Like most people, you probably use WiFi to connect to the internet in your home. But as anyone with a WiFi connection knows, it’s not always the most reliable. At the same time, running Ethernet cables through your house may not be an option. Powerline adapters offer a great alternative to both WiFi and Ethernet, and they’re becoming more popular as the technology improves. But how do powerline adapters work? And are they really better than WiFi?
Powerline adapters use electrical wiring in the home to create a high-speed network that’s usually faster and more stable than WiFi. Simply plug one adapter into an outlet near your router, connected to your router with ethernet, and do the same with another adapter where you want the connection.
In most cases, powerline adapters offer a bandwidth equivalent to that of Ethernet cables, so it’s more reliable than WiFi. Plus, powerline adapters are becoming more and more affordable, so they’re an excellent option for those who want the benefits of a wired network without having to deal with cables. Let’s take a closer look at how powerline adapters work as well as some of their advantages and limitations.
What Is a Powerline Adapter?
A powerline adapter is a device that uses your home’s existing electrical wiring to create a high-speed internet network. It literally combines the convenience of WiFi with the reliability and speed of a wired connection, but without an expensive setup.
You only need a few adapters to send and receive internet signals throughout your house — no more spotty WiFi or long Ethernet cables strung across doorways and windowsills.
How Does a Powerline Adapter Work?
It takes at least two adapters for this setup to work. You plugin one into an outlet near your router and then connect it to the router with an Ethernet cable.
The second adapter is plugged into any other outlet in your house and then connected with Ethernet to the device you want to use — like a computer, smart TV, or gaming console.
You can use as many adapters as you need to create a network in every room. Together, they’ll create a “network” by communicating via electrical wiring in your walls.
With a Powerline WiFi Extender (on Amazon), you can even expand the network and create WiFi hotspots in far corners of your house.
Is a Powerline Adapter Better Than WiFi?
In most cases, powerline adapters offer a more stable and faster connection than WiFi. For example, if you have a large home with lots of walls and floors between the router and the devices you’re trying to connect, powerline adapters are definitely going to be a better option than WiFi.
Because they use the electrical wiring in your walls, they’re less likely to experience common WiFi problems like dead spots, interference, or slow speeds.
And since they create a wired connection, they offer speeds comparable to Ethernet, which is great for connecting devices that need a lot of bandwidth, like 4K TVs and gaming consoles.
Pros and Cons of Using a Powerline Adapter
There are definitely some advantages to using a powerline adapter over WiFi. But there are also a few cons that you should be aware of before making the switch. Let’s look at a few pros first:
Pros of Powerline Adapters
1- Non-Wired Connection With Best Bandwidth:
Ethernet cables are way more reliable than WiFi, but if you’ve ever tried to run one through your house, you know the pain of having to drill holes and hide the cables.
Powerline adapters are a great compromise for getting a non-wired connection with excellent bandwidth without all the hassle, all while saving on costs as well.
2- No WiFi Interference:
Unlike WiFi, powerline adapters create a direct connection between your devices, so there is no interference from other devices or networks in the area.
This can be really helpful if you have a lot of devices using WiFi in the home; powerlines will free up the WiFi band for other devices without slowing down the connection.
3- Plug and Play Setup:
Setting up a powerline adapter is a breeze. You only need to plug the adapter into an outlet and then connect it to your router with an Ethernet cable.
That’s it. Some routers might need a little SSID setting, but many adapters now come with an app to configure your setup.
4- Can Extend WiFi Coverage:
Powerline adapters can expand a single network to multiple rooms or even multiple buildings as long as they’re connected through electrical wiring. And whenever you want to switch to WiFi, just use an extender with your adapter and get your own mesh network.
5- Super Flexible:
You can use powerline adapters as long as you have an internet connection and electrical wiring. It works with both 2.5 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, so you can use it with most routers and play your games at optimum speed.
Cons of Powerline Adapters
Now that we’ve gone over some of the pros of using a powerline adapter let’s look at a few cons.
1- Electrical Interference Does Have an Effect:
If there is a lot of electrical interference in your home, it can degrade the powerline signals. Just like with WiFi, it causes decreased speeds and abrupt disconnections.
Small devices like hair dryers or toasters only produce a temporary interference, but if you have a lot of electronics plugged into one outlet, or there are bigger appliances like refrigerators nearby, it might cause more frequent disruptions.
Many adapters now come with an indicator light to show the strength of the connection, so you can move the adapter to another outlet if the connection isn’t strong enough.
2- May Create Radio Interference:
On a similar note, powerline adapters might also create some low-grade RF interferences in the electric wiring. So, if you have any devices using radio frequency, like baby monitors or cordless phones, you might experience some disruptions.
3- Slower Speeds at Long Distances:
Powerline adapters do have a few limitations regarding speed. The farther the distance between two adapters, the slower the connection will be.
The problem is worse when you use multiple adapters to daisy chain the network, because each adapter will slow down the connection a bit.
4- Not All Routers Are Compatible:
The biggest selling point of powerline adapters is that you only have to buy a set from Amazon and plug it in, and you’re done. But some routers don’t have the right chipset to work with powerline adapters, and some brands are only compatible with their own adapter.
So even though you might have the latest and greatest router, it might not work with powerline adapters. That’s why you should always check your router’s compatibility before buying a powerline adapter.
5- Limited by Power Outlet Location:
Many users complain that powerline adapters don’t work when plugged into extension cords or power strips. So if you don’t have a direct electric socket near where you want to use the adapter, it might not be so useful for you.
The benefits also depend on the number of adapters you have and the ethernet ports on each adapter, so keep that in mind when choosing your product.
The Best Powerline Adapters on the Market
Now that we know a little more about how powerline adapters work and some of their limitations let’s look at some of the best powerline adapters on the market.
TP-Link AV2000 Powerline Adapter
The TP-Link AV2000 (on Amazon) is one of the best powerline adapters on the market, and for good reason. It’s a two-pack set with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps, perfect for 4K streaming and gaming.
Plus, it has an integrated passthrough power socket, so you don’t lose a valuable outlet. Also, it has integrated data encryption for security, and the manufacturer offers great customer support.
- Support Home Plug AV2
- 1 Gigabit Ethernet port
- 300-meter range
- Has a power saving mode
- Not compatible with all routers (other brands)
- No WiFi hotspot in the basic model
Tenda AV1000 Dual Band Powerline Adapter
The Tenda AV1000 (on Amazon) has two ethernet ports to connect multiple devices and provides data transferring speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps. The best thing about this powerline adapter is that it comes with a built-in WiFi extender, which is great for homes with a weak or patchy signal.
Dual-band support also means that you won’t have to worry about signal interference from other devices. Another neat feature is improved streaming performance for 4K and HDTVs. In addition, Tenda has upgraded the model with MIMO technology to help with stability and reliability.
- 2 Ethernet ports
- Built-in WiFi extender
- Forward error correction tech to eliminates lag
- Cloud management
- No passthrough socket
- Experience electricity interference in some cases
NETGEAR Powerline Adapter Kit
The NETGEAR Powerline 1 Gigabit Port (on Amazon) is the basic model of a powerline adapter. It doesn’t come with many bells and whistles, but it does the job. As the name suggests, it has speeds up to 1 Gbps and comes with one ethernet port each.
The two set pack is small and lightweight, so it can be hidden away easily, and there’s a low power consumption mode, which is great for saving on your energy bill.
The more expensive versions have features like WiFi extenders and passthrough sockets, but this basic model is a great budget-friendly option.
- Only one ethernet port each
- Low power consumption mode
- No WiFi extender
- No passthrough socket
TP-Link AV1300 Dual Band Powerline Adapter
Another super reliable powerline adapter from TP-Link, the AV1300 (on Amazon) has data transfer speeds of up to 1,300 Mbps. It’s an excellent choice for homes with multiple devices that need a fast and stable connection.
It comes with 3 Gigabit Ethernet ports and an integrated dual-band WiFi extender to easily connect all of your devices. It also has MIMO technology for a seamless connection, plus AV1300 support OneMesh, which lets you add more TP-Link adapters to your home for even better coverage.
- 3 Ethernet ports
- Integrated dual-band WiFi extender
- OneMesh support for expanding your network
- Units have passthrough sockets
- A little on the expensive side
- Bigger than some other models
Trendnet 1200 AV2 Powerline Adapter Kit
The TRENDnet 1200 (on Amazon) includes two 1200 AV2 powerline adapters with a speed of up to 1,200 Mbps. It also has a built-in WiFi extender for boosting your signal and a WiFi clone button for quickly connecting your devices.
The WiFi has impressive speed and can reach 867 Mbps on the dual-band. The adapters are also Plug and Play, so you don’t need to install any software. They’re also compatible with all major router brands, which is great. The second adapter also has a passthrough socket, so you don’t lose an outlet.
- Impressive WiFi extender
- WiFi clone integration
- 300-meter coverage
- Passthrough socket on one adapter
- Plug and Play installation
- Big antennas and bulky build
Devolo Magic 2 Powerline Starter Kit
As the only WiFi-6 extender on our list, Devolo Magic 2 (on Amazon) is a great option for your home network if you’re looking to be prepared for the future. It has speeds of up to 2,400 Mbps on wire and has 3 Gigabit ports along with WiFi Mesh support.
The mesh system is really easy to set up and use; you can add more Devolo adapters to the system as you need them. One neat feature is the built-in energy-saving mode, which means they’ll automatically go into standby when not in use.
In addition, the bi-directional MIMO tech will further enhance the connection speed, so you never have to worry about buffering again.
- 3 Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Built-in energy-saving mode
- Impressive speed on both wire and WiFi
- Only WiFi 6 support
- Bulky adapters
So, those are our top picks for the best powerline adapters. Whether you’re looking for a basic model or something more advanced, we’ve got you covered. Just keep in mind that when it comes to these things, you often get what you pay for, so be prepared to spend a little bit more for the best performance.