Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline review

The Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 is one of the latest generation of Powerline adapters that can be used to speed up TV/movie streaming and downloading, internet gaming, and other smart home entertainment and download devices in the home.

Powerline is a great, easy-to-use technology that creates a wired home network by using the electrical cables in your house. For more read What Is Powerline?

Read our Best Powerline Adapters round up to see how other Powerline starter kits compare against each other in terms of speed, functionality and design.

Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 review: hardware

The Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender is a fast 1,200Mbps (megabits per second) starter kit, with a smallish base unit that is connected to your Internet router, and a frankly giant (151-x-80-43mm) second-room adapter that you’ll connect to your Internet-hungry devices elsewhere in the house.

Remember that you won’t actually get speeds as fast as 1,200Mbps, as that is only a theoretical maximum speed. All Powerlines are rated at this maximum, but you’ll get nowhere near that speed. In your second room it will be faster than your current Wi-Fi you rely on, though.

The latest 1,200Mbps-rated Powerline adapters are a significant upgrade on the older 500Mbps Powerlines, and should also use Gigabit Ethernet rather than the limited 10/100 Ethernet that pegs back possible speeds to 100Mbps.

That second Asus PL-AC56 adapter looks like no other Powerline adapters we’ve seen. The second adapter has side-mounted external antennae that you screw in. These are to improve the Wi-Fi signals and range, and give it the look of one of the imperial cruisers from the opening scene in Star Wars.

This adapter boasts an impressive three Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections, plus a dual-band 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi hotspot.

The base adapter (with just the one Ethernet port) features a handy pass-through power socket so you won’t lose a wall power socket when you install the adapter near your router. It’s a shame that the second adapter doesn’t have a pass-through socket, too.

Asus PL-AC56 Wi-Fi Powerline

Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 review: set up

As with nearly all Powerline starter kits set up is really easy – a real plug-and-play solution. Just plug the base unit (PL-E56P) into a wall socket near your Internet router and connect it with the router by one of the included Ethernet cables.

Then take the larger second adapter (PL-AC56) to a wall socket near your smart TV, games console, Sky box, Tivo, PC, etc that will benefit from the fast Internet connection made possible by Powerline. Where you place this adapter is also going to benefit from the new wireless hotspot it can create. The password for the Wi-Fi is printed on the back of the adapter so remember to make a note of it before you plug it in.

You easily can “clone” this new hotspot to your existing wireless network so it just seems to be part of the Wi-Fi you’re used to, but much faster, of course, as the signal comes from the Powerline adapter rather than far away in another room from your wireless router.

Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 review: speed tests

In our real-world testing environment we make three performance tests.

The first isn’t really a realistic setup as we place the two adapters next to each other in a dual wall socket. This test shows us how fast it could reach without any pesky environmental limitations found in all houses, which limits speed depending on many factors.

In this test the Asus PL-AC56 scored a respectable 357Mbps, slightly faster than the Devolo 1200 Powerline kit..

The second test is the most important as we situate the second adapter in a room two floors down from the loft-based router. Here the PL-AC56 reached a speed of 109Mbps – again pretty good for a wired connection some distance from the router. It’s a long way from the 1,200Mbps claim, but it’s entirely typical for any Powerline. Your house will be different to ours so you’ll likely see different speeds. And even these will differ at various points of the day.

The important thing is that our tests demonstrate that the Asus PL-AC56 is at the faster end of the Powerline scale, and works well.

Now, how about the extra Wi-Fi hotspot it creates. Time for test 3. Despite its external antennae we were less impressed by the wireless speed, a mere 57Mbps compared to the Devolo’s 75Mbps. The external antennae should, however, give that signal greater range throughout the house so the connection and speed advantages could be greater than those shown in our standard wireless tests.

Asus also sells a lower-rated 500Mbps-rated Powerline starter kit, the PL-N12 AV500 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender, which we tested to see how it fared against the faster 1200-rated kit. As expected from a non-Gigabit Ethernet set the highest speed we got I the first test was 96Mbps, compared to the PL-AC56’s 357Mbps.

In the real-world house test the PL-N12 scored 73Mbps, which is pretty decent for a 500-rated Powerline, but not as fast as its big brother’s 109Mbps. If you want to wring every megabit out of your home network go for the 1200-rated PL-AC56. If you are prepared to wait for your movies or TV shows to download then the cheaper PL-N12 will certainly save you money.

The PL-N12 also boasts the extra Wi-Fi hotspot, and at 53Mbps it was pretty much the same as the PL-AC56. We’ve tested faster Wi-Fi on other similarly equipped Powerline adapters. If the extra wireless hotspot is important to you, our tests suggest that there’s not a big difference between the 1200-rated adapters and the 500Mbps Powerlines when Wi-Fi only is tested.

Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 review: price

The 1200-rated PL-AC56 starter kit is not a budget buy at £159.99, although we have seen it a little cheaper online. The Devolo 1200+ Wi-Fi Powerline starter kit is the same price, and close to the Asus in performance. The Asus second adapter boasts one more Ethernet port but lacks the handy pass-through socket found on the Devolo’s second adapter, so it's swings and roundabouts on features between the Asus and the Devolo.

But both look pricy compared to similar wireless 1200-rated Powerlines that are a bit cheaper – for instance the TP-Link WPA8630P Powerline at £124.99. This boasts the same three Gigabit Ethernet slots and Wi-fi functionality as the Asus but at a more reasonable price. We've even seen it on Amazon UK for under £100. In the US there's less of a discount; it costs $165 on Amazon.com, but the UK price is a bargain for the functionality.

The 500Mbps Asus PL-N12 starter kit costs a more reasonable £69.99 (£64.99 on Amazon UK), but won’t give you the wired straight-line speed of the 1200-rated PL-AC56.

Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender: Specs

  • 1,200Mbps rated Powerline
  • three Gigabit Ethernet adapters on second adapter
  • Wi-Fi functionality
  • pass-through socket on base adapter only.
  • 1,200Mbps rated Powerline
  • three Gigabit Ethernet adapters on second adapter
  • Wi-Fi functionality
  • pass-through socket on base adapter only.

SHOULD I BUY ASUS PL-AC56 AV2 1200 WI-FI POWERLINE EXTENDER?

The Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender performed well in our real-world wired speed tests, but less so from a Wi-Fi point of view despite its unique external antennae that suggested it would be a wireless champ; Asus claims they will improve signal strength at greater distances than adapters with built-in antennae. This second adapter is also pretty large and therefore is less discreet than most adapters we’ve tested. At £156 the PL-AC56 is expensive (about the same as the Devolo 1200+ Wi-Fi but more than the TP-Link WPA8630P), but does boast all the bells and whistles (three Gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi, and a pass-through socket on the base adapter) of the latest 1200-rated Powerline starter kits, and so suits the top-end networking market well.