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LAN & WAN Reviews


Like HomePlug AV, 500 Mbps devices are protected with 128 bit AES encryption. All HomePlug AV 500 devices come set with the same default key, so you can just plug and play.

As noted earlier, all devices in this roundup have buttons that can be used to set the security code. Setting the code works like setting up a Wi-Fi WPS connection. You press the button on one device until a LED starts blinking. You then have two minutes to press the button on a second adapter to complete the setting.

Each product, except the Belkin, comes with a utility (Windows only) that also can be used to set the security code and provides some other optional administration features. All the utilities rely on WinPCap, which they will automatically install if your system doesn't already have it.

Each of the utilities detected adapters from other manufacturers and mostly provide the same features. They differ mainly in presentation format. So if you don't like the utility that came with your adapter, hit the product support page for another product, download and install its utility and enjoy!

Figure 11 shows one of the screens from the NETGEAR utility, which I think is the best of the bunch.

NETGEAR utility - settings screen

Figure 11: NETGEAR utility - settings screen

You can click through the gallery to see what each utility has to offer.

Image Gallery


I tested all the adapters at three locations in my home using this newly-documented procedure. Since I am testing kits, I tested pairs of the same make/model adapters that came in each kit. The exception is the four-port ZyXEL PLA4225, which I tested with one of the single-port adapters in the PLA4205 kit.

I ran separate up and downlink tests at each of three test locations . I also ran simultaneous up/downlink and four-stream tests at Location A. All results have been entered into our newly-created Powerline Performance Charts.

Although I have previously tested the TRENDnet TPL-401E2K and NETGEAR XAVB5001, I decided to test them again, to have a fresh data set. I checked for updated firmware for each device, and only updated the TRENDnet with the firmware found on its download page.

Figure 12 shows average uplink throughput for all three test locations and Figure 13 shows downlink. Both the current crop of 500 Mbps adapters and data for 200 Mbps adapters from the previous roundup are shown.

Average uplink throughput

Figure 12: Average uplink throughput

Most of the 500 Mbps adapters look similar. But the NETGEAR XAVB5001 pair is significantly lower than the ZyXEL, TRENDnet and D-Link products, with up and downlink throughput averaging in the mid 60 Mbps range.

Average downlink throughput

Figure 12: Average uplink throughput

The average plots don't show the real story behind 500 Mbps powerline adapter performance, however. For that, we need to compare performance in each location. Figure 13 does just that for four adapters running downlink. (I'm showing only four because that's the most that the chart tool can show at once.)

Downlink throughput vs. location - 500 Mbps adapters

Figure 13: Downlink throughput vs. location - 500 Mbps adapters

It's clear that throughput drops off significantly—more than 70% worst case for the Belkin adapters—when you move from outlet to outlet with AV 500 adapters. The results can be correlated to distance, since Location A is at one end of my home, Location C in the middle, and Location E at the opposite end.

In contrast, AV 200 adapters don't reach the lofty 100+ Mbps peaks that the AV 500's do. But their throughput remains relatively constant across the test locations.

Downlink throughput vs. location - 200 Mbps adapters

Figure 14: Downlink throughput vs. location - 200 Mbps adapters

You can have fun with the new Powerline Charts and run comparisons to your heart's content.

Like 200 Mbps HomePlug, the 500 Mbps flavor also has more bandwidth than it will give to a single network stream. Running simultaneous up and downlink tests produced total throughput close to 200 Mbps for the best adapters (D-Link, Belkin, ZyXEL) down to 123 Mbps for the NETGEAR. This effect tops out at around four simultaneous tests, as shown by the Four Stream chart in Figure 15.

Total Throughput - Four Stream test

Figure 15: Total Throughput - Four Stream test

Four streams eked out a bit more throughput than two for highs topping 230 Mbps. Note the much lower results for the NETGEAR adapter pair and the one set of 200 Mbps powerline adapter results for the NETGEAR XAVB2501 pair at the bottom of the chart. Keep in mind that both the simultaneous up/dn and four-stream tests were performed only at Location A (same outlet). So you'd get much lower total results in real-world use.

Closing Thoughts

The good news is that, like its 200 Mbps predecessors, 500 Mbps HomePlug AV compatible powerline products produce much more consistent throughput than you'll get from any wireless networking technology. They also won't produce 500 Mbps of throughput any more than "200 Mbps" adapters produce close to that number, either.

If you're lucky, you might get more throughput out of "500 Mbps" powerline adapters than you will from their "200 Mbps" cousins. But, given the significant price difference, I'd first try a pair of 200 Mbps adapters and bump up to 500 Mbps if they don't produce the speed that you need. Of course, if you like to overpay for bandwidth, you can always go directly to 500 Mbps...

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