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LAN & WAN Reviews

1200 Mbps Powerline Gigabit Ethernet Adapter
At a glance
ProductZyxel 1200 Mbps Powerline Gigabit Ethernet Adapter (PLA5405KIT)   [Website]
SummaryFirst-to-market HomePlug AV2-MIMO adapter based on Qualcomm's QCA7500 chipset.
Pros• Can provide 400+ Mbps of total throughput with multiple traffic sources
Cons• Throughput falls off very quickly with distance
• Pricey

Introduction

Yes, folks, the wait is over. ZyXEL has finally released its first-to-market HomePlug AV2 MIMO powerline adapter, the PLA5405 1200 Mbps Powerline Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. The new ZyXEL is available only in a kit of two as the PLA5405KIT and currently only from NewEgg, which has priced it at $140.

Referring to the HomePlug AV2 profile chart below, the PLA5405 is classed as a 1 Gbps MIMO adapter. But given that ZyXEL branded the SISO - 750 Mbps class PLA5206 [reviewed] as "1000 Mbps", they sorta had to bump up the 5405's number on the box, too.

HomePlug AV2 Profiles

HomePlug AV2 Profiles

I didn't ask ZyXEL for its justification of the 5405's "1200 Mbps" number. You're not going to reach anywhere near that throughput anyway. You'll find the 5405 and other adapters of its ilk classed as AV2-M1000 adapters in the Powerline Charts, Finders and Rankers.

The PLA5405 is larger than lower-class compact adapters like TP-LINK's TL-PA4010KIT [reviewed]. But it's essentially the same size as the PLA5206; 90 x 60 x 27 mm (3.54" x 2.36" x 1.06") vs. 93 x 61 x 32 mm (3.66” x 2.4” x 1.26”).

Its three-prong plug positions the adapter body so that it won't block the adjacent outlet in a standard U.S. duplex, as shown in the photo below. The serial number label specs a 100 - 240 VAC 50 / 60 Hz operating range.

ZyXEL PLA5405 plugged in

ZyXEL PLA5405 plugged in

The callout diagram below (reused from the PLA5206 review) shows the adapter supports tri-color HomePlug link quality indication. The single Gigabit Ethernet port is centered on the bottom side of the adapter, with the Reset / Encryption button sitting to its left as shown in the opening product shot above.

ZyXEL PLA5405 callouts

ZyXEL PLA5206 callouts

The User Guide says the adapter goes into power-saving mode after 60 seconds of Ethernet inactivity and powers up again when activity resumes. I verified this by the following procedure, which ran fine.

  1. Plugged in two adapters, let them link up and started a long ping from the HomePlug connected machine to another machine on my Ethernet LAN.
  2. Unplugged the cable connecting one adapter to my LAN switch. Verified that ping showed no response.
  3. Waited until the Ethernet unplugged PLA5405 entered power-save.
  4. Plugged Ethernet back in and verified that adapter powered up and ping returns resumed.

Inside

ZyXEL swung back over to the Qualcomm side after using Broadcom's BCM60333 in the PLA5206. The PLA5405 is the first sighting of Qualcomm's QCA7500 HomePlug AV2 MIMO IC. The block diagram and spec below grabbed from the QCA7500's data sheet confirm the 2-68 MHz frequency band that earns it a 1 Gbps MIMO classification.

Qualcomm QCA7500 block diagram

Qualcomm QCA7500 block diagram

The inside photo shows the QCA7500 at the upper center. That's an AR8035 Gigabit Ethernet PHY near the yellow RJ45 jack. There is no separate analog front end (AFE) device; that function is built into the QCA7500.

ZyXEL PLA5405 inside

ZyXEL PLA5405 inside

The 5405 didn't get too toasty, even with the QCA7500 coupled to a heat plate screwed to the back of the front left side of the front cover. The 5405's lower thermal load seems confirmed by the smaller number of vent holes on the side of the case. That's the PLA5206 on the left in the photo below and the PLA5405 on the right. (The devices were angled in the photo, which makes the PLA5405 look much larger; it isn't.)

ZyXEL PLA5206 (left) and PLA5405 (right) ventilation holes

ZyXEL PLA5206 (left) and PLA5405 (right) ventilation holes

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