerline adapters we know meet the standard versus others that may implement HomePlug AV in a slightly different manner. Using powerline adapters from the same vendor in that case wouldn't necessarily be an issue as long as they were purchased in the same relative time period. This is because we could assume the vendor would implement the standard similarly in those models. The key issue on that front then is continued interoperability as we continue to add more devices and accessories.

The deeper aspect is that vendors may market the technology behind the standard, rather than how the product is actually compliant with or certified to that standard. We'll discuss later if that could potentially have an effect on performance.

First up in our review, we take a look at the D-Link DHP-600AV.

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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.