Here at AVForums we would certainly like to shake the hand of whoever it was that came up with the fantastic idea of using your home's internal electrical wiring to create an instant and reasonably fast home network. Wireless access is great but a lot houses aren't wireless friendly, creating dead zones where poor network ready devices just sit in a corner, unloved. This is no longer the case with the Powerline adaptors widely available today. They easily allow you to extend network and internet access to parts of the house you previously thought impossible, without having unsightly cables running everywhere or drilling numerous holes through walls.
The Powerline adaptors we have for review today are from the ever popular provider of networking products, TP-LINK. At an RRP of just £60 the TL-PA451KIT comes with two 500 Mbps Powerline adaptors, each with a 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, one button security, instant Plug and Play setup and a pair of Ethernet cables. The highlight of these adaptors are that they offer AC pass-through which means you no longer have to lose an electrical outlet to accommodate one. All the Powerline products we have reviewed recently from manufacturers such as Netgear have all performed superbly, so read on to see how this latest impressively priced set performs.
Styling and Design
The pair of Powerline adaptors in the TP-Link TL-PA451Kit do not stray far from the usual design with a simple white casing with a light blue/grey front. They are very similar to many other manufacturers, with a functional and basic look. The two adaptors in the kit are identical with a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port located at the bottom alongside the pairing button. Slots for ventilation are to be found at each side although they only get slightly warm during use. The main benefit these have over the basic Powerline adaptors is the AC pass-through, meaning you no longer have to lose an electrical outlet to accommodate these. The size of the adaptors are impressive particularly given the AC pass-through and they appear a lot smaller than other manufacturers equivalent adaptors. They are also small enough that they won't obscure neighbouring sockets.
To the front of each Powerline adaptor we have a set of three LED lights. A Power LED which shows if the adaptor is on or in power saving mode, Powerline LED to show when the device is connected to a Powerline network or transferring data and lastly the Ethernet LED which lights up solid when a device is connected to the Ethernet port and flashes when transferring data. A very basic setup but offers everything you would need. The connections feel secure and the devices have a good build quality to them.
TP-Link have kept the setup as effortless and simple as and installation could not be any simpler. You basically plug the first device in and connect it to your router. Then plug the second one in and that's it. Within 60 seconds both devices are up and running. For the security conscious you also have an easy one button security feature. Press and hold the Pair Button for one second, then go to the other room where you have your second device, plug it in and the press the Pair Button on this one. After just 60 seconds you will have a fully secure network using 128-bit AES Encryption. The kit comes complete with two Ethernet cables, a resource CD and an installation guide.
Adding a third or more Powerline adaptors is also very simple, just plug it in and press the security button on one of the existing adaptors, then the same on the new device and it will connect itself to the existing Powerline network. The adaptors are fully compatible with Homeplug AV.
Performance and Testing
As we have found with the Powerline 500 adaptors from Netgear, TP-Link are rather naughty with their 'Up to 500Mbps data rate' that is detailed all over the packaging and implied in the name AV500. You won't ever get a 500Mbps data rate from any of these devices. Firstly, the quoted speed combines both the uplink and downlink speeds, which therefore gives a theoretical maximum of 250 Mbps. But you won't even see speeds that high as both adaptors in the kit only have a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port meaning the best you will ever get is 100 Mbps. We would have preferred to see Gigabit Ethernet ports here but we have found that very few, if any, manufacturers include them or anticipate that you would get higher than 100 Mbps anyway.
Using DUMeter software we found that our full download speed available on our internet connection of 40 Mbps was achieved. Downloading a 1GB test file took barely a couple of minutes as expected. With HD Netflix we saw peaks of 30 Mbps whilst the stream was starting which then settled down to between 2-4 Mbps whilst it was playing. No freezes or stuttering occurred. These speeds should be well within the capabilities of these Powerline adaptors anyway, but it is good to see that they achieve them without issue.
Onto the file transfer section of our testing and we should see speeds well above our internet download testing above, whilst keeping in mind the maximum of 100 Mbps due to the 10/100 Ethernet ports. As you can see from the DU Meter screenshots below we saw impressive download speeds of just under 93 Mbps with an even better upload speed of just under 99 Mbps which is just below the very maximum we could hope to achieve. Then with testing both download and upload speeds at the same time we saw a pretty much equal split of the 100Mbps available. Very impressive results with a great speed and a stable connection too. The speeds seen here should be fast enough to transfer files across your network quickly and without any data failures.
TP-LINK Powerline Utility
The final point to mention is a free program available (albeit a bit too well hidden) from TP-LINK's website called the PowerLine Utility. It can be run from any PC on the network regardless of whether it is directly connected to a Powerline adaptor and gives a visual display of the current connection speed. It also allows you to rename each device, upgrade the firmware and change the QoS settings to a few different pre-sets such as Internet, Online Game or Voice over IP for example. You can find the utility here: TP-LINK PowerLine Utility Software
- Very easy to use
- Plug and Play
- Install and setup in seconds
- Excellent value for money
- AC Pass through
- Rather naughty 'Up to 500 Mbps' claims
- Only 10/100 Ethernet ports
TP-Link AV500 Powerline Adaptor kit with AC Passthrough Review
Having reviewed a number of products from Netgear recently that have done exactly what they said on the tin with setup times of literally a minute or two, we were keen to see how this compared with other manufacturers. When it came to the TL-PA451KIT from TP-LINK we were not disappointed and the pair of Powerline adaptors in this kit are certainly impressive. At an RRP of £60 (around £50 if you shop around) they offer great value for a pair of adaptors with AC Pass-through.
The setup time is literally as long as it takes you to go between the two rooms where you have the adaptors installed. One is located near your router and the other in a room of your choice, plug both in and press the security button on each and within seconds it's all setup. That's all the installation and setup you will ever need to do. The Powerline adaptors are Homeplug compliant meaning adding a third or more is trouble free and should you wish to delve more deeply into the settings you can download the free Powerline Utility software from TP-LINK which allows you to change various basic settings and check the speed of your network.
We do find the claims of 500Mbps speeds rather spurious though and find it slightly naughty that they are quoted everywhere you look. TP-LINK are certainly not alone in this and it is akin to Internet Service Providers who offer 'up to' speeds, which you are never likely to achieve. With 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports, you won't get more then 100Mbps speeds anyway plus as the 500Mbps quoted speeds combine both the uplink and downlink speed the theoretical best you would ever see is 250Mbps.
However, basing our results on the 100Mbps top speed achievable we were very impressed with the TL-PA451 pair of adaptors. During our file transfer tests we achieved excellent speeds of over 90Mbps even getting close to 100Mbps in one test. This is more than enough to transfer files quickly across the network and way ahead of any top speed you would need to comfortably watch a HD streaming service such as Netflix. With the excellent value this set offers coupled with the instant setup, very fast performance and with no data failures or other issues, the TL-PA451KIT from TP-LINK is certainly worthy of your consideration.
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