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TP-LINK TL-PA8030P Powerline Starter Kit Review

What's in a number?

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

54

Highly Recommended
TP-LINK TL-PA8030P Powerline Starter Kit Review
SRP: £79.99

What is the TP-LINK TL-PA8030P KIT?

For a very simple and extremely cost effective way of getting network access to all those hard to reach areas, Powerline Adapters really are one of the modern home's must have devices. With basic 500Mbps adapters starting from just £20, there really is no excuse to have unsightly cable laid all around the house. Plus, from just £40 you can get adapters with WiFi which really should put an end to having to suffer with low speed and intermittent WiFi signals.

Our last TP-LINK adapter set reviewed back in June 2015 was the TL-PA8010P, rated at 1200Mbps and then costing £82 (now available for just £60) this performed superbly in our tests and came out with our Highly Recommended award. The set we have for review here is the TL-PA8030P KIT which offers the same 1200Mbps rating and the advanced HomePlug AV2 Technology as seen with the PA8010 set, but this time with three Gigabit Ethernet ports per adapter. Coming in at £80 it looks a very attractive and cost effective option, read on to see how it performs in our tests...

Design and Connections

Aesthetically the TP-LINK PA8030P Kit is very similar to the 8010. It has a understated modern look with nicely rounded edges and an all white, hard plastic build. It's not an object of beauty, but if you do have it located where it can be seen it's not going to cause offense. The three Gigabit Ethernet ports are located to the top of the adapter, which as we found with our review of the 8010 it would be much better if they came out of the bottom. Having three cables sprouting out of the top doesn't really add to the overall look.

The kit contains two identical adapters that both feature the much needed AV Pass through feature. Clearly this adds a premium to the price but it does save losing what these days are much needed power outlets. TP-LINK have kept the adapters to a small size meaning they will fit in a double wall outlet without obscuring the neighbouring outlets and also will fit in an extension lead without affecting the other sockets. Using them in four way extensions are never recommended by the various manufacturers, but we've never had a problem with any of the adapters we've tested.

With a slight change to the 8010 adapters, here on the 8030 adapters the LED lights have been moved to the front of the device but still function in the same way. The three LEDs cover the Power to indicate if the device is on or pairing, a Powerline LED to show the network is working and will illuminate green or red depending on the quality of the connection and, finally, the Ethernet LED which illuminates when a device is connected to at least one of the three Ethernet ports.
TP-LINK TL-PA8030P KIT

Is it easy to install?

It's hard to find a device that is easier to setup than a Powerline Adapter, it really is something anyone can do. There is no configuration or settings that need to be tweaked, nor do you have to install any special software for it to work. You simply plug one adapter in near your router, connect it to the router via the supplied Ethernet cable and then plug the second adapter wherever you like. Then just press the pair button on the first device, then do the same on the second and within a few seconds the lights on the front will stop flashing and your Powerline network is setup and working.

These adapters all continue to be HomePlug compliant so you can easily add additional adapters into the network without issue. Even mixing several manufacturers Powerline Adapters won't cause any problems. We have tested with TP-LINK, Devolo and Netgear all in the same network and all use a similar pairing method and work perfectly together. It is worth remembering though that a Powerline network will only work as fast as the slowest adapter, so if you have an old 200Mbps adapter alongside the latest 1200Mbps adapters, you'll be restricted to the speeds that 200Mbps adapter can supply.

TP-LINK TL-PA8030P 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 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 one of the TP-LINK PA8030 Adapters at one end, then with a laptop via Gigabit Ethernet to the other TP-LINK 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.

TP-LINK TL-PA8030P KIT

TP-LINK TL-PA8030P performance

TP-LINK TL-PA8030P KIT
From these results you can see the two top speeds are what is now the current AVForums record speed, a peak throughput of 433.75Mbps and the highest average of 311.96Mbps, both from our location 3 test. Our location 4 test which is in our old, cold and damp garage that is not even on the same wiring circuit still saw a decent top speed of 133.97Mbps.

As we have said with all our Powerline Adapter reviews, you need to be fully aware of the speeds quoted by all of the manufacturers and how they relate to speeds you might see during your real world use. The quoted speeds 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 quote by TP-LINK, that immediately becomes 600Mbps as the very best you will receive but don't expect to get anywhere near that. 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.

The maximum speed of 434Mbps that we achieved during our tests is a decent increase on the 408Mbps seen in the last TP-LINK 1200Mbps rated set we reviewed, but still nowhere near the theoretical maximum of 600Mbps. We do wish Powerline Adapter manufacturers would be a bit more 'honest' with their 'up to' speeds. It's akin to Broadband suppliers claiming you can get a speed 'up to X Mb' when in reality you can't possibly achieve it. Putting the quoted speed issue to one side, this TP-LINK set performed superbly across the board and can easily cope with multiple HD streams and more.

As with the TL-8010P adapters, the TL-8030P uses the latest HomePlug AV2 Technology which supports 2x2 MIMO which uses all three of the neutral, ground and live wires to offer faster speeds and more stable connections. This continues to ring true with the excellent speeds we received during our testing.

Software Utility

You don't need any software to use the Powerline Adapters, but TP-LINK do provide a free utility available from their website which allows you to see the network speed, update firmware, change security options and even the names of the adapters if you so wish.

TP-LINK TL-PA8030P KIT

Verdict

Pros

  • Outstanding 434Mbps speeds
  • Excellent value
  • Easy to install

Cons

  • You won't get 1200Mbps, ever
  • Unsightly top mounted Ethernet ports

TP-LINK TL-PA8030P Powerline Starter Kit Review

Is it worth buying?

If you are looking for Powerline Adapters that offer great features such as three Gigabit Ethernet ports per adapter, the new AVForums record speeds of a peak throughput of 434Mbps and the highest average of 312Mbps, can comfortably cater for multiple HD streams and even 4K if you are so disposed, then you really can't go wrong with this set from TP-LINK. The installation and setup is quick and extremely easy, even the most luddite of users could install these without any issue.

What are the alternatives?

At just £80 for this Homeplug AV2 set, with AV Pass through and triple Gigabit Ethernet ports per adapter there are currently no direct alternatives. No other manufacturer offers a AV21200Mbps rated adapter with three ports. The nearest competitor is likely to be the identically priced Netgear PLP1200 which offers a similar specification albeit with just one port per adapter.

You can get a pair of 500Mbps adapters for as little as £20 these days, although you would have to sacrifice the top level speeds and the excellent AV Pass through. Alongside the TL-PA8010 set, this TL-PA8030 is a worthy winner of our AVForums Highly Recommended Award.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
9

Ease of Use

10

Connection Speed

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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