The best powerline extenders can seemingly do magic by filling a home’s pesky Wi-Fi dead zones with data. Instead of pumping out a fresh Wi-Fi signal with an extender and hoping for the best, powerline technology uses the house’s power cables inside its walls to put data just about anywhere there’s an AC outlet.
We used and reviewed the top powerline extender kits under real world conditions to help you pick the best device. Our criteria emphasizes value with everything from the device’s price, design and power use to whether it has an AC outlet to make up for the one it uses, its throughput and range.
Using powerline gear couldn’t be simpler: plug a small sending box in near where your data broadband connection is and a receiver where you want data to end up. There’s no software, configuration or passwords to fuss with. On the downside, rather than a fresh Wi-Fi signal, the data come out of a wired Ethernet port. Plus, the farther the signal has to travel, the less data that gets through to the receiver so that older homes with complicated wiring suffer from reduced range. In the typical home, powerline extensions can reach about a hundred feet, plenty for all but a mansion.
What are the best powerline extenders?
In our testing, the best powerline extender overall was the Netgear PLP2000, which stood out as superior by delivering the fastest data along with a reasonable range. It should be more than enough to add data where it’s needed.
If you live large, the TP-Link TL-PA9020P is the best powerline extender for large homes. The TP-Link’s extended range can help turn a big house into a data-filled home. It has a monitoring and configuration utility, but the device is a power hog and that will show up on your power bill.
Meanwhile, D-Link’s DHP-601AV is the best budget powerline extender. The unit’s small size, inexpensive price and power-efficient, two-prong plug design is perfect for homes without grounded three-prong outlets.
The best powerline extenders you can buy today
It’s a close call, but the Netgear PLP2000’s superior throughput trumped the TP-Link’s TL-PA9020P’s extended range, making it our choice as the best Powerline adapter. With the ability to move more data, the PLP2000 outperformed the crowd and filled a previously unconnected garage with more than enough data to watch videos, play games and live online.
It may be one of the largest PL extenders available and not include a monitoring utility, but the PLP2000 provides an AC outlet to make up for the one it uses and its two gigabit Ethernet ports provide data for a TV and a computer. While at $110 it’s among the most expensive PL extenders, it includes a one-year warranty and only 90-days of support, while its peers include a year or two of warranty and support.
Netgear’s PLP2000 can push data into unconnected parts of a home at peak performance and is the one to get.
TP-Link’s TL-PA9020P can help fill a big home with powerline data thanks to its class-leading range. It may be off the blistering pace set by the PLP2000, but the TL-PA9020 has the power to push data through more than 1,000-feet of electrical wiring and delivered top-speed to a previously unconnected garage. Its pair of Ethernet ports and AC passthrough outlet mean that it not only won’t hog your home’s outlets but can supply data to two devices, like a smart TV and a computer.
While its monitoring and configuration utility lets you customize your powerline network by renaming the devices and adjusting the Quality of Service parameters of the TL-PA9020P, its thirst for electricity makes it expensive to use and its side-mounted LEDs can be hard to see. Still, the $90 TL-PA9020P can fill a big home with data.
Despite its short range and middling performance, the D-Link DHP-601AV’s two-prong plug can help bring data to older homes that lack ungrounded three-prong outlets. Small and easy to hide, the DHP-601AV has three LEDs to show network status but falls short by lacking an AC passthrough outlet to make up for the one it uses. With a single Ethernet port, a powerline network composed of DHP-601AV units will need a networking switch to connect to more than one device.
Although several competitors provide a monitoring and configuration utility for adjusting the parameters of the powerline network, the DHP-601AV has none. On the other hand, it sips electricity while others gulp it and could cost only $2.40 a year to operate. That, along with its $60 price tag, means the DHP-601AV is cheap to keep for an older home.
How we test powerline extenders
To evaluate each powerline extender set, we test each in a variety of ways. In addition to price and physical design, we test to find the throughput, range, and bandwidth over distance as well as temperature and power consumption.
Throughput: To measure the range and throughput of each Powerline set, we plugged the sending unit in at the home’s circuit breakers and the broadband modem and the receiver at an AC outlet 10-feet away.
Wired Range: After measuring the throughput, we added a series of 100-foot grounded extension cords and measured the bandwidth available. When the system disconnected, we removed the last cord and added 50-, 25-, 12-, and up to two 6-foot cords. The range is the total length of the extension cords that delivered the lowest throughput without disconnecting.
Bandwidth: We set up the receiver in a garage that’s about 100-feet from the sending unit and measured the bandwidth. We finished by watching HD videos, playing online games and visiting Web sites.
Temperature & Power consumption: While watching videos, we measured each device’s peak temperature with a Fluke 62 mini IR thermometer and power consumption (both in use and at idle) with a Kill A Watt Edge power meter. Assuming that the gear is active half of the day and sits idle for the rest, we multiplied each power-use figure by 4,380 (365 days times 12 hours a day) and added the results together. Then, we doubled the total for the two devices needed and divided by 1,000 to get the annual energy use in kilowatt-hours. Finally, we multiplied this by $.13 (the average price of a kilowatt-hour) to get our estimate of annual operating cost.
Behind the scenes, we used a Linksys WRT32X router, a 200Mbps Internet connection, a Lenovo ThinkPad T470 notebook and the Speedtest app to measure throughput. For all testing, five data points were averaged.