What are Powerline adaptors?
Powerline is a simple-to-install digital home technology that can provide faster speeds than Wi-Fi for connecting devices to your network, regardless of whether or not they’re in the same room as your router.
It uses your home’s mains power wires to create a network connection that – in many cases – is faster than Wi-Fi. It isn’t limited to gadgets that have an Ethernet port: some powerline kits can create new Wi-Fi hotspots to give you a wireless signal in rooms or areas your router can’t reach.
The best Powerline adapters are usually a better bet than Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters that merely push a weak signal further around a house. An interesting alternative is Mesh Wi-Fi (See our Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks roundup), but Powerline is the fastest and can come with extra Wi-Fi hotspots built in.
Here’s how easy it is to install powerline adaptors. Plug one adapter into a power socket near your router and attach it to the router with an ethernet cable (usually supplied with the powerline kit).
Then go to the room where you want to hook up a device to the network, plug the second adapter into a nearby power socket, and connect another ethernet cable from that to the device you want to get online.
That’s it. It really is plug and play.
What if I need Wi-Fi?
As we’ve said, some Powerline adapters also have built-in Wi-Fi and create a new wireless network in that second room. This means you can get a strong, fast signal for your laptop, smartphone, tablet or other Wi-Fi gadget. If you just want great Wi-Fi coverage across your entire home and not just a new hotspot in one weak room, then consider “Mesh”; read our roundup of the best Mesh Wi-Fi network kits. But Powerline with Wi-Fi is a simple solution that works very well.
What other features should I look for?
You should also consider adapters that have an integrated “pass-through” power socket and therefore don’t take up a valuable wall socket.
The cheapest powerline adapters are usually rated at 200Mbps, the middle-performing are around 500Mbps, and the fastest can go as high as 2,000Mbps.
You won’t actually achieve these speeds as they’re theoretical maximums, but they’re an easy way to gauge which models are fastest.
Also look out for adapters that use the latest Gigabit Ethernet ports, if the adapters are rated at over 500Mbps.
PC Advisor tests powerline adapters in real-world environments so check out our list below for our performance results and recommendations, along with links to our full reviews for speed scores and feature explanations. Some of the adapters we review here were tested a couple of years ago, but the basic technology hasn’t changed much and these are gadgets that you don’t need to upgrade very often, making them even better value for money.
For more information on Powerline speed myths, tips and recommendations read our Powerline FAQ.
Best Powerline adapters 2017 UK – best powerline reviews
We were impressed by the real-world performance of the TP-Link AV2000, which scored as high as we’ve seen in our tests. The inclusion of pass-through sockets on the TL-PA9020P KIT version and two Gigabit Ethernet ports per adapter (on both the TL-PA9020P KIT and TL-PA9020 KIT) are also welcomed. There’s no extra Wi-Fi hotspot function but if your house Wi-Fi is acceptable this isn’t the worst omission. If you want a fast Powerline starter kit with more than one Ethernet port plus pass-through this is highly recommended, and is at decent price too.
This inexpensive kit is great value if you don’t need the absolute fastest speeds possible, and the Wireless Access Point option adds fast Wi-Fi if you need more than simple wired network ports. Although you can buy 1,000Mbps and faster adapters, they won’t double the speed of this 500Mbps set.
More than one port per adapter would have been nice, and the adaptors lack pass-through sockets, but at this price they’re a great option for those on a limited budget.
The TP-Link AV1200 Gigabit Powerline Adapter Starter Kits (TL-PA8010 KIT, TL-PA8010P KIT, TL-PA8030P KIT, or TL-WPA8630P KIT) match their rival Gigabit Powerline adapter sets in our real-world speed tests. We prefer the only slightly more expensive TL-PA8030P as it boasts three Gigabit Ethernet ports, compared to the TL-PA8010P’s single port adapters. If your house suffers from weak Wi-Fi consider the WPA8630P that includes functionality to add a new Wi-Fi hotspot in your house. If your Wi-Fi signal is acceptable you can live without a new hotspot, and the TL-PA8030P especially represents great Powerline value.
The Solwise SmartLink PL1200AV2 Passthrough PIGGY (why PIGGY??) HomePlug Adapter might have an over-long name but it is one of the fastest Powerline adapters we’ve ever tested. In a straight fight with its nearest competitor, the better-looking but bigger Devolo 1200+, it aced the speed tests by a whisker. It features two Gigabit Ethernet ports and a Passthrough socket just like the Devolo, but is a third cheaper. There’s no Wi-Fi model but pound for pound it’s hard to fault this super-speedy Powerline adapter. Don’t forget that you need two to make a network, and can add extra if you want to network other rooms, too.
Both the D-Link AV 500 HD Mini and D-Link AV2 1000 HD Powerline adapters are well built, and discreet – you’ll hardly notice them. The AV 500 adapters were a little slow in our tests but about acceptable for most needs – and they are super tiny! The AV2 1000 HD adapters are a bit larger but were blazingly fast when tested, even beating a 1,200Mbps set of Powerline adapters! You don’t get extra Wi-Fi or pass-through power sockets but at these prices the D-Link Powerline adapters are great value, and will certainly speed up your home network.
The Devolo dLan 1200+ is one of the fastest Powerline adapters we’ve tested to date. It might not reach the dizzying speeds that it claims, but that’s true of all Powerline adapters out there. Its integrated electrical pass-through power socket is a real bonus, and the model with Wi-Fi and two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the second unit, if a little pricy, pretty much has it all. It’s not the very latest model but it still performs excellently. (Not available in the US.)
Read our Devolo 1200+ Powerline Adapter review.
The Netgear PowerLINE WiFi 1000 lacks multiple Ethernet ports on each adapter and doesn’t have handy pass-through power sockets. But it performed well in our real-world speed tests, especially with its second-room new WiFi hotspot. The base unit is nicely compact, and the second adapter looks the part with its two antennae. The price is reasonable for a Powerline with extra WiFi, but you can get cheaper (but not quite as fast) with a 500Mbps Powerline. If you don’t need more than one Ethernet port per adapter but do want to improve your house WiFi speeds the Netgear PowerLINE WiFi 1000 is certainly worth considering.
Read our Netgear PowerLINE WiFi 1000 review.
The Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender performed well in our real-world wired speed tests, but less so from a Wi-Fi point of view despite its unique external antennae that suggested it would be a wireless champ; Asus claims they will improve signal strength at greater distances than adapters with built-in antennae. This second adapter is also pretty large and therefore is less discreet than most adapters we’ve tested. At £156 the PL-AC56 is expensive (about the same as the Devolo 1200+ Wi-Fi but more than the TP-Link WPA8630P), but does boast all the bells and whistles (three Gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi, and a pass-through socket on the base adapter) of the latest 1200-rated Powerline starter kits, and so suits the top-end networking market well.
Powerline adapters are brilliant for making fast and simple home networks, and the Netgear Powerline 1200 models passed our speed and set up tests with ease. Of the two models we think paying extra for the PLP1200 with PassThrough sockets is worth the additional expense compared to the cheaper PL1200. Sadly both are rather limited by their no-frills features, though: one Ethernet port per adapter and lack of wireless mean these are relatively basic but will still make a huge difference to your home network and PC/entertainment download speeds.