With more of us working from home and using streaming entertainment services, having a fast home network is now as essential as a kettle or gas central heating. The quickest way of improving your home network speeds is adding Powerline adapters to the rooms that need the speed. Fear not, they are super easy to install.
What are Powerline adaptors?
Powerline is a simple-to-install digital home technology that can provide faster speeds than Wi-Fi for connecting devices to your network, regardless of whether or not they're in the same room as your router.
It uses your home's mains power wires to create a network connection that - in many cases - is faster than Wi-Fi. It isn't limited to gadgets that have an Ethernet port: some Powerline kits can create powerful new Wi-Fi hotspots to give you a wireless signal in rooms or areas your router can't reach.
It's simple, easy to set up, and inexpensive given that it will greatly improve your home network for streaming HD TV, gaming and other data-hungry devices and services.
The best Powerline adapters are a better bet than Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters that merely push a weak signal further around a house. The longer the distance from your internet router and the more obstacles (walls, other devices), the weaker the Wi-Fi reception. With Powerline, distance and obstacles have a minimal effect on speed so you get close to the full potential of your broadband connection anywhere in your home with an adapter in a power socket.
An interesting alternative is Mesh Wi-Fi (see our Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks roundup), but Powerline is the fastest and can come with extra Wi-Fi hotspots built-in. Devolo's Magic WiFi range (see below) marries Powerline and Mesh technologies.
Here's how easy it is to install Powerline adaptors. Plug one adapter into a power socket near your router and attach it to the router with an ethernet cable (usually supplied with the Powerline kit - or check out the best ethernet cables in our separate roundup).
Then go to the room where you want to hook up a device to the network, plug the second adapter into a nearby power socket, and connect another ethernet cable from that to the device you want to get online.
That's it. It really is plug and play.
Most Powerline adapters come in a Starter Kit of two, but can buy "whole home" kits of three, and add single adapters if you need to have a fast home network in more rooms.
What if I need Wi-Fi?
As we've said, some Powerline adapters also have built-in Wi-Fi and create a new wireless network in that second room. This means you can get a strong, fast signal for your laptop, smartphone, tablet or another Wi-Fi gadget.
If you just want great Wi-Fi coverage across your entire home and not just a new hotspot in one weak room, then consider "Mesh"; read our roundup of the best Mesh Wi-Fi network kits. But Powerline with Wi-Fi is a simple solution that works very well - especially for smaller homes.
What other features should I look for?
You should also consider adapters that have an integrated "pass-through" power socket and therefore don't take up a valuable wall socket.
The cheapest Powerline adapters are usually rated at 500Mbps (although these are pretty rare these days), and the fastest can go as high as 2,400Mbps. You can still find them on Amazon, and you might spot a bargain but there are also great deals on the faster adapters.
You won't actually achieve these speeds as they are theoretical maximums, but they are an easy way to gauge which models are fastest.
Also, look out for adapters that use the latest Gigabit Ethernet ports. If the adapters are rated at over 500Mbps this is a must, and most higher-rated Powerlines do include this fastest Ethernet standard. You nearly always get at least one Ethernet cable in a starter kit.
Tech Advisor tests Powerline adapters in real-world environments, so check out our list below for our performance results and recommendations, along with links to our full reviews for speed scores and feature explanations.
Some of the adapters we review here have been around for a few years, but the basic technology hasn't changed much and these are gadgets that you don't need to upgrade very often, making them even better value for money. The tech doesn't move quickly like smartphones.
For more information on Powerline speed myths, tips and recommendations read our Powerline FAQ.
Best Powerline adapters 2020
1. TP-Link AV1000 - Best value, fast Powerline
The TP-Link AV1000 series of Powerline adapters is a well-made and fast set of data shifters at great prices. In some speed tests we actually found it faster than the supposedly more able TP-Link AV1200 adapters, so it punches above its weight. While in TP-Link's midrange, it offers great value at close-to-top speeds.
It’s available in four versions: the basic one-port TL-WPA7010 KIT, one-port TL-PA7010P KIT with pass-through power socket, TL-PA7020P KIT with pass-through socket and two Gigabit Ethernet ports, and the TL-WPA7510 KIT that can create a new, fast Wi-Fi hotspot in your home.
If you need it, the Wi-Fi model is well worth the extra cost, as are the models with pass-through sockets.
Read our full TP-Link AV1000 Powerline review
2. Devolo Magic 2 Wi-Fi Next - Best Powerline for speed, features and Mesh Wi-Fi
The Devolo Magic Powerline & Mesh Wi-Fi Next kit offers the best of both worlds in terms of home networking. Using the latest G.hn network standard, it has the potential to blow away other Powerline adapters, and with advanced Mesh capabilities (Fast Roaming, Access Point Steering, MU-MIMO, Band Steering, Config Sync, and Airtime Fairness) it should excel in larger homes that require more than one extra Wi-Fi hotspot.
There are two models - the 1,000Mbps Magic 1, and 2,400Mbps Magic 2. Either can be purchased as LAN only (no Wi-Fi) or with a Wi-Fi hotspot built-in.
With Powerline, Mesh, pass-through sockets and two Ethernet ports, the Magic 2 Wi-Fi Next is loaded with features.
Speeds are fast, but you're paying for Powerline and Mesh so this is best suited to homes that require more than one extra Wi-Fi hotspot. If you're after a fast Mesh system this one really delivers.
Smaller homes (where you don't need an extra Wi-Fi hotspot or just the one) might get much the same performance from cheaper non-Mesh Powerline-only systems, or the non-Wi-Fi Magic versions, such as the Magic 2 LAN.
Read our full Devolo Magic 2 Wi-Fi Next review
3. TP-Link AV1200 / AV1300 - Best Powerline for multiple Ethernet ports
The TP-Link AV1200 / AV1300 Gigabit Powerline Adapter Starter Kits (TL-PA8010 KIT, TL-PA8010P KIT, TL-PA8033P KIT, or TL-WPA8630P KIT) match their rival Gigabit Powerline adapter sets in our real-world speed tests.
If you need to have wired Ethernet connections to multiple devices (smart TV, Sky box, Tivo, games console, and so on), then having multiple Ethernet ports on the second adapter is super helpful.
We prefer the AV1300 TL-PA8033P as it boasts three Gigabit Ethernet ports, compared to the TL-PA8010P's single port adapters.
If your house suffers from weak Wi-Fi consider the WPA8630P KIT that includes functionality to add a new Wi-Fi hotspot in your house, as well as the three Ethernet ports.
If your Wi-Fi signal is acceptable you can live without a new hotspot, and the TL-PA8033P especially represents great Powerline value.
Read our full TP-LINK AV1200/ AV1300 Powerline Adapter review
4. Tenda PH5 AV1000 Wi-Fi - Best budget WiFi Powerline kit
The Tenda PH5 AV1000 Wi-Fi is an able performer and extremely well-priced for its two Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi function.
We’d have appreciated pass-through power sockets on each adapter, but at this price, it's a great starter Powerline kit that offers a new Wi-Fi hotspot in a second room.
Read our full Tenda PH5 AV1000 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender review
5. TRENDnet Powerline 500 AV Kit - Budget 500Mbps Wi-Fi Powerline
This inexpensive kit is great value if you don't need the absolute fastest speeds possible, and the Wireless Access Point option adds fast Wi-Fi if you need more than simple wired network ports. Although you can buy 1,000Mbps and faster adapters, they won't double the speed of this older but still capable 500Mbps set.
Our choice would be the TRENDnet Powerline 500 AV Kit that includes two different adapters: one TPL-406E and one wireless TPL-410AP. This isn't the very fastest but it will be quick enough for most and boasts the ability to create a wireless hotspot.
The TRENDnet TPL-408E2K lacks the Wi-Fi function but is a great value basic Powerline.
More than one port per adapter would have been nice, and the adaptors lack pass-through sockets, but at this price they're a great option for those on a limited budget.
It's quite an old product so prices may vary. If you can find it cheap, it's great. If not, look at our other recommended Powerline adapters.
Read our full TrendNet Powerline 500AV2 Adapter Kit review
6. Trendnet Powerline 1200 AV2 Adapter Kit - Decent, basic, fast Powerline
Powerlines create fast home networks with the minimum of fuss, and the Trendnet Powerline 1200 AV2 Adapter Kit is one of the fastest we’ve tested. It is rather limited by its no-frills features, though: one Ethernet port per adapter and lack of wireless, but if you want just the basics at top speeds you will surely love this Powerline kit.
It is available in two models: the entry-level TPL-420E2K, and the slightly larger TPL-421E2K, which features the handy pass-through sockets on each adapter.
We've seen it at decent prices for a basic but fast Powerline adapter kit.
7. Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi - Powerline with everything
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 the antennae will improve signal strength at greater distances than adapters with them built-in.
This second adapter is also pretty large and therefore is less discreet than most adapters we’ve tested.
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.
Read our full Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender review
8. Netgear Powerline 1000 - No frills Powerline
The Netgear Powerline 1000 is rather limited by its no-frills features: one Ethernet port per adapter and lack of wireless. We think paying extra for the PLP1200 is worth it as it boasts a pass-through socket compared to the less flexible PL1000.
While found lacking in features, it will still make a huge difference to your home network and PC/entertainment download speeds. The price is reasonable, but you can get cheaper (but not quite as fast) with a 500Mbps Powerline.
Read our full Netgear Powerline 1000 review
Powerline adapters are a great solution, but there may well be other ways to speed up your home network.