Ethernet over Powerline Adapter Buying Guide

It is a little-known fact that you can actually turn the powerlines of your house or apartment into Ethernet connections. It takes a special kit, but this is a great way to extend your signal around your property. Read on to learn about the best kits to buy.

Types of Ethernet over Powerline Adapters

AV2 Adapters

The current latest generation of powerline adapters is called AV2. AV2 offers many advantages over the older AV generation. In terms of sheer quality, AV2 adapters have better throughput, meaning that they are capable of higher maximum speeds. They support a new feature called Multiple Input Multiple Output, or MIMO. It is possible to have several adapters in one network, and MIMO boosts the performance of the adapters in that case. AV2 adapters also act as repeaters for the signal over the lines. That means if the device or devices that you want to connect are extremely far away, you can boost the signal by adding an adapter to an outlet that is between the network origin point and the device. All of these advantages are quite useful. However, it is probably not necessary to make an upgrade if you already have an older set of adapters: the extra cost will not give you much more value over the adapters you have now. If you do not have a set of adapters, then this is a good opportunity for you to jump in.

Older Adapters

You can still buy a lot of the last-generation powerline adapters if you look for them. There are a few good reasons for doing this. For example, if you are looking for a good deal and you do not care about the new features on AV2, then you can get an older model for less money. The savings will be decent, but not amazing, because these older sets are less likely to go on sale than newer ones. It is true, though, that you should not need to worry too much about the top speed of the adapters. Usually it is your Internet plan that caps your speed, not your hardware. That means you do not need to take the speed into account as long as it is "good enough" to cover the speeds you get normally. In general with powerline adapters, the individual feature sets and form factors will usually matter more than the generation. However, that said, if you have the chance to buy AV2 or AV and the price difference is not large, then AV2 is probably better value. It is more future proof and many of the current best adapter sets are AV2 anyway.

Pay Attention to

Size and shape

A well-designed powerline adapter will be small enough to fit onto one plug without blocking the other plug in the outlet. This can be tricky, because there needs to be room for an Ethernet port, but it is doable and it ensures that this small gadget won't take up two spots in your outlet.

The presence of a passthrough plug

A passthrough plug is a standard outlet on the back of a powerline adapter. It lets power flow through the adapter so that you can still use the plug normally. This is a very useful feature because it means you give up nothing in terms of outlet space if you use the adapter. The limitations can really add up because you will need at least two adapters and likely more.

The durability

If at all possible, try to learn how long-lasting these products are before you buy them. As with any electronic device, the cheaper ones tend not to last as long, and that can be irritating if you come to rely on them. You don't want to have to buy new adapters again before it is absolutely necessary.

The listed speed

Although usually you will never reach the maximum speeds on the box, higher maximum listings generally mean you will experience better speed. This is especially true when it comes to multiple devices. The key is the fact that the network speed will be limited to the speed of the slowest component, so you don't want one part of your network to be holding up traffic.

Price

Of course, you want good value for your money here. It is not anything that will improve performance directly, but merely a way to extend signal in a better and more efficient manner to distant computers. You should not invest too much in a device that can be beaten out by using WiFi in the same room as your router.

Top Brands and Product Lines

Powerline adapters are relatively new, but they are a growing market. The best models are probably from the company ZyXEL. Their 1200 Mbps AV1200 starter kit is under $90 for two adapters and delivers excellent speed at good value. For the top of the line in speed, Netgear has the Powerline 1200 at about the same price, although the unit is big and bulky, with a tendency to block outlets. It all comes down to your needs. There is a tier of powerline adapters at significantly higher prices, but they tend not to offer much better value. Try to stay below $100 and look at ZyXEL and Netgear in particular. They have some of the best offerings and are reasonably priced. Sales and deals can bring the price down even more.