Actiontec 500 Mbps Powerline Network Adapter Kit (PWR511K01) review: Small, fast, and affordable

Right next to the network port, the adapter has a security button that helps create a secure network connection between multiple units. This is only necessary when you want to keep your power-line network secure, in case you live in an apartment building and don't want others to tap in your home network by using another power-line adapter in their own apartment. This secure feature worked well in my trials, though it only works if you plan to use power-line adapters from Actiontec. If you want to use a mixed pool of power-line adapters from different networking vendors, this secure feature shouldn't be used for compatibility purposes.

Each PWR500 adapter has three indicator lights, labeled PWR, LK, and ETH for Power, Link, and Ethernet, respectively. When all of these lights are solid green, this generally means everything is in excellent condition. The LK light can also be either red or orange to show poor or medium power-line signals between adapters.

There's nothing to setting up a power-line connection using the PWR511K01 kit. This process is typical for a power-line kit. First you hook up one of the adapters to the network via the router (or the switch), using a network cable (the kit comes with two). The second adapter is connected to an Ethernet-ready device, such as a printer, at, say, the far end of the house. After that, you just plug both adapters into the power sockets. If the two locations share the same electrical wiring, which they would in most homes and apartment buildings, a power-line network connection is now established and the Ethernet-ready device is now connected to your home network. This is an alternative to running a long network cable between the router and the Ethernet-ready device.

The two adapters in the Actiontec  PWR511K01 kit connected to each other and the existing network with excellent signal quality in our tests.
The two adapters in the Actiontec PWR511K01 kit connected to each other and the existing network with excellent signal quality in our tests. Dong Ngo/CNET

This whole process takes just a few minutes, and it's hard to make a mistake. Now if you want to create a secure connection, just press on the secure button, for no more than 3 seconds, on each adapter with in 2 minutes of each other. Note that if you press and hold that button for more than 3 seconds but less than 10 seconds, that will clear the encryption key. Or you can press and hold that button for more than 15 seconds to reset the adapter to default factory settings.

If for some reason you find the above steps complicated, the PWR511K01 kit also comes with a detailed and illustrated Quick Start Guide poster.

Performance
The PWR511K01 didn't blow me away with its performance, but it was very good. As mentioned above, since the adapters' network port only supports the regular Ethernet standard, the kit's data rate can't exceed that of a regular Ethernet connection, which is 100Mbps. And in my testing, it was about as fast as a 100Mbps connection could be, averaging about 11.3MBps (or 90.4Mbps).

While the PWR511K01 kit wasn't the fastest on the market, some 60Mbps slower than the Netgear XAV5501, for example, it wasn't the slowest Powerline AV500 adapter either. The Trendnet TPL-401E2K kit, which is much bigger, scored just 79Mbps in the same test. In fact, it's faster than most typical Ethernet connections, which are generally around 80Mbps. Note, however, that the actual performance of the kit depends on the condition of a home's electrical wiring and the distance between adapters. I tested the kit with the two adapters about 15 feet apart.

In addition to its decent speed, the Actiontec PWR511K01 was compatible with other power-line adapters in my trials, including those made for previous HomePlug AV power-line standards. For the adapters to work with one another, you need to use them without the encryption option, however.

CNET Labs tested power-line adapter performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Throughput  
Netgear XAV5501
160.8 
D-Link DHP-540
147.68 
Actiontec PWR511K01
90.32 
Reference 802.11N 2.4GHz Wi-Fi
20 

Conclusion
The Actiontec 500 Mbps Powerline Network Adapter Kit is the most compact and affordable power-line adapter kit I've seen yet on the market, which is more than enough to justify its regular-Ethernet-based data speeds, and will make a great buy for those wanting to create a power-line connection at home.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Data Transfer Rate 500 Mbps
  • Data Link Protocol Ethernet
  • Connectivity Technology wired