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Zyxel PLA5236KIT AC900 Powerline Wireless Extender kit review: A cheap alternative to Wi-Fi systems

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The Good The Zyxel PLA5236KIT can easily extend a home network without you having to run network cables. It's also affordable.

The Bad The messy web interface makes the setup process challenging for home users. The kit has slow performance and, as a powerline product, requires certain conditions to work well.

The Bottom Line The Zyxel PLA5236KIT is an affordable yet effective choice for those looking to extend their home network for internet sharing.

6.7 Overall
  • Setup 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7

If you need to bring internet to that far corner of your sprawling home and don't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a Wi-Fi system ($364 at Walmart) like the Google Wifi or the TP-Link Deco M5, you should definitely consider the Zyxel PLA5236KIT Powerline AC900 1,000 Mbps Wireless Extender kit. It does basically the job of a mesh system, extending your home network farther with relative ease, but at a much lower cost of about $85. (This kit is not yet on sale in the UK or Australia, but other Zyxel products are widely available. The US price converts to about £65 or AU$110.)

The kit's performance isn't great and it can be a bit challenging for novices to set up, but if you have some patience and just want to quickly share internet access, it gets the job done. If your house is already wired with network cables, it's better to get a standalone access point instead.

zyxelpla5236kit-1.jpg

The ZyXel PLA5236KIT includes a power line adapter and a power line access point (right).

Dong Ngo/CNET

How it works

The PLA5236KIT includes a power line adapter (model PLA5206 v2) and a power line Wi-Fi access point (model PLA5236). You first connect the adapter unit to an existing network -- a router or a switch -- and then plug it into directly a wall socket. After that, plug the access point unit into another wall socket at the far place. The two will connect to each other using the electrical wiring in between -- as long as it's no more than 900 feet (300 meters) in length -- as though it were a network cable, effectively extending the home network to the access point unit's location.

Note that, like all power line adapters, the kit only works well if your home has just one electrical wiring system, meaning the wiring is continuous and without circuit breakers in between. The units need to plug directly into a wall socket to work, so don't use them with a power strip or surge protector. Also, appliances, like ceiling fans or refrigerators, might adversely affect performance to a certain extent.

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