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

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The Good The affordable, compact Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Nano Adapter (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.

8.0 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 9
  • Support 8

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.

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.

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.