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ZyXel Homeplug AV2 Gigabit Powerline Adapter Starter Kit (PLA5206KIT) review:

A super-fast alternative to Wi-Fi and Ethernet

Review Sections

On top the adapter has three LED lights that show the statuses of power, the powerline connection, and the network port. The powerline connection light changes its color to indicate the quality of the connection (green means best, amber equals good, and red indicates low quality or no signal at all).

ZyXel says the PLA5206 has a green feature that makes the adapter go into green mode after 60 seconds of no activity. When in this mode it uses only 0.5W compared with 4W when it's in operation. In my testing this seemed to be the case and the adapters awoke quickly from sleep mode, without any delay. The adapter also comes with a built-in QoS feature that automatically prioritizes video streaming and VoIP over other type of traffic.

Performance

In my experience, powerline adapters never live up to their advertised speed. That was true of the PLA5206KIT, which never delivered even close to its promised speed of 1,000Mbps. That aside, it is the fastest powerline adapter I've seen.

In my testing the included pair of PLA5206 adapters registered the sustained real-world copy speed of 304Mbps, which is about half the real-world speed of Gigabit Ethernet and almost four times the speed of regular Ethernet. In comparison, it beat the runner-up kit, the Trendnet TPL-408E2K , by some 40Mbps.

It's safe to say that, at this speed, the ZyXel PLA5206KIT is faster than most Wi-Fi connections. And powerline is much more stable than Wi-Fi with lower latency, thanks to the fact that it's using physical wires.

CNET Labs' Powerline networking performance

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
Reference 802.11N 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi
20

Note:

Measured in megabits per second

The PLA5206KIT also worked well over an extended period of time. I tried it continuously for four days and didn't run into any problems during this time.

Conclusion

The ZyXel Homeplug AV2 Gigabit Powerline Adapter Starter Kit is an excellent way to extend your wired network within your home, especially to a place where your Wi-Fi signal can't penetrate, such as behind a thick concrete wall or in the basement. The kit works basically the same as other powerline kits I've reviewed but at much faster speed, which makes it worth the higher price in my opinion.

That said, if you're looking to simply share an Internet connection, a cheaper kit, such as the Trendnet TPL-408E2K or the Actiontec PWR511K01 , will get the job done. But if you want to get the highest data rates out of your home's electrical wiring, the PLA5206KIT is the fastest for now. This might soon change, however, with more HomePlug AV2 adapters being released to the market.

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