What is a Powerline Adapter?

Connect to your Network and Share Media Over Your Home's Electrical Wiring

Netgear AV+ 200 Powerline Adapter

Most home theater components are not in the same room as a home network's router. That wasn't much of a problem until home theater setups began to include network media players, media streamers, smart TVs, Blu-ray players and other home theater components are able to access content from the internet and home PCs and media servers. As a result, it is now important to find a way to connect to your router to access the internet and stream photos, music and movies from media libraries on your home network.

Unless you want to run long ethernet cables through your house or pay to have ethernet cables installed in your walls, you need another, more convenient solution to connect your network media player smart TV and/or other network home theater device.  

What is a Powerline Adapter and How Does it Work?

One way to connect a network media player or similar device to your router is by using powerline adapters. A power line adapter is an alternative to running in-wall ethernet cables, or relying on possibly unstable WiFi because it can send your media files and data over your household's existing electrical wiring just like it would over ethernet cables.

A network media player or other network device connects to a powerline adapter using an ethernet cable.  The powerline adapter is plugged into a wall electrical outlet. Once plugged in, you can use the powerline adapter to send and/or receive media files and data over your home's electrical wiring to a second powerline adapter in another location. The second powerline adapter is plugged into a wall electrical outlet near the location of your router. It is connected to your router using an Ethernet cable. 

Connecting your networked-enabled streaming devices and router to powerline adapters is almost like connecting them directly to each other using ethernet cables. However, while it is a convenient way to connect to your home network, you need to choose wisely, as your powerline adapter should be able to stream high definition video and audio without buffering and interruptions

Different Types of Powerline Adapters

For the best video viewing experience, choose an AV powerline adapter that can better accommodate streaming video from your media libraries or from online. Look for adapters that are rated faster than 300 Mb/s. Note that this does not mean you can stream around your home at that speed, rather it is the total amount that can be sent through the powerline adapter if there is more than one device streaming at the same time.

Some powerline adapters have multiple ethernet ports to accommodate up to four networked devices -- a DVR, a Smart TV, a networked media player, and a game console.

The basic powerline adapter model is large and box-like and can block your outlets where you plug it in. If you get a wall outlet powerline adapter, be sure it is a model that has an electrical pass through the outlet into which you can plug in a component or surge protector.

Because powerline adapters send your music, movies, and photos over the electrical wiring between the outlets where each adapter is plugged in, other household appliances that are also plugged into wall outlets can cause interference that will slow the speed of your streaming media.This can cause buffering, freeze frame, and stuttering issues. Some powerline adapters have power filters meant to clean up this interference. 

Plug the Powerline Adapter Directly Into a Wall Outlet

It is important to point out that most powerline adapters will not work if plugged into an extension cord. Although some surge protectors have one or more powerline compliant outlets ("PLC") that allow a powerline adapter to pass along its data, performance is usually better when the powerline adapter is plugged directly into the wall socket.

Examples of Powerline Adapters For Home Use