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Netgear Powerline 1200 review: Top power line speed at a low cost

Note that you only need a pair of power line adapters to create the first connection. After that you just need another adapter for each additional device that you want to add to the power line network. So generally, the rule of power line networking is you get the amount of adapters equal to the amount of wired clients, plus one. Like most recent power line adapters, the Powerline 1200 lets you add up to 16 wired devices to an existing network using power line connections.

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The adapter features a Gigabit network port.

Josh Miller/CNET

Features

The Netgear Powerline 1200 kit features the latest HomePlug AV2 standard that's available in AV2 1200 and AV2 2000 versions, capable of delivering up to 1200Mbps and 2000Mbps, respectively. Truth be told, however, adapters supporting this new standard can only offer up to 1000Mbps. This is because they all use a Gigabit network port and fastest home routers also support Gigabit Ethernet, at most. In other words, no matter how fast the powerline standard is, for now, powerline adapter's speed is limited by the Gigabit network port. In real-world testing so far I haven't seen any power line adapters that can deliver close to the real speed of a Gigabit connection yet. This is also the case for the Powerline 1200 kit.

On top the PL1200S features status lights with helpful color-changing indicators. The power status light shines green when the adapter is plugged in, amber when it's in energy-saving mode and blinking green when the adapter is setting up security. The Pick-a-Plug LED helps you figure out the best wall socket to plug the remote adapter in: red means it can deliver 50Mbps or less, amber means between 50Mbps and 80Mbps and green means the adapter has the best power line signal.

You can turn on the PL1200S's security feature by pressing its Security button on each plugged-in adapter within 2 minutes from each other. Note that once the security is turned on, the adapter won't work anymore with power line adapters from other vendors; if you want add another PL1200S to the network, you will first need to reset all existing adapters to default settings (effectively turning off the security). In other words, you should only turn on the security feature if you use only PL1200S (or PLP1200S) adapters within the same network, and only once you have set them all up. The security feature is only necessary if you live in a multiple-home building where others can tap into your home network by using a power line adapter of their own. For a single-family home, there's no need to use this feature.

Performance

Netgear says that the Netgear Powerline 1200 kit can deliver up to 1,200Mbps connection speed; this is completely untrue. As mentioned above, since each adapter features a Gigabit network port, the most you can get out of this kit is 1,000Mbps. And that wasn't even the case in my testing.

However, overadvertising the connection speed is common in networking devices and the Powerline 1200 kit was indeed the fastest I've experienced in power line networking. In testing, the two adapters delivered a sustained speed of 386Mbps, which was almost 60Mbps faster than the runner-up, the Comtrend PG-9172 G.hn. Clearly this is getting very close to the speed of Gigabit Ethernet, and so much faster than a traditional 10/100 Ethernet connection.

CNET Labs' power line networking performance

Netgear Powerline 1200
386.32
Comtrend G.hn Powerline Adapter
330.72
ZyXel PLA5206K
304
Trendnet TPL-408E
266.48
Linksys PLEK500
249.6
ZyXEL PLA4205
213.2
Netgear XAV5501
160.8
D-Link DHP-540
147.68
D-Link DHP-501AV
141.2
ActionTech PWR511K01
90.32
ZyXEL PLA4231
90.3
Trendnet TPL-406E
90
TrendNet TPL-401E2K
79.2
Netgear XAVNB2001
56.2
D-Link DHP-1320
45.8
Western Digital LiveWire
40
Linksys PLK300
32.5
Netgear XAV2001
22.9
Plaster Network PLN3
22.6
Reference 802.11N 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi
20

Note:

Measured in megabits per second, longer bars mean better performance.

Conclusion

The Netgear Powerline 1200 kit has some of the fastest networking performance we've yet seen. At $80, the kit is a great investment for those looking to perform heavy networking tasks like backups or media streaming from a local NAS server. In fact, it's much more affordable than the slightly slower Comtrend PG-9172 G.hn that currently costs $70 for just one unit. Alternatively, though, the Trendnet TPL-408E2K kit costs just around $60. It's not as fast, but is perfectly suited for those with modest networking needs.

If you decide to take the plunge on the Netgear Powerline 1200 right now, you'll likely not be disappointed. Those in need of even faster power line performance, however, might want to wait for upcoming HomePlug AV2 2000Mbps adapters, that will likely has even closer to real Gigabit speed.

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