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If you've got a large home, or simply need to extend a fast low-latency wired connection to another corner of your house without running wires, then you'll want to get the best Powerline Network adapter. These network extenders come in pairs to use your in-home electrical wiring to drop one or more Ethernet connections anywhere that you can find a power outlet.
These differ from Wi-Fi extenders in that they’re designed to extend your wired network, rather than increasing the range of your Wi-Fi, which means they can be invaluable for getting network access into areas that your Wi-Fi router can’t reach, or where you simply need to hardwire into a solid and reliable connection your game console or media center.
While some Powerline network adapters also come with their own built-in Wi-Fi access points, you can pair any of these with one of the best Wi-Fi extenders or even a good wireless router if you also need to create a new bubble of Wi-Fi somewhere else in your home.
Here are the best Powerline network adapters to extend your network connection into those hard-to-reach corners of your home.
Good wired speeds
Plug switching issues
With the TP-Link TL-PA9020P AV2000 Powerline adapter and its high-speed data transfer rate of up to 2Gbps, you'll be able to get maximum network performance to anywhere in your home. Our testing showed that setting up the TP-Link is a snap: The first adapter gets plugged into the wall and router via Ethernet cable and the second adapter gets plugged into a wall outlet near the device(s) you want to extend your network to. With two Gigabit Ethernet ports available, you can connect two devices at once, such as a video game console and television, which may save you the need to add an extra hub, and the pass-through electrical outlet ensures you can still use your AC outlet even when the adapter is plugged in.
The TL-PA9020P also features one-touch pairing, 128-bit AES encryption for maintaining a secure signal over your home wiring, plus intelligent LED indicators for notifying users about the strength of their connection. Compliant with Home Plug AV2, the 5.2 x 2.8 x 1.7-inch TP-Link includes 2x2 MIMO beamforming technologies to create simultaneous point-to-point connections through your home for maximum performance.
"If you’re energy-conscious, the TP-Link kit also has a power-saving mode which can reduce consumption by up to 85 percent." — Jordan Oloman, Product Tester
Single port only
Sensitive to electrical wiring issues
TP-Link's TL-PA7010P is a solid choice for those who don’t want to spend a lot of money and don’t need blazing fast speeds for multiple devices. While it’s not as fast as some of the more expensive models, it still offers 1Gbps of throughput which will be more than sufficient if you only need to extend one or two wired devices into another part of your house. It’s also a bit large, but there’s a pass-through AC plug which means you won’t be wasting an outlet, and a power saving mode means it sips electricity when not in active use.
The TL-PA7010P also features the same plug-and-play configuration as TP-Link’s other Powerline adapters, which means you should be able to get going in a couple of minutes just by plugging them straight in and connecting your router on one end and your smart TV, game console, PC, or even a small hub on the other. It should be more than fast enough to handle 4K UHD streaming for up to two or three devices, although your mileage may vary depending on the electrical wiring in your house as this one can be a bit more sensitive to wiring problems and electrical noise.
"Getting maximum speeds from a Powerline Network Adapter can be tricky, since it depends very much on the wiring in your house; always be sure to plug them directly into wall outlets and avoid using extension cords or power bars. If you have an older home, you may want to consider using a Wi-Fi Extender instead." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Poor socket placement
Capable of offering speeds of up to 1.2Gbps, our testing showed that the Netgear PL1200 is more than ready to handle 4K streaming and lag-free gaming. You can even connect multiple adapters to expand the reach of your network throughout your home.
The 6.54x7.28x3.23 inch PL1200 sets up with a plug-and-play approach. Just connect the first adapter to the router via Ethernet cable and the second adapter into an outlet near the device you want to link up. Once both connections are set, the PL1200 does the rest while offering a one-touch button for encrypting the network to protect against intrusion. Like competitive models in this space, the Netgear adds an energy-friendly mode that powers down after a set time of inactivity, which helps minimize the impact on your energy bill.
"With an upper limit of 1.2Gbps in download, the sky really is the limit with this adapter, and it can even be applied in a small business setting where the network is already very strong." — Jordan Oloman, Product Tester
Utility software is clumsy and unintuitive
Offering pass-through and Home Plug AV2 2000 compliance, the Zyxel PLA5456KIT is an excellent Powerline networking kit. Featuring two Gigabit Ethernet ports for multiple device connectivity, the front of the Zyxel features LED status lights for notifying users of signal strength on its 7.4x9.2x3.8 inch design. Plus, with MIMO technology, the Zyxel can offer improved speeds for game consoles and televisions, including streaming Netflix in 4K.
Setting it up is easy too, so you'll be up and running right after plugging the first adapter into your router and placing the second adapter at or near the devices where you need a connection. Offering speeds up to 1.8Gbps, the Zyxel can easily be monitored through the downloadable smartphone app. You can even block potentially intrusive devices to keep your network connection secure.
"If you plan to extend your network reach to more than a single device, it’s a good idea to pick up a Powerline network adapter with more than one Ethernet port, since this can save you the trouble of having to add an unsightly hub or switch to your living room." — Jesse Hollington, Tech Writer
Inexpensive way to expand wireless coverage
Easy to set up
Speeds could be higher
If you want to extend your wired network, the Netgear Powerline PL1010 is an excellent budget choice. Using the existing electrical wiring in your home, you can deliver an Ethernet connection to nearly any area that needs one. In a day and age when so many devices require fast internet to properly function, this inexpensive solution can be a lifesaver. With speeds up to 1Gbps, the PL1010 boasts enough horsepower to deliver long range and fast performance.
Easy to set up, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be ready to go with the PL1010 in a few moments. The included adapter plugs directly into your modem or router. The Powerline adapter is then plugged into any outlet where you need an extra Ethernet jack for a game console or wireless access point, and since it uses your household wiring, unlike a Wi-Fi extender you can set it up anywhere in a home regardless of obstructions like walls and doors.
What makes Netgear's budget-friendly products so great? Simplicity. This is a plug and play device that has almost zero barrier to entry. Performance is ideal for 4K streaming or multiplayer gaming online.
No AC passthrough
Small and compact at 3.4x0.2x2.4 inches, the D-Link DHP-601AV is a standout offering for HD streaming. While the D-Link lacks a pass-through power socket, the focus here is on the compact design alongside AV2 technology that delivers speeds of up to 1Gbps, ideal for multiplayer gaming, larger file transfers, and HD video streaming.
Adding an additional level of security to your home network, the D-Link features one-touch security that automatically encrypts its connection at 128-bit AES, although there’s no software available for smartphones or PCs to monitor the network to detect and prevent intrusion. What the D-Link lacks in software and pass-through it more than makes up for with a rock-solid performance that handily works with HD video while allowing more units to be added if you need to wire in additional devices.
TP-Link's TL-PA9020P is a powerful adapter that offers incredible performance and a versatile design. If you're looking to simply extend a wired connection for one or two devices on a budget, the TP-Link TL-PA7010P is also worth a look.
Jesse Hollington is a freelance writer with over 10 years of experience writing about technology and three decades of experience in information technology and networking. He's installed, tested, and configured just about every type and brand of router, firewall, wireless access point, and network extender in places ranging from single-family dwellings to office buildings. university campuses, and even coast-to-coast wide-area network (WAN) deployments.
Jordan Oloman is a proud Geordie from Newcastle in the United Kingdom and is passionate about adventure games, pirate archaeology, and how technology can improve your productivity. He has written for Tech Radar, PC Gamer, Kotaku, Eurogamer, IGN, GamesRadar, and RockPaperShotgun, among many other gaming and tech publications.
Jeremy Laukkonen is an experienced tech journalist with a background in automotive repair that has taught him the importance of breaking down complex technical subjects in understandable ways. He specializes in VPNs, antivirus, and home electronics, and manages his own automotive blog on the side.
In an era of Wi-Fi routers, Powerline network adapters are a category of
networking accessories that often go under appreciated, since most people don’t give much thought anymore to plugging in wired devices, but they can actually be an extremely useful—and affordable—way to get internet access to distant corners of your home.
Whether it’s a matter of wiring up a game console or home entertainment system that’s far from your router, or simply getting a bubble of Wi-Fi into an area where your router can’t quite reach, a powerline network adapter can be an ideal solution, since it uses the electrical wiring that’s already in your walls to extend your network without the need to worry about issues like interference and range.
While powerline network adapters are great for what they do, they’re not for everyone, and there are some important things to consider when deciding if getting one is the right solution for your needs.
For example, if you’re primarily interested in getting more Wi-Fi devices online, you may be better served by a long-range router or a mesh Wi-Fi system, both of which are designed expressly to push a Wi-Fi signal around a larger home, and some of the best of these can easily provide enough range to blanket a home of 5,000 square feet or more with solid and reliable Wi-Fi.
Still, there are times when even the best routers and mesh systems can’t quite deliver the performance you need into every corner of your home. Walls, ceilings, floors, and even appliances can interfere with getting a reliable wireless signal around your house, and this can be even more problematic depending on the construction of your home.
Powerline network adapters are a more reliable way to get network coverage into remote parts of your home, and they’re also a much more cost-effective way to go if you’re on a budget. This is especially true if it’s simply a matter of getting a network connection extended into a room on the other end of your house or to another floor in your home to hook up one or two wired devices, such as a game console or home entertainment system that don’t really need a Wi-Fi connection anyway.
Powerline adapters normally come in pairs, and are used to extend a wired connection from one place in your home to another using the existing electrical wiring that’s already in your home. Each powerline adapter usually includes at least one Ethernet port, allowing you to create a connection between any two points with electrical outlets just as if you were running a physical Ethernet cable.
So to extend internet to another portion of your home using powerline network adapters, you plug one unit into an electrical outlet near your router and connect it to your router it with an Ethernet networking cable, and then plug the other unit into a remote section of your home. Once the two powerline adapters have linked up with each other, which usually happens automatically a few seconds after you plug them in, you can use the Ethernet jack on the remote unit to plug a device in just as if you were plugging it directly into your router.
Early adapters that used powerline technology weren’t known for being particularly fast, but don’t let some of those bad stories dissuade you—the technology has evolved in leaps and bounds in the past few years, and today most powerline adapters provide a minimum of 1Gbps of throughput, and it’s not uncommon to find 2Gbps adapters on the market now as well.
Just keep in mind that, like Wi-Fi router specs, these are theoretical maximum speeds, and your mileage can actually vary quite a bit depending on the quality of your home wiring. Our recommendation in this case is to buy a bit more than you need, so if you think you’re actually going to need to push 1Gbps through a powerline adapter, then pick up a pair of 1.5Gbps or 2Gbps units.
Powerline adapters normally work on a “point-to-point” basis, meaning that you set up one at your router and another located where you want to plug in client devices. This means that if you’re looking to hook up more than one device on the other end, they’ll all be sharing the same powerline connection, so keep the in mind when you’re looking at the throughput of a powerline adapter.
In other words, if you install a pair of 1Gbps powerline adapters, and then plug in a dozen devices, then they’ll all be sharing that single 1Gbps pipe. This may not be a big deal since you probably won’t be using them all at the same time, but it’s an important factor to keep in mind if you’re looking to support a whole other section your home where multiple family members may be connecting, especially if you’re also going to use it to create a new bubble of Wi-Fi access.
Keep in mind as well that many powerline network adapters only provide a single Ethernet port, so if you plan to hook up more than one wired device, you’ll need to look for one with multiple ports, or add your own network hub.
Although some powerline adapters do offer built-in Wi-Fi support, that’s a bonus feature and not inherently part of what powerline technology is designed to do—the primary objective is simply to deliver a wired connection on the other end. So if you want to extend your Wi-Fi network as well, you’ll need to look for a powerline adapter that specifically includes integrated Wi-Fi or add your own wireless access point.
Note that just about any Wi-Fi router can also act as a wireless access point, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money on getting one with a lot of features, since you’ll only be using it to allow Wi-Fi devices to get onto your network, so an inexpensive budget router will easily do the job.
In fact, while it’s slightly more complicated to setup than simply buying a mesh Wi-Fi system or a long-range router, you can get a powerline adapter and an inexpensive wireless access point for a fraction of the price of a mesh Wi-Fi system, so it’s a good option if you’re looking to save some money.
There are actually a few different powerline standards out there, with the most popular modern standard being HomePlug AV2, which offers the fastest performance—speeds in excess of 1Gbps. There’s also HomePlug AV with speeds of 200Mbps or 500Mbps (sometimes marketed as AV500), and the earlier HomePlug 1.0 and HomePlug 1.0 Turbo devices that provide 14Mbps and 85Mbps, respectively.
There’s also another competing standard, known as G.hn, that’s a little bit less common, but was made popular among some vendors as it was the first to offer the kind of higher speeds and lower latency that some users—especially gamers—demand.
In fact, G.hn is arguably still a better standard in many ways, as it provides some of the fastest throughput of any powerline adapters we’ve seen. Unfortunately, however, the lack of wide support means that if you invest in G.hn powerline adapters your ability to expand your powerline network in the future will be more limited.
However, keep in mind that the performance of powerline adapters that use the modern HomePlug AV2 standard should be more than fast enough for most users, and as a rule HomePlug AV2 adapters are usually a bit easier to work with, making them our recommended choice for those who prefer a “set-it-and-forget-it” kind of setup.
While powerline adapters normally come in pairs, it’s possible to add additional units if you want to connect other areas of your home. Doing this normally only requires that you buy a compatible powerline adapter—one that supports the same standard as the ones you already have—and then just plug it in and go through a relatively straightforward pairing procedure.
Just remember that all of your powerline adapters will still be sharing the same overall network speed. So even if you have five 2Gbps HomePlug AV2 adapters around your home, you only get 2Gbps shared between all of them.
Also, while different speeds of HomePlug AV and AV2 adapters can be mixed and matched, your powerline network can only operate at the speed of the slowest adapter, so if you add a HomePlug AV500 adapter to a group that has a pair of 2Gbps HomePlug AV2 adapters, you’ll be dragging everything down to 500Mbps speeds.
Lastly, HomePlug 1.0 adapters can coexist on the same power lines as HomePlug AV/AV2 adapters, but they can’t actually talk to each other—they’ll act as two separate networks. This also means that they won’t interfere with each other, however, so if you already have older HomePlug 1.0 devices you don’t need to rip them out if you’re planning on adding a new pair of HomePlug AV2 units.
One of the biggest caveats to buying a powerline network adapter is the quality and layout of the electrical wiring in your home. While powerline adapters promise some amazing performance specs, you’ll only see these under ideal conditions.
In short, maximum throughput requires that your powerline network adapters be on the same electrical circuit. This means they both need to be plugged into outlets that are hooked up to the same circuit breaker at your electrical panel.
Of course, this may defeat the purpose of a powerline network adapter if you’re looking to extend Wi-Fi to a distant corner of your home, since it’s unlikely that these outlets will be on the same circuit. However, this doesn’t rule out the ability to use a powerline adapter, or even to get acceptable performance from it, but it’s going to be very dependent upon the wiring in your home and how its arranged at the panel, and you’re definitely not going to get the maximum advertised throughput.
For those with an understanding of how household wiring works, this has to do with which phases your circuits are on, as well as having a proper ground and a proper neutral that’s common to all phases. However, if you don’t understand any of that, don’t worry about it, as there’s likely nothing you can do about it anyway unless you spend a lot of money to hire an electrician. Our advice is that if you’re not sure how well powerline adapters are going to work for you, just make sure that you buy them from somewhere that has a good return policy in case you find that they don’t work as well in your home as you might hope.
In all but the most extreme cases, however, you shouldn’t have a problem getting your powerline adapters to communicate with each other, but you might not get the gigabit-plus performance that’s listed on the box. Whether this will be a problem will depend largely on what you plan to use them for. Hooking up a TV or set-top box to stream Netflix, even in 4K, will be just fine with a 25Mbps connection, which even the most basic modern powerline adapters should be able to deliver, but you may not be able to get the kind of low-latency performance that’s needed for serious online gaming.
Since powerline networks travel over your home wiring, technically speaking anybody in your neighbourhood could conceivably tap into your network. As a result, the powerline standards like HomePlug and G.hn all include built-in encryption to keep the data that’s travelling across your wires secure.
Conceptually, this is the same as the encryption used on your Wi-Fi network, although it’s even easier since your client devices don’t need to know about it; with powerline adapters, the encryption is only between the adapters themselves. This is done using a Network Management Key, or NMK for short.
When you buy a pair of new powerline adapters in the same kit, they’re normally shipped preconfigured with the same NMK, so that all you have to do is plug them in and you’re ready to go. LEDs on the powerline adapters will light up once they’re plugged in and securely linked together. Adding a third adapter can be a bit more complicated, as you’ll have to go through a pairing process to link it up using the same NMK.
This differs slightly between manufacturers, but with most HomePlug AV2 adapters, it’s usually as simple as pressing a couple of buttons as you plug the new adapters in. On the other hand, older HomePlug AV adapters can be trickier as they usually require you to use a software utility or web interface to do this from your computer.
TP-Link has been in the powerline network adapter business for years, and much like its routers, the company offers a wide range of HomePlug AV and AV2 adapters to meet a variety of different needs, including one with a built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi extender, and another that offers some the fastest HomePlug AV2 performance you’ll find.
Another household name in networking gear, Netgear’s powerline adapters run the gamut from simple and affordable to ultra-high speed units with built-in Wi-Fi support, and are designed to be really easy to get up and running with a minimum of fuss.
While you may have heard of Extollo since it doesn’t make general networking gear, this company specializes in powerline adapters, and makes some of the highest-performance systems available. The downside is that it’s chosen to rely on the less common G.hn standard to accomplish this, so your options will be limited to buying more Extollo units if you ever want to expand your powerline network, but the performance Extollo’s adapters provide over standard HomePlug AV2 kit is hard to beat.
While we can’t argue the point that the most reliable way to get a network connection to another part of your home is to run your own Cat 6 Ethernet cables, the reality is that’s not a viable option for most people, and a powerline network adapter is far more cost effective and definitely less labor-intensive.
If you’re simply looking for extended Wi-Fi coverage, we’d definitely suggest at least considering a long-range router or a mesh Wi-Fi system, as these are usually a bit less complicated to deal with, and unless you have a very expansive home and need very high-speed coverage at extreme ranges, they’re generally worth the investment. However, a bigger and better router may be overkill if all you need to do is support a couple of wired devices in another room, and a powerline network adapter is generally a far more reliable way to go than a Wi-Fi range extender, and often more affordable too.