ASUS PL-N12 Wi-Fi Powerline Kit Review

Bottom mounted ports!

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

ASUS PL-N12 Wi-Fi Powerline Kit Review
SRP: £65.00

What is the ASUS PL-N12 KIT?

Powerline adapters are really one of life’s technical gems. If you have ever shaken your fist at the buffering symbol when streaming due to having a very poor Wi-Fi signal or have had to find inventive and often costly ways of getting network access to that far corner of your house, then Powerline Adapters really are your saviour. With budget sets coming in now at just £20 and £40 for those offering Wi-Fi, it’s never been a better time to get rid of your home network gremlins.

Hot on the heels of our last Powerline Review, the well performing and top spec £150 1200Mbps ASUS PL-AC56, we now have their more budget offering up for consideration. The PL-N12 Kit includes a pair of 500Mbps rated powerline adapters with one featuring 802.11n Wi-Fi. Gone are the features such as AC pass-through and even Gigabit Ethernet ports, unfortunately, but then it is only £65 which appears reasonably priced when compared to the likes of Devolo’s dLAN 550. Read on to see how it fares in our tests…

Design and Connections

The PL-N12 Kit includes two adapters, both rated at 500Mbps. The first adapter (PL-E41) includes one Fast Ethernet port for connecting to your router whilst the second adapter (PL-N12) includes two Fast Ethernet ports, plus 802.11n Wi-Fi. They aren’t stacked with features unfortunately with no Gigabit Ethernet ports and no AC Pass-through either.

Similar to our last ASUS Powerline Adapter review, the design here is slightly more developed than the usual TP-LINK and Devolo offerings we are used to. The familiar hard white plastic shell is present, but ASUS have added a nice touch with a raised diamond chequer plate effect to the front of each device. One item of an aesthetic nature that we have mentioned many times in the past is the insistence on top mounted Ethernet ports which results in cables sprouting out of the top and looking very unsightly. Thankfully, ASUS have not followed the crowd here and both adapters feature bottom mounted ports. At last! Although a slight downer is the inclusion of black CAT5 cables which ruins the white theme.

Both adapters feature the familiar array of LED lights that we have seen before. On the non-Wi-Fi adapter we have the Power, Powerline and Ethernet LEDs and on the Wi-Fi enabled adapter these are mirrored along with a Wi-Fi 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 WiFi using your router's SSID and password.

In our last review we bemoaned the huge size of the Wi-Fi adapter in the PL-AC56 Kit, here in the N12 Kit it is the opposite. The non Wi-Fi adapter is probably the smallest Powerline Adapter we have ever seen measuring just 70 x 50 x 36mm and the Wi-Fi adapter isn’t much bigger at 98 x 55 x 40mm. If you have a double wall outlet, these definitely won’t cause you any trouble with getting anything in a neighbouring socket.

ASUS PL-N12 Kit

Is it easy to install?

There isn’t too much to say with regards to setting up Powerline Adapters. Hands down they are the easiest item to install of this class you could ever hope to see. No settings need to be configured, nothing needs to be installed on a computer and you need zero technical knowledge to install one. If you can plug the kettle into a wall, then you can set a Powerline network up. Here with the ASUS set, you simply plug the first adapter into a socket nearest to your router, then plug the Wi-Fi adapter into a socket wherever you fancy. Press the pair button on each device and after 5-10 seconds it is all up and running. It’s really that simple.

The Wi-Fi adapter includes the option of either cloning your existing Wi-Fi or just using the default Wi-Fi access point available on the adapter. The easiest option is just to clone the Wi-Fi which is done by simply pressing the WPS button on your router and the clone button on the adapter, although whenever we have cloned Wi-Fi networks before they never seem to work as good as having a separate network, so our preferred option would be to connect to the default ASUS Wi-Fi access point. Should you also have an ASUS router, you can also make use of their ‘Roaming Assist’ feature which ensures your devices always lock onto the strongest connection.

These Powerline Adapters from ASUS are all HomePlug compliant, which allows for additional adapters to be added from other manufacturers, so you don’t have to have a Powerline network of all the same make adapter. We have tested with Netgear, Devolo, TP-LINK and ASUS and all happily work together. We do occasionally experience a slightly longer pairing process but once completed the different adapters don’t 'argue' with each other too often.

If you have an existing Powerline Network, it is recommended that you ensure the fastest adapter is connected to your router. For example, if you have an old 200Mbps adapter connected to your router, then have top spec 1200Mbps adapters fitted elsewhere, you won’t be seeing the benefit as these will be restricted to the speed that 200Mbps adapter can supply.

ASUS PL-N12 Kit

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-E41 Adapter at one end, then with a laptop via Gigabit Ethernet to the PL-N12 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-N12 performance

ASUS PL-N12 Kit
Rated at 500Mbps with just Fast Ethernet ports we knew prior to testing we weren’t going to receive the sort of speeds we see from the top spec 1200Mbps adapters, but allowing for that the results we got as you can see in the table above were impressive in most areas, even in our location 4 test in a damp old garage. The maximum speed received of 124.62Mbps is excellent, although slightly puzzling given that the specifications claim the ports are only Fast Ethernet which is restricted to 100Mbps.

The speeds above are very similar to those of TP-LINK’s TL-WPA4530 we reviewed back in March, head to head we think the ASUS set just pips it in terms of overall speed although not in features as it is missing the excellent AC pass-through. For just £65 our results show this set would certainly be able to handle HD streaming, although if you plan on having multiple HD streams or 4K, you may have to look to the more expensive 1200Mbps adapters.

Our main bugbear with Powerline Adapters are the quoted speeds (or link rate) used by all of the manufacturers in their literature and on the box. They suggest a very high speed is possible but what you actually will receive will be nowhere near it. We’ve moaned about this many times in the past and sadly it is just not going to change. The quoted link rates are the maximum speeds the adapters could achieve in laboratory conditions. Take 500Mbps for example, that includes both the up and down streams, so immediately becomes 250Mbps, then in budget models that feature just Fast Ethernet ports (although strangely not with this ASUS set) you are then restricted to 100Mbps. So from a figure on the box of 500Mbps, you actually are more likely to get under 100.

As a general rule of thumb we have found 200Mbps adapters to achieve around 50Mbps, 500-600Mbps adapters to reach anywhere from 100-200Mbps (providing they have Gigabit Ethernet ports of course) and then the latest 1000-1200Mbps adapters to reach speeds above 400Mbps.

We also repeated the tests using the wireless access point in Location 1 and found the results to be superb with a peak speed of 99.21Mbps and average of 75.16Mbps. Again these results are very similar to TP-LINKS WPA4530. We didn’t suffer a large drop-off moving from wired to Wireless either that we have seen in the past with other Wi-Fi Powerline Adapter kits.
ASUS PL-N12 Kit

Verdict

Pros

  • Effortless install
  • Decent design
  • Bottom mounted Ethernet ports

Cons

  • You won't get 500Mbps, ever.
  • Slightly too expensive given the missing AC pass-through

ASUS PL-N12 Wi-Fi Powerline Kit Review

Is the ASUS PL-N12 Kit worth buying?

Whilst not featuring the likes of Gigabit Ethernet ports and AC pass-through that you get on the more expensive adapters, it does have a Wi-Fi clone option and also ASUS’ Roaming Assist feature. The Wi-Fi is just 802.11n, but in this 500Mbps class dual band and 802.11ac wouldn’t really be beneficial anyway. With the speeds we received this set should happily cope with HD streaming.

The setup is child’s play yet again, the adapters are very compact and the diamond chequer plate effect does add a nice touch. We can’t really find any negatives with this set other than our continuing gripe with the way manufacturers use the impossible to achieve speed ratings on their literature and boxes.

What are the alternatives?

The Powerline Adapter world is a very crowded one these days. There are several options if you are looking for a budget 500Mbps set with Wi-Fi. As mentioned in the review the best alternatives to this ASUS set is TP-LINK’s TL-WPA4530 which currently can be found for just £60 and Devolo’s dLAN 550 which is close in specification terms is still too expensive available for around £100, although both of these feature AC pass-through which the ASUS set is lacking. Unfortunately due to that it is more in comparison with TP-LINK's TL-WPA4220 which we reviewed over three years ago and can now be found for just £40. If the price drops the ASUS PL-N12 could be a contender, but not quite at the current price level.

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of Use

10

Connection Speed

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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