ASUS PL-AC56 Wi-Fi Powerline Kit Review

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Bottom mounted ports, at last!

by Greg Hook Jul 6, 2016 at 8:04 AM

  • Tech review

    Recommended
    ASUS PL-AC56 Wi-Fi Powerline Kit Review
    SRP: £149.99

    What is the ASUS PL-AC56 KIT?

    Unashamedly, Powerline Adapters are one of this reviewer’s favourite products. They offer a very easy and cheap way of getting network access to every part of your home without having to run cables everywhere and most of the time work without issue. If you are struggling with Wi-Fi or network access in your home and unless you have a vendetta against them (and some people do) there really is no excuse not to have a set. With prices starting at just under £22 for a standard pair of 500Mbps adapters and £36 for a set with Wi-Fi it’s a no brainer!

    Our past Powerline Adapter reviews have seen examples from the likes of Devolo, TP-LINK and Netgear. For the most part all have performed very well and offered great value. Also wanting a piece of the action are electronics behemoth ASUS. Their feature rich 1200Mbps rated PL-AC56 Kit for review here offers two adapters, one with AC pass-through, the second with dual band Wi-Fi access for the princely sum of £149.99. Read on to see it how it fares in our tests…

    Design and Connections

    The PL-AC56 Kit includes two adapters, both rated at 1200Mbps. The first adapter (PL-E56P) includes AC pass-through and one Gigabit Ethernet port for connecting to your router. The second adapter (PL-AC56P) includes three Gigabit Ethernet ports, plus dual band 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It does lose the AC pass-through which is a shame, but it is welcome to see three Ethernet ports which are always more useful on the non-router connected adapter.

    The adapters we have seen before have mostly followed the same design theme, that being a plain hard white plastic shell with either sharp or curved edges, but other than that nothing really to write home about. ASUS have broadly followed this theme apart from adding a bit of flare with a nice diamond chequer plate finish to the front of each device. The main feature that we have moaned about many times is the location of the Ethernet ports. Finally, a manufacturer has put them at the bottom! All hail ASUS.

    Both adapters feature the familiar array of LED lights that we've seen many times before. On the non-Wi-Fi adapter we have the Power, Powerline and Ethernet LEDs and the Wi-Fi enabled adapter also features these along with a 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz LED. The Wi-Fi adapter also features a power switch, which we don’t usually see on these sort of devices, and a clone button for quick setup of the Wi-Fi using your routers SSID and password.

    ASUS PL-AC56 Kit Design and Connections

    Is it easy to install?

    If you know how to plug something into a wall socket, then you know how to setup Powerline Adapters, they really are that simple. You don’t have to change any settings or install anything, they are quick and effortless to setup. This thankfully applies here, too, with this set from ASUS. You plug the first adapter into a socket near your router, then the second Wi-Fi adapter into a socket of your choosing, press the pair button on each device, wait a few seconds and that’s it, you are all up and running.

    With the Wi-Fi adapter you can either clone your existing Wi-Fi or go with what is our preferred option and that is to use the default ASUS Wi-Fi access point. If you have an ASUS router you can also make use of the ‘Roaming Assist’ feature which ensures your devices automatically lock onto the strongest connection, rather than stubbornly sticking to a 1 bar connection when you also have a full bar access point available.

    One word of warning which we don’t normally say with Powerline Adapters, and that is beware of the size of the Wi-Fi enabled adapter, it is huge! It’s easily the largest Powerline Adapter we’ve ever come across. It will fit it a double wall socket, but you will have to turn the socket on first as the adapter covers the switch. Providing you have a small plug in the adjacent socket it shouldn’t be a problem, but if you have a large power adapter you may struggle to get both in. Hopefully ASUS will trim the size down in future revisions.

    All these Powerline Adapters are HomePlug compliant, which means additional adapters can be added very easily and you aren’t restricted to one manufacturer either. So far we have tested Netgear, Devolo and TP-LINK all on the same network and all work without issue together, although you will occasionally find the pairing takes slightly longer than normal. We can now add ASUS to this list too. If you have an existing Powerline Network, it is recommended that you make sure the fastest adapter is connected to your router. For example, if you have an old 200Mbps adapter connected to your router, then have some top spec 1200Mbps adapters elsewhere, you won’t be seeing the benefit as these will be restricted to the speed that 200Mbps adapter can supply.

    How do we test?

    Powerline Adapters are open to huge variances in performance due to many factors such as your house wiring, other equipment plugged in (Microwaves seem to be a particular offender) and distances between adapters. Our testing process has been designed to create repeatable real world tests in the same location to compare different adapters against each other.

    The testing is carried out in a standard 4 bed detached house. The router is a BT HomeHub5 (located on the ground floor), connected via Gigabit Ethernet to both a PC and the PL-E56P Adapter at one end, then with a laptop via Gigabit Ethernet to the PL-AC56P Wi-Fi Adapter at the other end. We use a program called LANSpeedTest by Totusoft which is a simple but powerful tool for measuring Local Area Network (LAN) speeds. It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without the effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you. This gives us the results of transferring files from our main PC to the Laptop via the Powerline Adapters.

    We test in four different locations of the home (the distances are straight line estimated, not wiring lengths).

    1. 2mtrs between adapters, ground floor, same ring main.
    2. 9mtrs between adapters, ground floor, same ring main.
    3. 5mtrs between adapters, 1st floor, same ring main.
    4. 15mtrs from the main adapter in the garage, not the same ring main, a single spur from the main consumer unit.

    Our tests are as follows:
    1. 2 x 1GB files simultaneously transferred.
    2. 2 x 100MB files simultaneously transferred.
    3. 2 x 1GB files successively transferred.
    4. 10 x 100MB files successively transferred.
    5. 100 x 5MB files successively transferred.
    6. 1000 x 10KB files successively transferred.
    7. 1000 x 1MB files successively transferred.

    The simultaneous test results shown are the maximum throughput speed, whilst the successive tests results are shown as an average speed.

    ASUS PL-AC56 performance

    ASUS PL-AC56 Kit ASUS PL-AC56 performance
    Whilst not quite beating the current AVForums record of 433.75Mbps seen with TP-LINK’s TL-PA8030P, it does get close with a peak of 427.85Mbps. The average speed test results were slightly lower than we would have expected given the high peak speed and our Location 2 and 4 test results were a tad disappointing which saw lower read speeds in comparison to the write. Overall though the results were good and offered speeds that were more than fast enough for HD and even 4K streaming.

    We’ve bored you before with this, but you do need to be aware of the speeds (or link rate) quoted by the manufacturers and how that will relate to the performance you will see in real world use. The quoted link rates are the maximum speeds the chips in the adapters could achieve in laboratory conditions, but even then that includes both the up and down streams, so is immediately halved. Take the 1200Mbps speeds quoted by ASUS here, that becomes 600Mbps as the very best you will receive and whilst in our peak speed test we weren’t too far off at 428Mbps, the rest of the results were nowhere near 600Mbps.

    As a general rule of thumb we have found 200Mbps adapters to achieve around 50Mbps, 500-600Mbps adapters to reach around 150-200Mbps (providing they have Gigabit Ethernet ports of course) and then the latest 1000-1200Mbps adapters to reach speeds above 400Mbps.

    We also carried out the same suite of tests using the wireless access point in Location 1 and found the results to be superb with an excellent peak speed of 260Mbps and average of 167Mbps. The large drop-off moving from wired to Wireless that we have seen with previous Wi-Fi enabled powerline adapters is not so pronounced here
    ASUS PL-AC56 Kit ASUS PL-AC56 performance

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Very easy to install
    • Great set of features
    • Decent tested speeds
    • Bottom mounted Ethernet ports

    Cons

    • A tad too pricey
    • Wi-Fi adapter is huge
    • Ignore the 1200Mbps rating
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 1
    You had this Total 0

    ASUS PL-AC56 Wi-Fi Powerline Kit Review

    Is the ASUS PL-AC56 Kit worth buying?

    Our first experience of ASUS’s Powerline Adapters was definitely a positive one. As with the majority of the competition, the installation and setup was as easy as you could wish for. It’s stacked with features such as AC pass-through, multiple Ethernet ports and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. Our speeds received during testing were on the whole excellent and would easily allow for multiple HD and even 4K streaming.

    We did have a few intermittent results in a couple of test locations and the results weren’t quite the best seen with TP-LINK’s 8030 set, but it came very close. About the only negative we could find is the size of the Wi-Fi enabled unit, which is huge for a Powerline Adapter.

    What are the alternatives?

    At £149.99 RRP, this set comes in slightly cheaper than Devolo’s similarly specified dLAN 1200+ although that does have AC pass-through on both adapters and by the looks of it the Wi-FI adapter is normal sized. The main competitor here is the significantly cheaper TP-LINK TL-WPA8630P which offers the same features but at under £100. Given that this ASUS set has not yet been released (estimated end July 2016) we hope that it may be offered under the current suggested retail price. Given the excellent performance received and overall features, we would still give this set our AV Forums Recommended Award with the hope of a price drop upon, or soon after, release.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £149.99

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    9

    Ease of Use

    10

    Connection Speed

    8

    Value for Money

    7

    Verdict

    8

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