My friends are constantly arguing whether powerline adapters are actually any good.
One of them uses them in his current gaming setup and swears by them, saying they give him a flawless connection. Another one says that they just can’t provide the same quality connection as a direct ethernet connection.
So, I decided to pick a pair up myself. Firstly, to put an end to their argument once and for all. And secondly, to maintain a solid connection to my Macbook when I’m upstairs without going crazy when the wi-fi disconnects in the evening when the house is full.
Are powerline adapters any good?
The main reason that I opted to try a powerline adapter is that I don’t really want to run a long ethernet cable through my house if I can avoid it. Sure, it’s an option – but that’s a lot of work, which can supposedly be completely eliminated by using a powerline adapter.
I’m using my laptop upstairs whilst the router (well, Virgin Media hub, which is a router and modem rolled into one) sits downstairs. With many of us working from home now, the wi-fi network gets congested with devices, especially in the evening.
But I do have a good internet package (200mbps). So, there’s no reason why my bandwidth shouldn’t be enough to cope with an Xbox, 4k streaming and my laptop usage at the same time. And despite what you may have heard, using ethernet doesn’t slow down your wifi.
And when I use my laptop downstairs, it works fine. But the wi-fi signal struggles to reach the second floor of my home. This is (hopefully) where the powerline adapter steps in and helps me to maintain a solid connection even when several devices are using the internet at once.
What are powerline adapters, and how do they work?
At their simplest, powerline adapters take advantage of your home’s electrical wiring to connect a device directly to your router. When you order a powerline adapter set, it’ll come with two plugs, and two fairly short ethernet cables.
So, you simply put the first plug into your the power socket, which uses an ethernet cable to connect into the back of one of your w-fi router’s ethernet ports. Then, you link the first plug up with the second plug – they connect to each other using the electrical wiring that runs through your whole home.
We’ve linked the two powerline adapters together using your electrics. The first one is linked up to your wi-fi router. Now, we simply connect the second one to your laptop, computer or other electronic device’s ethernet ports.
Using a powerline network an easy way to get a wired connection from one room to another without having to run cables through your house. Although it might seem pretty amazing to some, it’s actually just an innovative way to make the most of your home electrics.
If you live in a flat and have to pre-pay your electric, then it knows when you’ve run out, right? It does this by sending a control signal, and it’s similar for powerline adapters too. So, they’re just a way to get an ethernet cable anywhere around your whole home.
How to set up a powerline adapter
The good thing about powerline adapters is that they’re very simple to set up. Most of the models out there are plug and play, which means you can get them active within just a few minutes. I ended up going for the TP Link AV600 starter kit, so that’s what I’ll be running through how to set up here.
The first thing we need to do is plug both adapters into the power socket in your wall. Ideally, you’ll want to do this in two plugs next to each other at first. We’re just connecting the two together, and it’s easier to do this if they’re very close to one another.
Now, we just need to pair the two adapters together. They actually both have pair buttons on them, so this is straightforward to do. Press the first one’s pair button, and then make sure you press the other one within a minute.
They’re now connected. All you need to do now is connect the cables to the ethernet ports – one to your router, and one to the device you want to have wired connectivity. As you can see, they’re very easy to install.
Pros and Cons
Whilst there are some good things about these adapters, there are also some potential negatives to think about as well. It’s only fair that we run through both.
TP Link AV600 – The best Powerline adapters?
In the realm of routers, wi-fi and internet gadgets in general, the name TP Link is held in pretty high regard. Although they’re effectively a relatively cheap brand headquartered out of China, they’ve managed to corner much of the global market when it comes to internet technology, especially in the UK.
With a maximum speed of 600mbps, this is going to be more than enough for most people. You can considered upgrading to a better set if you want a super fast connection, but that will often be overkill for the average home network.
They also come with a good range of up to 300m, which means that they can be used in offices or businesses as well as within the home. You do need to make sure that they’re working on the same powerline though, as they won’t connect to an external building.
An example of this is an extension that may not run off the same powerline as your mains. It’s also worth mentioning that low price adapters like mine only have one ethernet port for you to use. You could consider upgrading to a set like the N300 adapter if you desire two gigabit ethernet ports to use.
Though I would have liked slightly longer ethernet cables, this is quite typical with adapters like this. If you need extra length, it may be worth purchasing some additional cables to use that can reach a little further.
So, if you’re looking for the best powerline adapter within a pretty tight budget, then it’s hard to look past the TP Link AV600 set. For the price, it’s hard to find anything out there that compares on the existing market.
Potential Alternatives to a Powerline Adapter
Another method of improved your wifi speeds is by opting to use wifi booster. Like powerline adapters, they’re not without their critics. Essentially, they receive the wifi signal from your router or hub, amplify it, and then push it back out.
Even the big brands like Virgin and Sky have their own wi-fi boosters now. So if you’re with a major wi-fi provider, you may be able to get one free if you let them know your signal is weak in certain areas.
If your wi-fi speed is slow in several areas around your home, a mesh network could be the right choice. You can have 2, 3 or more mesh hubs to connect too, which can help extend your wi-fi power and increase connectivity.
For almost everyone reading this, a dual band router should be more than enough for all your wifi needs.
But if you have multiple gamers within the same household, or if you have several different people streaming 4k at the same time, then an extra wi-fi band may make sense. For UK users, you can still use a router with your home hub if you’re with Virgin.
Conclusion & Verdict
All in all, I’d definitely recommend that you opt to try a set of powerline adapters if you’ve never used them before. You can pick them a TP Link set of adapters up for a cheap enough that it’s at least worth trying if you want that extra reliability that opting for wired offers.
Though I have spoken to friends who have had issues with them, I can only really speak on my own experience. For me, they’re an easy way (even if you hate technology) to get faster wi-fi speeds upstairs and rooms away from your router.
If you’re tired of your work laptop suffering because your kids are streaming games or playing video games on your home wi-fi network, then a powerline adapter is for you.
And similarly, if you’re fed of your parents working from home and hogging all the wi-fi whilst you’re trying to play Animal Crossing or COD, then a set of adapters might be just what you need.