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Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter review: Small, fast, and inexpensive

Looking for a quick (and cheap) way to extend your home network? The Trendnet TPL-406E Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter is the answer.

Dong Ngo
Dong Ngo SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews
CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
5 min read

The Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter (model TPL-406E) is Trendnet's answer to Actiontec's PWR500 adapter. The two are so similar that they're almost like one device housed in two different cases, and they offered basically the same performance in my testing.


Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter

The Good

The affordable, compact <b>Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter</b> (model TPL-406E) provides fast throughput speed.

The Bad

The adapter could be even faster if it supported Gigabit Ethernet, instead of being limited by the Ethernet cap of 100Mbps.

The Bottom Line

The Trendnet TPL-406E is a fast way to extend your home network, while saving both time and money.

The Trendnet TPL-406E also has the same shortcoming as its Actiontec counterpart: it has a standard Ethernet network port. This means that despite its support for the 500Mbps Powerline AV 500 standard, the adapter's throughput speed is capped at that of regular Ethernet, which is 100Mbps.

At a street price of about $35 (or about $50 if you get a kit of two -- the TPL-406E2K), the Trendnet TPL-406E makes an excellent buy for those who want to dabble in the realm of power line networking for the first time. For alternatives, check out our list of more top-rated power line adapters.

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Design, setup, and features
Measuring 6x3x6 inches, the Trendnet TPL-406E adapter is tiny and fits right in your palm. It's not the tiniest power line adapter I've seen -- it's a tad larger than the Actiontec PWR500 -- but calling it supercompact wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Like the Actiontec, the Trendnet TPL-406E has a snap-on design, which is generally a problem with larger adapters since they block access to the adjacent power outlet. This is not an issue with the TPL-406E, though, thanks to its small chassis.

The Trendnet TPL-406E adapter (right) is just slightly larger than its Actiontec counterpart.
The Trendnet TPL-406E adapter (right) is just slightly larger than its Actiontec counterpart. Dong Ngo/CNET

On the bottom, the device has a standard network port. This port, unfortunately, only supports the regular Ethernet standard, which caps at 100Mbps. If the adapter supported the much faster Gigabit Ethernet standard, it would be able to offer the maximum benefit of Powerline AV 500, which is a data throughput speed of up to 500Mbps. In its current state, the most you can get out of the Trendnet TPL-406E is the speed of regular Ethernet.

This kind of Ethernet-standard-support oddity is not new, though; the Actiontec PWR500 and the recently reviewed ZyXel PLA4231 are in the same boat. According to Trendnet, this is because they share the same AR7420 power line chip from Qualcomm that trades Gigabit support for a lower price. Future chips will offer higher speed, however.

As mentioned above, the Trendnet TPL-406E is available in either a single unit or in a kit of two. The reason power line adapters tend to come in a kit is that you need at least two adapters to create the first power line connection. However, if your home is already equipped with other power line adapters, then to add another wired device to the network you just need to get one new adapter.

The Trendnet TPL-406E works with power line adapters from other vendors, but in this case, you might need to turn off the security feature on all of the adapters for them to work together. This is because the security feature might only work among power line adapters from the same vendors. The Trendnet TPL-406E comes with a security feature of its own, which you can turn on and off via a little button right next to its network port. This is a helpful feature for those living in an apartment building who want to make sure their home network won't be accidentally shared with people in other apartments who are also using power line adapters.

The TPL-406E doesn't come with a pass-through power socket, meaning that you can't plug anything else into the same wall outlet it occupies. This is because power line adapters generally need to be plugged directly into the wall to work well, and not into a surge protector or power strip.

The adapter has three indicator lights, labeled PWR, LK, and ETH for Power, Link, and Ethernet, respectively. When all of the lights are green, it generally means everything is in excellent condition.

There's not a whole lot to setting up a power line connection, and that goes for the TPL-406E as well. If your network is already power line connection-ready, just plug a TPL-406E into a wall socket, then connect a wired device to it using a network cable (the adapter comes with one network cable included), and you're done.

If this is your first power line connection, you'll need two units. 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 power line connection is an alternative to running a long network cable between the router and the Ethernet-ready device. In the case of the TPL-406E it's actually much cheaper to get two units than to run network cable properly. This is because running a cable behind the wall involves the cost of the cable, the two network wall ports, and the wiring time.

If for some reason you find the above steps complicated, both the TPL-406E adapter and the TPL-406E2K kit come with a very detailed setup poster.

As mentioned above, since it's bottlenecked by the Ethernet standard of its network port, the TPL-406E adapter can't offer the speed of Powerline AV 500, but it did show the top Ethernet performance, which is 100Mbps. I used two TPL-406E adapters for testing and they consistently scored 90Mbps. This was basically as fast as a normal Ethernet connection can get after taking overhead into account.

For a such a small and low-cost device, I consider this performance excellent. Note that this is the sustained speed; that means it's faster than most Wi-Fi connections. On top of that a power-line connection is a lot stabler than a wireless connection and has much lower latency.

CNET Labs power line adapter performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Trendnet TPL-406E
Reference 802.11N 2.4GHz Wi-Fi

Tiny, affordable, and as fast as 10/100 Ethernet can get, the Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter (model TPL-406E) is an excellent buy if you want to extend your network via power line networking, especially when you buy the kit of two units. If you were planning on running network cable from one room to another, the TPL-406E2K kit actually costs less in terms of hardware and takes just a few minutes to get the job done.


Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 7Performance 9Support 8
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