WiFi, 3G, and 4G connections to our devices have frequently spoiled us with almost universal access to data. Nine times out of ten, if I am connecting to the internet it is in a wireless fashion. However, there’s always that one old desktop that you want to run Linux on or an old non-connected game system. Or maybe you just want to set up another wireless access point on the second floor of your home, but you don’t have a wire or a way to run a wire through your wall. That’s all changed with devices like TP-Link’s AV500 Gigabit Powerline Adapter kit.
So how does it work?
The word Powerline in this product’s name should give you a big hint about what I’m talking about. Powerline refers to the lines in your house that you normally use to provide power to your devices, and it can now also be made to carry data.
The kit consists of two adapters that have a normal US plug and an Ethernet jack. You plug one end near where your cable modem, DSL or main router is in your house, and the other end goes in the location where you need the data. When you plug it in, you press the button on the first adapter and then you have 2 minutes to plug in the second adapter. Once you do this, you have a secure link between each adapter.
This works in a similar way to AM or FM radio. In AM or FM, you voice will change or in radio terms, modulate the base signal or carrier with your voice. In the case of this adapter, your data will modulate the AC power signal. It does this while also making it transparent to devices that are using the power so your laptop , TV or anything else you have will be unaffected.
Examples of locations you might want to use this could be your basement (which is where I put mine), near where your entertainment center is, a bedroom, or anywhere else that you want to have an ethernet jack. You can plug the cables that come with it into your computer, or do like I’ve done and plug it into another router or switch. Doing this gave me a total of 3 ports for connecting computers, including the little nano router that TP-Link also sells.
So how does it perform?
Once set up, I found that I was very pleased with the speed of the connection. My router is only a 100 Megabit version, so I wasn’t able to truly test how fast the connection could be. With that said, I’ve streamed Netflix over it, applied updates to multiple Linux boxes at the same time, and more — and they never missed a beat.
So why do you want to use something like this?
With ubiquitous wireless connections, why would you want to use this when you can find WiFi? almost anywhere? Well, in my home, I’ve noticed that WiFi will become sketchy whenever my microwave is on. This is actually quite normal, because WiFi usually runs near the same frequency as your microwave. While I won’t lose connection altogether when the microwave comes on, it does slow way down. This can play havoc if you want to have a Skype conversation while your family makes a bag of popcorn for a snack. If you are connected via a wire, this isn’t a problem. in fact, I’ve never dropped a call or had any issues with this adapter. I will, every once in a while, have an issue with my own wireless network. Another example is in the case of streaming HD video. While it’s possible over WiFi, it’s flawless when you connect your Roku, Apple TV, Nexus Q or Google TV with something like this. Anytime you want an absolutely solid connection to the network, I would opt for Ethernet or a device such as this rather than bridging from your wireless network to ethernet.
With easy installation and a flawless connection, you can’t go wrong using this when you absolutely do not want your connection to fail. The TP-Link AV500 is a great device, and I am more than pleased with its performance. The connection is solid once established, and it works very well. If you want to stream HD video to your TV, then this is the way to do it — especially if your TV is someplace that isn’t close to your router.
Price: $92.30 on Amazon.com
What I like: Easy installation and good reliable connections
What I didn’t care for: These DO have to plug DIRECTLY into the wall socket and they are large, but it’s worth it for the performance you get; the included cables were short