10 Best Powerline adapter starter kits 2016/2017 – Boost your broadband with the best Powerline adapters you can buy

Powerline technology can revolutionise your home, bringing speedy downloads and fast Internet access to the farthest corners of your house. Here we explain the simply speedy home-network technology (relax, it’s super easy to install) and pick our ten favourite Powerline adapter starter kits.

Best Powerline adapters: the problems Powerline solves

Many houses these days have more than just their laptop or PC crying out for Internet access. Smart TVs connect to catch-up TV and movie-download services, games consoles are the gateway to multi-player action, and all sorts of smart-home devices need to be linked to your home network and mobile devices.

Yet most homes boast just one lonely wireless Internet router, whose job it is to pump out data to all these devices, often located rooms away from its position tied to the telephone line and modem.

Wi-Fi is great but even at relatively short distances it starts to wane in its powers to shift data around where it’s most needed. When you’re trying to download a high-definition movie or keep up with the action in a multi-player game (or worse, both) a fading Wi-Fi signal is not helping you maintain an even mood.

Wired access to the Internet is what you need, but no one wants to snake metres of Ethernet cable round their house. That coil of cables near your router is ugly enough, and power and HDMI cables already lurk behind your TV.

The answer is Powerline, an amazingly simple yet effective means of creating a near-invisible yet speedy home network.

Powerline, as the name suggests, uses the power lines/cables that already exist in your house. If you have more than one wall-mounted power socket you can use Powerline to solve your data-distribution problems.

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Best Powerline adapters: how does Powerline work? Simple plug-&-play set up

Powerline uses the mains wiring in your home as proxy Ethernet cables, taking the data from your Internet router into rooms any distance away from your modem/router without losing signal strength to the same degree as Wi-Fi.

Data (that movie / web page / streaming music / gameplay you’re downloading) runs from the router not just to the connected computer but also to the base Powerline adapter that you simply plug into a nearby wall power socket and connect via Ethernet cable to the router.

Now take the second Powerline adapter and plug it into a wall socket near the devices that require fast Internet access. You then connect this second adapter to those devices via the supplied Ethernet cable, and you’ve got yourself a fast home network.

Powerline set up is as easy as that. Plug in the adapters and connect one to the router and the other to your TV, etc. It really is Plug & Play. Any power outlet becomes a potential Internet connection. You can add multiple Powerline adapters around your house, but two will be plenty for most of us.

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Best Powerline adaptors: Powerline explained -what’s in the box

You need a Powerline Starter Kit to begin with. This will include at least two Powerline adapters: one base adapter for the room where you keep your Internet router, and the other for the room where you need the fast wired Ethernet access for TV, Sky box, Tivo DVR, games console, laptop, and so on.

These adapters are often exactly the same. Sometimes the base unit has less Ethernet ports as you only really need one here to connect the Powerline with the router.

Each starter kit should also include two Ethernet cables. If you want to connect more than one Internet-hungry device you may need to buy more cables.

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Powerline Ethernet ports: Consider how many Ethernet ports you need at either end of your Powerline set up. If you want to connect more than one device (smart TV, Sky/Tivo, games console, etc) then having more than one Ethernet port is important. It’s not essential, though, as you can add an Ethernet Switch (such as the xx) that operates as a hub with multiple Ethernet ports, and may well save you money on the pricier multi-port Powerlines. But if you need just two or three then having that number on the second adapter is your easiest solution.

Ethernet comes in different flavours and strengths. 10/100 Ethernet is the most common, but will limit any speed to 100Mbps. Stronger Gigabit Ethernet removes that limit, and is a must-have for faster 1,200Mbps and faster Powerline sets. Thankfully, all these faster Powerline starter kits we tested do include Gigabit Ethernet ports and cables.

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Powerline Wi-Fi: The second unit may also offer wireless functionality – the ability to add a new Wi-Fi hotspot in a different part of your house. This is handy if your wireless connection is particularly weak in your house away from the wireless router. It creates a new Wi-Fi hotspot, using the strong signal from the Powerline rather than merely “extending” the weak signal as you get with so-called Wi-Fi extenders.

The best Powerlines allow you to “clone” the wireless signals so both appear to be from the same source – meaning you use just the one password.

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Powerline pass-through sockets: Look out for adapters that feature a pass-through socket; that is, a power socket on the front so that the adapter doesn’t use up one of your valuable wall sockets. There is also some evidence that a pass-through socket will shield the adapter from electrical noise that could weaken a signal.

Don’t try to cut corners by plugging the Powerline adapter into a power strip, as that will reduce its performance.

Best Powerline adapters: Powerline manufacturers

There are many makes of Powerline adapter. The most respected are from Devolo, TP-Link, Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, TrendNet, Solwise, and Zyxel. Some are branded by broadband providers. For example, BT has a range of Powerline adapters.

All adapters that are certified to the HomePlug standard are compatible and work together, regardless of manufacturer.

Best Powerline adapters: Powerline speed reality and myth

Powerline starter kits are available in a range of speeds. The original 200Mbps Powerlines were superseded by 500Mbps kits, so this should be your minimum speed for a Powerline. Later, faster 1,200Mbps-rated Powerlines will further increase your network speed.

But, and this is an important point, you will not get 1,200Mbps from one of those Powerline set ups, and you won’t get 500Mbps from a 500Mbps-rated Powerline.

These rated speeds are theoretical maximum speeds only. All sorts of environmental factors will pull back Powerline performance; distance, the state and age of your home’s electrical wiring, other electric devices in your house, and much more.

In our testing environment (a three-storey Victorian house) we struggled to get over 70Mbps on many Powerlines, but you may get faster (or slower) performance depending on your house and its wiring.

Don’t despair, though, as 70-100Mbps is going to be a marked improvement on using a weak Wi-Fi signal to download movies, play games, etc.

Best Powerline adapters: Best budget Powerline

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ZyXel 500Mbps Powerline Gigabit Ethernet Adapter

Speed: 500Mbps

Wi-Fi: No

Pass-Through socket: No

Ethernet: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £79.99

Amazon price: £57.40

Amazon.com price: $34.95

This Powerline starter kit of two 500Mbps adapters has a retail price of £79 (US$) but are available from Amazon for just £29.99.

It’s basic in features – no extra Wi-Fi, no pass-through sockets and just the one Ethernet port per adapter – but it achieved more than respectable speeds in our real-world tests. The ports are Gigabit Ethernet, too, which means potential speeds aren’t limited by the older 10/100 Ethernet standard.

The adapters are dinky little things so you’ll hardly notice them.

 

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Netgear PLP1200 Powerline

Speed: 1,200Mbps

Wi-Fi: No

Pass-Through socket: Yes, on each adapter

Ethernet: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £79.99

Amazon price: £59.99

Amazon.com price: £75.30

Again, the online discounts on this Powerline starter kit are impressive. Instead of the £79 list price we’ve seen this on Amazon for just £44.99.

It’s the faster 1,200Mbps Powerline, so the price looks even better, and you get pass-through sockets on both adapters. It is restricted a bit by having just one Ethernet port per adapter but you can add an Ethernet Switch to create more ports if you need them. There’s no added Wi-Fi functionality, but if that doesn’t bother you this is a bargain set.

 

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TrendNet Powerline 500AV2

Speed: 500Mbps

Wi-Fi: Optional

Pass-Through socket: No

Ethernet: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £68.99; £69.99 with Wi-Fi

Amazon price: £62.49; with WiFi, £42.98

Amazon.com price: $79.98; with WiFi, $70.99

The TrendNet Powerline AV2 Adapter Kit (TPL-408E2K) comes with the two standard adapters – each of which has one Gigabit Ethernet port. The TrendNet Powerline 500 Wireless Kit (TPL-410APK), however, boasts not just an extra Wi-Fi hotspot but two Ethernet ports on the second-room adapter (although of the slower 10/100 variety of Ethernet). The non-Wi-Fi model was super-fast wired, even rivalling some of the 1,200-rated Powerlines we tested. This is a very speedy set of Powerline adapters for a bargain price. At the time of writing the Wi-Fi model was actually cheaper than the one without!

 

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TP-Link AV500 TL-WPA4230P Powerline

Speed: 500Mbps

Wi-Fi: Yes

Pass-Through socket: Yes, on each adapter

Ethernet: 2 x 10/100 Ethernet on base adapter, 3 x 10/100 Ethernet ports on second adapter

RRP: £89.99

Amazon price: £59.99

This budget 500Mbps starter kit has all the Powerline bells and whistles: multiple Ethernet ports, the ability to create a new Wi-Fi hotspot in your home, and pass-through sockets on both adapters. The TL-WPA4230P KIT is actually two separate adapters boxed as a starter kit. The base unit, which you plug into your internet router, is the TL-PA4020P, with two Ethernet ports. The second adapter, which sits near your TV, Sky box etc, is the TL-WPA4230P, with three Ethernet ports and the Wi-Fi hotspot.


Best Powerline adapters: Best fast Powerline

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TP-Link AV2000 2-Port Gigabit Passthrough Powerline

Speed: 1,200Mbps

Wi-Fi: No

Pass-Through socket: Yes, on both adapters

Ethernet: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £99.99

Amazon price: £99.95

Amazon.com price: $138.99

This Powerline starter kit claims it’s even faster than the latest 1,200Mbps standard, achieved by some clever tech tricks. We’re not absolutely sure about that but we do know that it performed very well in our tests – indeed was the fastest we’ve tried out. The two Gigabit Ethernet ports and pass-through sockets per adapter are handy, although there’s no extra Wi-Fi hotspot created using these adapters.

 

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Solwise SmartLink 1200AV2 HomePlug Powerline

Speed: 1,200Mbps

Wi-Fi: No

Pass-Through socket: Yes, on both adapters

Ethernet: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £81 (two adapters)

Amazon price: £37.76 (price for one adapter, you need two)

You need to buy two of these Powerline adapters as there’s no starter kit available, so watch out for that if buying online. It’s not the best in looks but matches and beats some of the other 1,200Mbps-rated Powerlines in performance. The two Gigabit Ethernet ports and pass-through sockets per adapter are a plus, but there’s no extra Wi-Fi hotspot. Buy two (or more) and the price is one of the best available.

 

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Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Powerline Starter Kit

Speed: 1,200Mbps

Wi-Fi: Yes

Pass-Through socket: Yes, on both adapters

Ethernet: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £159.99

Amazon price: £134

This Powerline starter kit has it all: two Gigabit Ethernet adapters and pass-through sockets on both adapters, plus the ability to create a new, strong Wi-Fi hotspot in the second room. There’s a cheaper version with just one Gigabit Ethernet port and no Wi-Fi but we like the fully featured version for the bells and whistles.

 

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TP-Link AV1200 Gigabit Powerline Wi-Fi Starter Kit (WPA8630P)

Speed: 1,200Mbps

Wi-Fi: Yes

Pass-Through socket: Yes, on both adapters

Ethernet: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet on base adapter; 3 x Gigabit Ethernet on second

RRP: £124.99 / US$164.99

Amazon price: £99.99

Amazon.com price: $139.99

This Powerline starter kit has everything the Devolo 1200+ WiFi starter kit has, plus a third Gigabit Ethernet port on the second adapter, although just the one on the base unit. The second room is usually where you need multiple Ethernet ports. If you can live without the extra Wi-Fi then the TL-PA8030P version (RRP: 89 and Amazon price around £70) is great value and with even more Gigabit Ethernet ports (three per adapter).

 

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TrendNet Powerline 500AV2

Speed: 500Mbps

Wi-Fi: Optional

Pass-Through socket: No

Ethernet: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet per adapter

RRP: £48; £69.99 with Wi-Fi

Amazon price: £62.49; with WiFi, £42.98

Amazon.com price: $79.98; with WiFi, $70.99

Although rated at only 500Mbps the TrendNet Powerline AV2 Adapter Kit (TPL-408E2K) rivalled some of the 1,200-rated Powerlines we tested, and so gets in both our Best Budget Powerlines and Best Fast Powerlines listings. It comes with the two standard adapters – each of which has one Gigabit Ethernet port. The TrendNet Powerline 500 Wireless Kit (TPL-410APK) boasts not just an extra Wi-Fi hotspot but two Ethernet ports on the second-room adapter but uses the slower 10/100 variety of Ethernet so is not as fast as the fully wired model.

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