A Review of TP-Link Powerline

If you are looking for a decent alternative to running Ethernet cables throughout the house; then you could be buying TP-Link Powerline Homeplugs for your secure home network needs.

The range of “starter kits” (a pair of adapters) and single more specific units means that you can customise your secure home computer network without resorting to miles of cat6 or unreliable short distance wi-fi. If you are using a desktop computer in your spare bedroom/office then you hardly want to resort to wireless to create a static connection, right?

A Pair of Powerline PA251 Adapters

A Pair of Powerline PA251 Adapters.

For this new network connection I have purchased a pair of TL-PA251 Powerline Adapters but the company have also got a range of wireless and mini adapters that let you build your home powerline network just the way you need it! If you have a need for three different network outlets, NO PROBLEM; in the UK if you buy selected  products, you can get a third compatible adapter free for a limited time only!

Using the adapters is really easy; you plug them both in, press the pair button on each for 5 seconds and within 2 minutes of each other. That pairs the first two adapters into your very own personal LAN and you can use technology, the only problem I have found though is that the supplied Power Packet Management Utility was not one that was Windows 7 friendly. A quick support mail fired off to TP-Link HQ and a link was sent back to an updated Management Utility.

What Needs Managing?

When you use the Powerline utility software there is a few important features that you will need. Firstly the ability to network all your devices together; just because you are using the power network in your own home it does not mean that others can not see it. Most power networks in the UK rely on 3-phase supplies, generally one-third of properties will be on the same electricity phase as you and that means that within 300m they can possibly see your network.

The TP Link software allows you to manage all the adapters that are on your network; there are two ways to manage this, either by connecting directly to the Powerline adapter via an Ethernet patch cable, or by knowing the adapters unique passcode to access it remotely. On the adapters I have, the passcode is located on the underside of the unit, this means it would need to be unplugged in order to be accessed, logical thinking to deter snoopers if you ask me!

As we have already mentioned above, the software is not strictly necessary if you are simply pairing two devices to create a secure link. Most Powerline devices now come with a simple system of pairing by using switches in the hardware. For these TP Link units you have to hold the button on the first for approximately 5 seconds and then do the same to the second adapter within a 2 minute period.

You don’t just need to use the software to manage your network though. You can also see the reliability and effectiveness of your Powerline computer network. I bought a pair of 200Mbps adapters to go with my (entry level) Virgin Media Cable Internet which is at 30MB/s and so I expected that my adapters would work at around half that. Wrong. My adapters are usually transfering data at around 180Mbps or if you convert it 22.5MB/s….

That is not bad considering that it has to go through my (so crap it’s in Modem Mode) Virgin Media Super Hub and my (so much better than the Super Hub) TP-Link WR1043ND Router to get to the Powerline in the first place… that’s lots of Ethernet and then the main electric system to get from one to the other!

Need Something Faster?

If you are using an Internet connection that is much faster (Virgin Media now offer cable up to 120MB) then you are going to want faster Powerline equipment to deal with that. The fastest consumer units that are currently available on the Internet are around the 500Mbps mark; assuming a small markdown for signal degredation you could expect throughput of around 35MB/s with the PA411KIT and the company are in the process of releasing 500Mbps adapters with AC pass-through sockets as well!

Uses for Powerline

credit: Mhare/Wikimedia Commons

This is the really good bit, you can replace any network with a Powerline system and extend it within the 300m range. If you have a townhouse with more than upstairs/downstairs then you can find that your wireless signal struggles to broadcast through to the top floor of the loft. You can even get a Wireless Powerline Adapter which has a built in 802.11n capable transmitter and is perfect to take the tablet computer to the bedroom!

Likewise if you have a separate home office that you need an Ethernet print server, VoIP service and a computer connected to that is great, use it with a simple unmanaged switch and you have access for 4 wired devices.

The only restraint that you have is the number of HomePlug you can have in your network; in the case of TP-Link then you can have either 6 or 8 adapters depending on the model you are using. If you need more than 8 adapters then you have some serious structural issues in your home, like it being way too big!

Rid Your House of Cables

Getting rid of the trunking running through your house will give you a sigh of fresh air. I hate having Ethernet running around the walls and through floor cavities; so for a clean top solution I have TP-Link providing me with a quality network around my home.

If you need to extend your network, go for a Powerline.

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