Everything seems to be network connected these days, from your Blu-ray player right up to your Fridge/Freezer. However, many older properties might not be Wi-Fi friendly, so the rise in the use of Powerline Adaptors certainly doesn't appear to be slowing down. There are plenty to choose from, with many manufacturers such as Netgear, D-Link, TP-Link and, what is currently regarded as the cream of the crop, Devolo, all producing various shapes, sizes and styles, with useful features such as AC Pass-through. The WPA4220KIT from TP-Link is widely available for under £70 (RRP £89.99) and contains two adaptors, a 'nano' sized main Powerline adaptor and a Wireless Extender Powerline adaptor. The kit aims to extend Wireless access to those hard to reach places that even a standard Powerline adaptor can't reach. Features include the standard wired 10/100 Ethernet connections, one button security, instant plug and play setup and a pair of Ethernet cables. We've been impressed by the Powerline Adaptors from TP-Link we've reviewed to date, so let's see if the inclusion of the Wireless extender feature can continue their winning streak.
Styling and Design
The pair of Powerline adaptors in the TP-Link TL-WPA4220KIT keep to the same design as the TP-Link kit we reviewed recently here. The main Powerline Adaptor in the kit is very small indeed and almost identical in size to the tiny Netgear AV500 Nano adaptors. The Wireless Extender adaptor is larger, as you would expect given the additional components inside, but both are small enough that they won't obscure neighbouring sockets. The main adaptor has a single 10/100 Ethernet port located to the bottom with the pair button on the front of the device. The Wireless Extender adaptor has two 10/100 Ethernet ports to the bottom, alongside the pair button, with the wireless clone button on the front below the LEDs.
To the front of the main adaptor we have the usual row 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. The Wireless Extender adaptor keeps the same three LEDs but with an additional Wi-Fi/Wi-Fi Clone LED, which blinks quickly once the wireless function has been enabled. A basic but functional setup which offers everything you would need. The devices have a good solid feel to them and the build quality is high. Our only gripe here is that the Wi-Fi LED would have been better if it remained solid once the wireless function was enabled. If the adaptor is in an area where you will see it all the time, the constant fast flashing of the LED could become annoying.
As with our last TP-Link review the setup is as easy and simple as you could wish it to be. You plug the main adaptor in and connect it to your router, press the pair button, then plug the Wireless Extender adaptor in and press the pair button on that one. Within a few seconds both devices are up and running. Then after about 30 seconds you should see the Wi-Fi LED flashing to indicate that is setup too. Should you wish to use the Wi-Fi Clone feature you simply press the WPS button on your router (if it has one), then press the Wi-Fi Clone button on the Extender. After 30 seconds or so your Wi-Fi will now be cloned. Although during our testing we found the standard Wi-Fi option as fast, if not faster on several tests than with the Wi-Fi Clone feature. The security is 128-bit AES Encryption with the Wireless offering 802.11 b/g and n. The kit comes complete with two Ethernet cables, a resource CD and a couple of installation guides.
Both adaptors in the kit are fully compatible with Homeplug AV and you can easily add a third or more Powerline Adaptors to the network by simply plugging it in, pressing the security button on one of the other devices, then on the new device and within 60 seconds (actually took about 10) it will be all connected and setup. As we were still in possession of the pair of adaptors from our previous review we connected both of those, then plugged in the Wireless Extender adaptor and after the quick setup it was all up and running, providing wireless access to yet another room of the house! Extremely simple and very effective.
Performance and Testing
One of our few gripes with the TP-LINK Powerline adaptors reviewed recently were the misleading claims of 'Up to 500Mbps' data rate that was plastered all over the packaging. Sadly this new product is no different and we also have the addition of a claimed Wireless speed of 'Up to 300Mbps'. Both are clearly unachievable speeds due to TP-Link's inclusion of just 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports which means you won't ever get faster than 100Mbps either wired or wireless with a single pair of adaptors. Disappointing labelling and marketing here, but we can't be too critical of TP-Link as this appears to be an industry wide issue. Just be aware when looking at any of these devices that unless they have a Gigabit Ethernet port, you will only ever get 100Mbps with a single pair of Powerline Adaptors.
Using our favourite bandwidth software DUMeter, our full connection speed available from our broadband connection of 40Mbps was achieved both using the wired and wireless connections. Downloading a 1GB test file took just 2-3 minutes, which was as fast as we could expect. HD Netflix streaming was instant and without any freezing or other issues. Using an iPhone 5 we achieved a top speed of 36 Mbps with the wireless connection. On paper the speeds we measured should be easily within the capabilities of these adaptors, but it's another tick in the box to see them achieved and without any issues.
Now with the file transfer section of our testing, which is where we should see speeds far in excess of our internet download testing, whilst keeping in mind the maximum of 100 Mbps due to the 10/100 Ethernet ports. Using both the wireless and wired connections the download and upload speeds received were very impressive. With the wired connection we saw an upload peak of 95 Mbps and a download peak of 96.7 Mbps, very close to the 100 Mbps maximum achievable. We then saw equally as impressive speeds of 91.7Mbps upload and 86Mbps download on the wireless connection. We have reviewed Wireless Extenders before from the likes of Netgear and found the speeds obtainable using these were disappointingly low, so to see just a slight drop in speed going from wired to wireless was very impressive indeed. Using either connection, the speeds available should be fast enough to comfortably transfer files across your network quickly.
TP-Link Powerline Utility
Finally there 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
- Wireless extender and clone
- Misleading 'Up to 500 Mbps' claims
- Only 10/100 Ethernet ports
TP-Link WPA4220KIT Powerline Extender Starter Kit Review
Our recent review of TP-Link's Powerline Adaptor PA451 kit with AC Pass-through found a product that performed very well, with an almost instant setup, and at a very keen price point. We were therefore curious to see whether this was a fluke or indicative of TP-Link products in general. Based on our experiences with the WPA4220 Powerline adaptor kit with Wireless Extender, we can safely say that it's the latter. With a price of £89.99 (available for less than £70 if you shop around), the Wireless Extender package is very competitively priced and during our testing certainly appeared to comfortably tick all the boxes.
Again, we found the setup time to be minimal. Barely a minute will have passed before you have a fully enabled Powerline network complete with a fast wireless access point filling in those hard to reach areas that even a standard Powerline adaptor cannot access. You simply plug one adaptor in with an Ethernet cable to your router, press the pair button, then plug the second (Wireless Extender) adaptor in and press the pair button on that. Allow up to a minute (although barely 10 seconds in our experience) and the setup is complete. No messing about with settings or configurations but remember to make a note of the wireless key before plugging the adaptor in.
With Homeplug AV compliance, expanding the network is as easy as plugging your new device in and pressing the pair button on one of your existing devices and then on the new one. If you want 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. As we have noted previously, we found the speed claims of 'Up to 500Mbps' for Ethernet and a new 'Up to 300Mbps' for Wireless to be rather misleading, as these speeds will never be achieved. The 500Mbps quoted speed combines both the uplink and downlink speeds, so the theoretical best you would ever see is 250Mbps but due to the inclusion of 10/100 Ethernet ports, you won't get more then 100Mbps.
We did however measure very fast speeds, close to the maximum 100Mbps top speed achievable, during our review. The wired test speeds peaked at 95Mbps up and 96.7Mbps down, whilst our wireless tests delivered equally as impressive speeds of 91.7Mpbs up and 86Mbps down. To see these kind of speeds during the wireless testing is excellent and the speeds seen here are fast enough for any kind of HD streaming service such as Netflix and to transfer files quickly across your network. This is another product from TP-Link that offers great value, very fast performance and an almost instant setup, making the WPA4220KIT one you should definitely consider.
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