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LAN & WAN Reviews

Performance

I tested both adapters at three locations in my home using this procedure. Pairs of the same make/model adapters were tested with separate up and downlink tests at each of three test locations. Simultaneous up/downlink and four-stream tests were also run at Location A. All results were entered into the Powerline Performance Charts.

Since past experience has shown that powerline throughput varies with distance, I used the Performance vs. Location view to compare performance. I included only the two TP-LINK adapters for the comparison. We'll use the new Powerline Adapter Ranker later for wider comparison.

The Downlink Throughput plot below shows the TL-PA6010KIT pair outpacing the TL-PA4010KIT by a significant margin in all three test locations. The 263 Mbps Location A throughput is the highest downlink throughput we have ever measured from any powerline adapter!

Granted, this same-outlet test isn't likely to be encountered in actual use. But this test shows the high throughput the product is capable of and it is run for all adapters. Even the more realistic scenario Location C test yielded 140 Mbps. That's real, useful throughput, folks, not link rate.

Downlink throughput comparison

Downlink throughput comparison

The uplink chart shows similar and even higher results than downlink. Location A throughput reaches a new Homeplug high of 267 Mbps! Note even the worst case Location E comes in just over 100 Mbps!

Downlink throughput comparison

Downlink throughput comparison

The IxChariot plots for the TL-PA6010KIT are very informative. The composite plot below for downlink tests shows some rate adaptation occuring in the early part of each test. The big jump for the Location A test at around the 5 second mark is an IxChariot effect from Nagle's algorithm we see also when testing 802.11ac adapters. It indicates a product pumping data at a very high rate.

IxChariot downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA6010 pair

IxChariot downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA6010 pair

I could see the rate adaption in action when noise sources (those damn little wall-warts!) were plugged in and out. I could plug in a wall-wart and watch throughput take an initial hit, then slowly climb back toward, but never reach, its previous level. Still, some throughput recovery is better than none!

The TL-PA4010 pair composite downlink plot has the narrower spread among locations that is characteristic of AV500 products.

IxChariot downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA6010 pair

IxChariot downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA6010 pair

The TL-PA6010's simultaneous up / downlink plot is also interesting for its remarkable symmetric throughput sharing between up and downlink.

IxChariot up / downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA6010 pair

IxChariot up / downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA6010 pair

We normally see more lopsided throughput allocation, such as seen in the TL-PA4010 pair plot below.

IxChariot up / downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA4010 pair

IxChariot up / downlink summary - TP-LINK TL-PA4010 pair

Closing Thoughts

The new Powerline Adapter Ranker places the TL-PA6010KIT in the #1 position among AV2-500 class adapters, with the Linksys PLEK500 and ZyXEL PLA5205KIT pairs tied for #2 rank. Although all three products have average up downlink throughput > 100 Mbps, the TLPA6010KIT's performance had enough of a margin to make it a clear winner.

TP-LINK TL-PA6010 Ranker Performance Summary

TP-LINK TL-PA6010 Ranker Performance Summary

The performance differences are not as great among AV500 class devices, even though they use a mix of QCA chipsets. So ranking is more of a numbers game, even though the Ranker now requires performance differences greater than 5% to trigger a difference in ranking. Still, the TL-PA4010KIT managed only a #5 rank out of 9 products tested and that's with two products tied for #2 and two tied for #3 ranks.

Comparing the Ranker Performance details of one of the #2 ranked competitors, we see the reasons for the TL-PA4010KIT's lower rank.

TP-LINK TL-PA4010 Ranker Performance Summary Comparison

TP-LINK TL-PA4010 Ranker Performance Summary Comparison

AV2-500 adapter prices have come down from the $120 asked for the first adapters about a year ago, to closer to $80 today. Still that's a 2X premium over many AV500 designs, some of which have Gigabit ports.

But if you want both a Gigabit port and enough throughput to make good use of it, TP-LINK's TL-PA6010KIT seems a clear choice to me.

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