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Networking

Best Powerline Network Adapter

A powerline network adapter turns the electrical wiring in your building into a computer network. You need at least two adapters working together, so you typically want to buy a kit to start with. One connects to your modem or router to receive an Internet signal, and then plugs into a wall outlet; this then turns your electrical system into a network. A second adapter plugs into another outlet and then connects to a computer, HDTV, or other device you want on the network. The data speeds indicated with these adapters are a best-case scenario and you'll probably get lower data rates, but it still gives you an idea of relative speed.

We’ve chosen the following as the best powerline network adapters since they offer the fastest speeds, with support for at least 500Mbps, though some of these can run even faster. All of these adapters include LEDs that indicate when the outlet has power and when a LAN signal is being received properly through the electrical system. Installing these models is very easy, requiring no software installation or upgrades, and they only need to be plugged into outlets. Plus all of these are starter kits that include the two necessary adapters for your new setup.

TRENDnet Powerline 1200 AV2 Adapter Kit - TPL-421E2K

This powerline network adapter delivers Gigabit performance so it runs fast and gives you a great network throughout your electrical system. This model has a built-in outlet, so you do not give up a plug wherever you use it which is very nice. You can connect up to eight adapters on a single network with this model, which is probably more than enough for most environments. The biggest weakness of this adapter is it only has a single port. While you can use up to eight adapters, each one can only connect to a single device which can be an issue if you need to connect multiple devices at a single location. This is still a great option that’s easy to set up but it would be far better with one or two additional ports as part of its design.

Netgear Powerline 1200 and Extra Outlet - PLP1200-100PAS

There's a lot to like about this easy to set up model, starting with the fact that it's a Gigabit adapter so you get fast performance through your network. It has a built-in outlet, so you’re not giving up an outlet wherever you plug it in. This one supports up to 16 nodes on the network, so you can include up to 14 additional adapters with the two provided in this kit. However, this adapter’s biggest design flaw is it only has a single port. While that’s mitigated somewhat by the inclusion of a noise-filtered outlet, (making it easy to place this adapter just about anywhere) it’s still an issue if you plan on using two or more devices in one location which each require a physical network connection.

ACTIONTEC 500 Mbps Powerline Ethernet Adapter and 4-Port Hub Kit (PWR514K01)

The biggest issue to consider before choosing this powerline adapter is the network speed that you need. This model supports up to 500Mbps data rates so if you need Gigabit support then this isn’t a good choice. However, it’s easy to set up and use and the adapter has four Ethernet ports on it which gives you a ton of options for connecting devices. This is a great choice if you need to set up a smart TV, video game system, and additional hardware with physical connections to your network. It includes 128-bit encryption for added security and comes with two Ethernet cables. However, there's no outlet on this model so be sure you have an outlet set aside for plugging in these adapters.

Greg Wiesen
With an AA in Computer Animation, I have spent years building computers and playing video games. I learned early on that the best way to figure out a new software program was to just start pushing buttons and see what happens (saving often, of course), and that is still my philosophy. From hard drives and motherboards to graphics cards and "holographic" keyboards, I enjoy checking out and playing with all the tech I can get my hands on. I have written hundreds of informative computer and technology articles in the past, and I believe that anyone can understand and use a computer. I'll worry about research and trying out different hardware, you just enjoy the results.
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