Being the first that supports the HomePlug AV2, the Linksys PLEK500 redefine home powerline networking speed.
With the Linksys PLEK500 Powerline Adapter Kit, the speed of home powerline networking has been turned up a significant notch.
This is the first adapter kit that supports the latest HomePlug AV2 standard. This standard, in theory, offers the speed cap of up to 1.5Gbps. The kit, however, doesn't quite support the top speed of the standard; rather, just 500Mbps at most, which is the speed at which certain HomePlug AV-based devices are capable. Nonetheless, in my testing, it has indeed offered the fastest sustained real-world speed among all powerline adapters I've seen.
Whether this performance is going to be just the new normal for powerline adapters, we'll have to wait and see when more HomePlug AV2-based adapters become available. In the meantime, the Linksys PLEK500 is the fastest powerline adapter kit you can get, enough to justify its relatively high price of $120. For more choices, check out the alternatives on this list.
Design, setup, and features
The Linksys PLEK500 is a kit consisting of two identical PLE500 powerline adapters. This is normal packaging, since you need at least two adapters to create the first powerline connection. Currently, it seems you can't buy just a single PLE500 adapter, but it will likely be available soon. After the first kit, you'll just need one more adapter for an additional connection.
From its appearance, the PLE500 looks like most powerline adapters you've seen, taking the form of the power adapter from a small electronic device, such as a cordless phone. The biggest difference is the fact it comes with a three-prong plug, instead of the two-prong one found in others, such as the
The PLE500 is relatively compact, but not enough so to easily share a multiple-socket wall outlet with other devices. Chances are, it will obstruct the access to nearby receptacles. And you do need to plug the PLE500 into a standard wall outlet, for two reasons. First, the adapter doesn't come with a pass-through socket, meaning you can't plug anything else into the same wall outlet it occupies. And second, powerline adapters generally need to be plugged directly into the wall to work well, and not into a surge protector or power strip.
On top, the adapter houses three LED status lights for the power, the home network, and the network port. This network port is on the bottom side of the adapter and supports Gigabit Ethernet, which is a must for the adapter to offer its top 500Mbps-rated performance. Technically, the HomePlug AV2 standard can offer "Gigabit-class" performance, and a new chip from Broadcom promises up to 1.5Gbps, but the PLE500 supports only the 500Mbps tier. Note that, even if the adapter supported the top speed of the HomePlug AV2 standard, its best potential speed would still be limited by that of its network port.
Also on the top, interestingly, the adapter still carries the Cisco logo. Linksys was sold by to Belkin awhile ago, and this is its first powerline adapter that's been released by Linksys since the transition.
On the right side, the device has a tiny security button, which allows for creating a secure powerline connection between multiple units, when pressed within 2 minutes of one another. A secure connection is necessary if you live in an apartment building where multiple households share the same electrical wiring system. This way, nobody can tap into your home network by using an adapter of their own.
There's not not much at all to setting up a powerline connection, and that goes for the PLEK500 kit, too. First you hook up one of the adapters to the network via the router (or the switch), using a network cable. 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. And that's it. Basically a powerline connection is an alternative to running a long network cable between the router and the Ethernet-ready device. In most cases, getting the PLEK500 is actually much cheaper than running network cable properly, which involves the cost of the cable, the two network wall ports, and the time spent stringing wire.
If if you find this complicated, the kit comes with detailed instructions and a CD that contains the user manual and other support materials.
Due to hardware overhead, most of the time, you should expect the real-world sustained speed to be lower than the advertised speed. This was true for the PLEK500 kit, but it's the first one that delivered close to 500Mbps, more than we can say for other 500Mbps-rated adapters.
In my testing, with a connection between the two included PLE500 adapters, I was able to consistently get the sustained speed of some 31MBps, which is about 250Mbps. This is about three times the real-world speed of a regular Ethernet connection, or about one-third of a real-world speed of a Gigabit connection. Very fast indeed.
It was a little tricky for me to rate the PLEK500's performance since it was the first HomePlug AV2 powerline kit. That said, it's unclear for now how it's stacked up against its peers, which remains to be determined. In the meantime, it's currently the fastest powerline adapter kit on the market.
Compared to Wi-Fi, the PLEK500 is faster than most, including some 802.11ac clients. Also note that a powerline connection is a lot more stable than a wireless connection and has much lower latency.
As the first HomePlug AV2 powerline adapter kit, the PLEK500 offered the best sustained speed I've seen, despite the fact that it doesn't support the highest data rates of the new standard. While future HomePlug AV2-based adapters might offer even faster speed, at the current 250Mbps of sustained throughput, the new kit has more than enough for all existing home entertainment and data sharing applications. And for that, and for now, it's definitely an excellent buy.