Powerline with Pass-Through 

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Powerline communications is a convenient technology where data is transmitted around the house or office over the mains wiring. It provides an alternative to wireless or long Ethernet cables. Tp-Link’s TL-PA551 adapters are HomePlug AV compliant, are plug-and-play, and are claimed to have a range of up to 300 metres, and provide speeds of up to 500Mbps and so should meet the majority of needs.

Each adapter is 5 x 2.5 inches wide, is black in colour with a white face, and the Ethernet connection is at the bottom. Hence, these adapters cannot be used with mains sockets which are very close to the floor or worktop. A pass-through mains socket on the face of the adapter obviates the need for an additional mains socket. Where one wants to connect additional items, such as a printer or scanner, a multi-way mains extension lead can be plugged into this socket.

Plug the two adapters into the mains -- one close to the router and the other near to the PC. Plug in the supplied Ethernet cables (it would have been nicer if the supplied ones were longer than 4ft.) and look at the three LEDs: power, Powerline and Ethernet. The Powerline LED glows of a different colour dependent on the data rate: Green, 80Mbps or above, Orange, between 48 and 80Mbps or red when the data rate is 48Mbps or below. The Ethernet LED glows a solid green when the port is connected and flashes when data is being transferred. Thus, a quick glance at the LEDs shows the connection status.

While a pair of adapters will work “straight out of the box” the pairing/encryption button on the underside of each adapter is used pair with another HomePlug AV compliant powerline device which also supports the Pair feature. This, for example, could be a third adapter.

The management utility supplied on CD can be used to change the network name as well as the password and/or name of an adapter.  It can also set up QoS (quality of service) to prioritise the different needs of the different data types such as voice and network management frames, streaming video, and raw data. Another useful feature of the TL-PA551 devices is that they will fall-back from their normal mode to power-saving and so, it is claimed, reduce consumption by up to 85%. As they will normally be connected 24/7 this could result in a useful power saving.

At about £70 for a starter kit that contains two adapters it is not likely to be an impulse purchase. However, it is so convenient to use that it merits serious consideration for those who wish to have flexible networking. Furthermore, it may be the ideal way of providing the internet connection for your new smart TV. 

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OverallPowerline with Pass-Through rated 84 out of 100

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