Today I’m reviewing the pair of TP-Link 1000 Mbps Gigabit Powerline Starter Kits that I bought earlier this year to improve our network at home. If you haven’t already, please read yesterday’s post for some context, although I’ll summarise here too.
My aim was to improve the network speeds on some of the devices that I own, thus freeing up Wifi capacity. I went with Powerline (also known as HomePlug) because it would be less disruptive to install than Ethernet cables.
The TP-Link units were well-reviewed on Amazon, averaging 4.5 stars with over 1000 reviews at time of writing. I needed three adaptors; unfortunately I could only find them in packs of two, and so ended up buying four. At the time, this set me back £80, but they’re now down to £36 for a pack (so £72 for two).
Installing the Powerline adaptors
Setup is a doddle. Each starter pack includes two Powerline adaptors, and two standard two metre Ethernet cables. You plug one adaptor into a wall socket near your router and connect it up with an Ethernet cable, and then use the other adaptor and cable to connect to your device in another room. Ensure the adaptors are switched on at the wall, and your device should connect, just like it would if there was a direct Ethernet cable linking it to the router. Repeat this for any additional adaptors – you can use more than two in the same home.
There’s no special software to install, and unlike Wifi routers, there’s no configuration either. It’s literally just ‘plug and play’.
That being said, each adaptor has a ‘Pair’ button, and it’s recommended that you press this on each adaptor in turn. This encrypts the signal between each adaptor, so if there’s any signal leakage with a neighbour, their Powerline adaptors won’t be able to connect to your network and vice versa. It’s a bit like enabling WPA on your Wifi, and it doesn’t seem to have any discernible effect on performance.
Speaking of performance, the TP-Link adaptors seem to work well. The speeds and latency are certainly better than I was getting over Wifi. Internet-based tests like Ookla’s Speedtest seem to suggest that I’m able to take full advantage of my internet’s connection speed.
As I mentioned yesterday, our household electrical wiring is of variable quality and I was concerned that the older wiring would affect speeds. This doesn’t look to be the case, and the Powerline signal works across our fuse box to serve different electrical rings.
It is worth pointing out that you ‘lose’ an electrical socket when using these adaptors. This isn’t much of a problem for us; when we had the downstairs rewired, we deliberately installed far more sockets than we needed. If you are short of sockets, then you can pay extra for adaptors with a pass-through capability. They work the same but you can still plug another AC device in; however, they cost £50 for a pair, rather than £36.
As I was starting from scratch, I deliberately bought two pairs of adaptors from the same manufacturer. The good news is that HomePlug is an agreed standard (IEEE 1901), and these TP-Link adaptors comply with the HomePlug AV2 specification. This means that if I wanted to expand the network even further, I could theoretically use any HomePlug AV2 compliant hardware to do so – I wouldn’t necessarily need to buy TP-Link equipment again. As it is, I have a spare adaptor since I only needed three.
I’m really impressed with the TP-Link Powerline units. They deliver a good, fast connection, and have worked well in the couple of months that I’ve had them. Whilst it would have been nice to save a bit of money and buy a pack of three adaptors, rather than two pairs, at least I have a spare adaptor for future expansion.
If you have problems with your Wifi speeds or signal strength – especially if your home is around 100 years old and built of stone, like ours – then Powerline adaptors may be a good solution for you.