The best HomePlug kit

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6 of the best bits of kit for HomePlug / Powerline networking
Wireless is a quick and convenient networking technology, but there are problems. Aside from the obvious ones of speed and range, a fair amount of kit — such as some media streamers, TVs and Blu-ray players — don’t support it. So if you’ve got kit you’d like to get online and wireless isn’t cutting it, powerline networking could be the answer. David Ludlow, editor of Expert Reviews, tells you what you need to know.
TL-PA4030KIT
TL-PA4030KIT
eBay loves: Great price and uses a fast standard
Watch out for: No pass-through power sockets
RRP: £50

If you’ve got a few devices that need connecting to your HomePlug adaptors, the TL-PA4030KIT is a great choice. This AV2 500Mbit/s kit comes with two adaptors, both of which have three network ports built in. At just £50 for the kit, it’s surprisingly good value, although the lack of pass-through power sockets is disappointing.


Netgear XAVB5601
Netgear XAVB5601
eBay loves: Very quick, pass-through power sockets
Watch out for: Quite large
RRP: £70

If you’re after pure speed, the Netgear XAVB5601 is a great choice. This AV2 500Mbit/s kit comes with two adaptors, each with a single Ethernet port and a pass-through power socket. They’re a little large, but if you want the best performance, look no further.
Zyxel PLA5205 TWIN
Zyxel PLA5205 TWIN
eBay loves: Small size and great price
Watch out for: No pass-through power sockets
RRP: £40

Using the latest AV2 HomePlug standard (600Mbit/s), the Zyxel PLA5205 is one of the fastest HomePlug kits out there. What’s more, the adaptors’ small size means that they’re unobtrusive and plug in neatly out of the way. Only the lack of pass-through power sockets is disappointing.
Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+
Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+
eBay loves: Wi-Fi and extra Ethernet ports
Watch out for: Wi-Fi performance could be better
RRP: £90

If you want to extend your wireless network, the Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ kit could be the product for you. One of the 500Mbit/s adaptors plugs into your router, while the other has three Ethernet ports and an 802.11n Wi-Fi access point. Pass-through power sockets are just the icing on the cake. If you need to extend your wireless network and add more wired ports, this is the kit to buy.
BT Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 500 Kit
BT Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 500 Kit
eBay loves: Decent Wi-Fi performance, extra Ethernet ports
Watch out for: Only one adaptor has a pass-through socket
RRP: £90

BT’s kit is another one for extending Wi-Fi. One AV2 500Mbit/s adaptor has a pass-through power socket and connects to your router; the other doesn’t have a pass-through socket, but has 802.11n Wi-Fi and two Ethernet ports. Wi-Fi performance is pretty good and the extra Ethernet port handy.
TP-Link TL-PA251KIT
TP-Link TL-PA251KIT
eBay loves: Low price, pass-through sockets
Watch out for: Uses the older 200Mbit/s standard
RRP: £28

This 200Mbit/s kit might not have the latest technology, but the TP-Link TL-PA251KIT is great value for two adaptors, especially since they have pass-through power sockets. Performance is pretty good, making these a great choice if you want to get internet access in another room.
Networking over the mains
Powerline networking is a wired network technology. Rather than having to run dedicated cables, as you would if you wanted to install a pure Ethernet network, powerline networking uses your home’s mains wiring instead.

You need a minimum of two powerline adaptors to get everything working. One plugs into a mains socket close to your wireless router, connecting via an Ethernet cable. A second plugs into a socket near the device you want to get online and again connects via Ethernet. The router and the remote device then communicate through the power line adapters, just as though they were directly connected via an Ethernet cable. You can add more devices by adding extra powerline adaptors all over your home.
 
Standards and speeds
There are different standards for powerline networking, although HomePlug is the most common and the best to go for. HomePlug adaptors from different manufacturers are compatible with each other.

Two common standards are AV2 (with speeds of 500Mbit/s and 600Mbit/) and AV (200Mbit/s). The standards are compatible with each other, but to get the best performance, use adaptors with the same standard and speed. There’s also an older 85Mbit/s standard, but we don’t recommend it and products aren’t that much cheaper than newer, faster ones.

Although each standard quotes you a throughput speed, these are theoretical maximums. You’ll generally get around 150Mbit/s from AV2 products and 80Mbit/s from AV products, which is still comparable with the best wireless speeds.
 
Plugs and sockets
HomePlug devices should be plugged directly into a wall socket to get the best performance — extension cables can reduce speeds and reliability. If you don’t have many spare sockets, you can buy adaptors that have pass-through sockets. You just plug the HomePlug adaptor into a wall socket and other electrical devices into the adaptor.
If you’ve got multiple devices together that you need to connect to a network, look out for HomePlug adaptors with multiple ports. You can also connect a small Ethernet switch directly to an adaptor and use its ports for multiple devices, although this solution isn’t quite as neat.

You can even get HomePlug adaptors that have built-in wireless access points. This is a handy way of extending your wireless network, without having to run cables under the floor or use a wireless repeater.
 
Security
There’s a slight danger that any network traffic transmitted over your power cables could make it onto a neighbour’s network. For this reason, HomePlug supports security to encrypt your network. Push-button security exists on all devices, letting you quickly connect new adaptors. Should this not work for any reason, you can manually set your own HomePlug password using the provided software.
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