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You are here: LAN & WAN LAN & WAN Reviews Actiontec PWR500 and TRENDnet TPL-406E2K Powerline Adapters Reviewed

Actiontec PWR500 and TRENDnet TPL-406E2K Powerline Adapters Reviewed

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Introduction

Actiontec PWR500 and TRENDnet TPL-406E2K 500 Mbps Powerline AV kits

At a Glance
Product - Actiontec 500 Mbps Powerline Network Adapter Kit (PWR500)
- TRENDnet 500 Mbps Compact Powerline AV Adapter Kit (TPL-406E2K)
Summary 500 Mbps powerline adapters based on new Qualcomm Atheros chipset
Pros • Throughput exceeds other 500 Mbps adapters as distances increase
• Very budget friendly
Cons • 10/100 Ethernet port
• Can't reach > 100 Mbps total throughput that adapters with Gigabit Ethernet can
• Not available as single adapters

You might be looking at the cons and wondering how an adapter can be classified as 500 Mbps when it has a only 10/100 Mbps Ethernet port. If you're confused, you're not alone. It appears that powerline marketeers are taking the same approach as their wireless brethren and promoting link-rate throughput numbers far in excess of what products actually deliver in real-world use.

Claiming that a product is "500 Mbps" when it has only a 100 Mbps Ethernet port is like N wireless gear claiming 300 Mbps when they have 10/100 ports or the new draft 802.11ac gear claiming 1300 Mbps while having only Gigabit ports.

But I digress. We know from looking at the performance charts for powerline adapters that actual throughput is nowhere near the advertised throughput anyway. So let's take a closer look at these new adapters and then see how they compare to some of their 500 Mbps competitors.

I first checked the HomePlug Certified Products database for both products and found neither was listed. But on Actiontec's datasheet, I saw the adapter listed as HomePlug certified, so decided to clarify the status with Actiontec. I was told the chipset in the adapter is Homeplug certified, but the adapter itself is still going though the process of certification and they expect it to be certified soon. So Actiontec has gotten ahead of itself on claiming that its adapter is HomePlug Certified.

Unlike other 500 Mbps powerline adapters, and more like the 200 Mbps powerline adapters, the Ethernet ports on both products are 10/100, not Gigabit. The 10/100 port is a design tradeoff Qualcomm Atheros (QCA) made to get everything into the AR7420 chip as you can see in Figure 1 below.

Qualcomm Atheros 7420 specs

Figure 1: Qualcomm Atheros 7420 specs

You can see that the integrated 10/100 controller helps reduce the footprint of the adapters. One adapter from the Actiontec PWR500 and TRENDnet TPL-406E2K kits are shown on the left next to the NETGEAR XAVB5101 that replaces the older XAVB5001.

Adapter comparison size, left to right, Actiontec PWR500, TRENDnet TPL-406E2K, NETGEAR XAVB5101, NETGEAR XAVB5001

Figure 2: Adapter comparison size, left to right, Actiontec PWR500, TRENDnet TPL-406E2K, NETGEAR XAVB5101, NETGEAR XAVB5001

As far as LEDs go, on the TRENDnet we have Power, Powerline Connection and Ethernet. Powerline Connection provides a four state indication of Best (Green), Better (Amber), Good (Red), or No Connection (Off). On the Actiontec we have Power, Link, and Ethernet. Link only appears to give a solid green when connected, regardless of connection quality. This can be seen in Figure 2 below.

Actiontec documentation on LK light

Figure 3: Actiontec documentation on LK light

Inside

The AR7420 specs above provide an indication of what we are going to see inside. Obviously we see the Atheros AR7420-AL3C chip in both adapters. Within that chip are the memory, a three-port capable Ethernet switch, and all the other goodies. The little companion chip you see in each picture above the AR7420 is the AR1540 Line Driver IC, which handles analog interface duties.

Inside shot - Actiontec left, TRENDnet right

Figure 4: Inside shot - Actiontec left, TRENDnet right



Related Items:

Actiontec announces HomePlug AV kit
NETGEAR XAVB5101 Powerline Nano 500 Set Reviewed
TRENDnet Gigabit Powerline Adapters Slip
Cisco Linksys PLE400 and PLS400 Powerline AV Adapters Reviewed
TRENDnet To Ship 500 Mbps Powerline Adapters

User reviews

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Average user rating from: 6 user(s)

NOTE! Please post product reviews from actual experience only.
Questions, review comments and opinions about products not based on actual use will not be published.

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Overall: 
 
2.2 Features :
 
2.7 Performance :
 
2.2 Reliability :
 
1.8
 
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OK for low bandwidth use

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
3.0
Reviewed by Mike
September 17, 2014
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I got the TRENDnet TPL-406E2K Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter Kit on 09/15/2014 for a specific use. I have a Gb switch with two HD Homerun tuner boxes, two Windows PCs, and internet router connected. The Windows PCs used primarily for Windows Media Center and Netflix, with a bit of light web browsing thrown in. Everything except one PC is in one room, and I had been running a 50'+ Cat6 cable to one of the PCs, and the Nano kit was purchased to eliminate that.

Each HD Homerun contains three tuners, which can provide three simultaneous HD streams into the switch. Each PC is configured to use three specific tuners, so no more than that volume of traffic would be routed to one PC.

Initially I was pleased with the results.. the PC was receiving a good signal from the tuner, and I watched an entire evening of baseball with no glitches.

What I failed to take into account was that only one of three tuners available to that PC was in use, and the tuners in the other PC were not used at all. Turns out the signal starts to get shaky when two programs are being watched or recorded on the Powerline connected PC. What I didn't expect is that even when programs are being watch or recorded on the OTHER PC, the Powerline connections start to spaz. Now, this is an unmanaged switch, so I think all the devices see the same high volume of traffic, but only the Powerline devices are overwhelmed.

A managed switch could help by preventing the Powerline devices from seeing traffic destined for the other PC. However, since the Powerline devices could not even handle the traffic for two tuners, I have to go back to Cat6.

Don't have an opinion on reliability rating since I took them out of service after a couple days.

 

Nor Reliable

Overall rating: 
 
2.3
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
3.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Ryan
March 04, 2014
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Works fine when I am home alone but once someone else connects to the internet I lose all internet access

 

Workinhg OK for me so far

Overall rating: 
 
4.3
Features:
 
4.0
Performance:
 
5.0
Reliability:
 
4.0
Reviewed by JB
July 03, 2013
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I just wanted to put at least one good review on here ... I am actually using the PWR514 (which comes with a built-in 4-port hub on one of the adapters. Setup was numbingly simple (plug it in both ends and go) and the link lights immediately went green. No issues connecting from the basement router to a second floor bedroom.

I don't have a good way of testing the overall throughput, but this Actiontec did solve gaming issues that I was having with my previous wireless (N and G) networks.

 

Actiontec PWR500

Overall rating: 
 
1.7
Features:
 
3.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Joe
February 17, 2013
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Worked the first time but then it wouldn't link any more. The LK doesn't come on at all not even when the units are plugged into the same outlet. Tried resetting but still no luck. Wish I would have read these reviews before purchasing.

 

AVOID

Overall rating: 
 
1.0
Features:
 
1.0
Performance:
 
1.0
Reliability:
 
1.0
Reviewed by Rich
October 07, 2012
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Extremely unstable product with zero product support. The product only comes with a Quick Setup Guide which refers you to the website for more info. The only info on the website is a softcopy of the Quick Setup Guide. Product has trouble syncing even when plugged into outlets on the same outlet box. Avoid this product.

 
 
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