The 13 Best Powerline Adapters for High-Speed ​​Internet

The developments in the field of the home network never stand still, not even with powerline adapters. For some time now, there have been models for sale that have been developed according to the HomePlug AV2 standard, which enables speeds of up to 1200 Mbit/s. We have tested thirteen sets of these adapters.

Powerline adapters may not be the sexiest networking products, especially when you compare them to snazzy 802.11ac routers and repeaters. However, they have become increasingly popular in recent times. This is primarily due to the fact that these products are becoming increasingly affordable, making a set of powerline adapters a good alternative to a repeater. Both products have roughly the same goal in mind, namely to realize a network connection in places where your router cannot reach. A second reason for the increased popularity of powerline is the relatively recent addition of Wi-Fi. Also read: 9 tips to last longer with your mobile battery.

The majority of network connections in the house are now made wireless, so you can provide an entire floor with a network connection with a single adapter. You should have at least two of powerline adapters: one to connect wired to your network and one that you plug into a socket where you want to realize a network connection. The second adapter is available in several variants. You have them with a single network connection or with several, but also with a built-in WiFi access point. You can of course also connect a switch or access point to a powerline adapter with one network connection. You will find this data for the tested models in the table.

HomePlug AV2

There is another reason why powerline could get an extra boost. With the arrival of HomePlug AV2, there is now a standard that promises (and partly delivers) unprecedented performance. Where until now you had to make do with adapters that could achieve a maximum of 500 or 600 Mbit/s, the new models have a specified maximum bandwidth of 1000 and even 1200 Mbit/s.

There are now quite a few manufacturers that have models on the market, so the still quite high price will automatically drop. As the name implies, HomePlug AV2 is an evolution of the previous standard, HomePlug AV. So here and there some space has been found to further improve the performance. Basically, modern powerline adapters revolve around three things: frequency spectrum, modulation and MIMO. The differences between the currently current models (200, 500, 600, 1000 and 1200 Mbit/s) can all be explained using these three terms.

Frequency spectrum and modulation

When we talk about frequency spectrum, we are talking about the frequencies that the adapters use to transmit data. If we look at 200Mbit/s adapters, the frequency spectrum covers a fairly modest 2-28 MHz, with 500Mbit/s and 600Mbit/s models that is 2-68 MHz. The 1200Mbit/s adapters with a Qualcomm chipset also use the frequency spectrum of 2-68 MHz.

Broadcom uses the frequency spectrum 2-86 MHz in its 1000 and 2000 Mbit/s chipsets. Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing defines several carriers within the frequency range that do not interfere with each other. The actual digital bits are then placed on the analog carrier wave by means of modulation. The technique used for this is called QAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation). That is the difference between the different types of adapters. The 1000Mbit/s adapters with a Broadcom chipset, like the 200 and 500Mbit/s adapters, have a modulation of 1024-QAM, while the 600 and 1200Mbit/s models with a Qualcomm chipset have a much more hefty 4096-QAM. Using QAM.

Earth ground with MIMO

Followers of the router market will no doubt be familiar with the term MIMO, as multiple-input multiple-output has been used in Wi-Fi since the introduction of 802.11n. Also with powerline adapters it means that several signals can be sent and received at the same time. In the case of powerline adapters, this is possible because not only the neutral and the phase wires are used for communication, but also the ground wire.

In this way a 2Tx2R configuration can be made: two data streams for sending, two for receiving. If you have a power grid without an earth running through your house, then logically this addition is of no use at all and it is better to save the extra euros that this type costs and go for a cheaper SISO copy (single-input, single-output).

When we first heard about the MIMO technology for powerline adapters, we wondered if this is actually allowed in the Netherlands. Officially, the ground wire may not be used for anything else. According to manufacturers, this use of the ground wire is still allowed. The MIMO adapters have an advertised speed of 1200 Mbit/s if it is a Qualcomm chipset and a speed of 2000 Mbit/s if it is a Broadcom chipset. The latter are not yet widely available, the tested 1000Mbit/s adapters in this test with a Broadcom chipset are SISO adapters that do not use grounding.

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