Today we take a look at powerline networking in our TP-Link AV500 Review. Two products are covered, their starter kit and a more advanced Wi-Fi capable kit.
TP-Link AV500 Review – Powerline Starter Kit
We start this TP-Link AV500 Review with a look at the more basic of the two products, their starter kit. The box gives us a nice image of the product along with providing key product info and then inside we find a number of bundled items. First up are two RJ-45/Cat.5 cables, product documentation and a mini-cd with TP-Link software which is also available from their website.
Shown above are the two main items which we find in the TL-PA4020OKIT pack. The appearance will of course vary depending on the plugs in your region but other than that the functionality and appearance is the same. What we have here are two compact powerline adapters which feature pass through so that we don’t lose a plug socket when using the devices. Top left of the front surfaces we have status LEDs and a pair button then on the top end we have two 10/100 LAN ports. In this kit both adapters are identical so we are showing you the front and back surface above. (The dimensions are 95x58x42mm)
TP-Link AV500 Review – Powerline Wireless Kit
Moving on to the Wi-Fi Kit we have familiar packaging, near identical to the starter kit and inside the bundle is pretty much the same too. Two RJ-45 Cat.5 cables being the key items.
In the last kit the two adapters were the same, this time round we get an adapter which matches the starter kit and a Wi-Fi enabled unit. Focusing on the Wi-Fi module it doesnt have the plug passthrough but it does feature status LEDs and a button for quick setup. Also worthy of note is that on the Wi-Fi module the two 10/100 LAN ports are on the base, not the top.
TP-Link AV500 Review – Setup
This is the first powerline kit that I personally have used so was going into the setup as a complete novice. With that in mind, it was great to see how quick and easy the setup was. For the starter kit we plug an adapter into the wall and connect one port to our router using the bundled cable. At that point the adapter starts transmitting our network round the home/office wiring. Then we position the other adapter in a plug wherever we want and connect that to a PC/device using the other bundled cable.
Thats it. Done. Powerline network achieved! The devices are auto sensing and don’t even need a password or button press to sync (though we do have access to those in case something goes wrong).
For those who go with the Wi-Fi kit, the setup process is initially the same. Main (non Wi-Fi) adapter plugged in to wall and router. Wi-Fi unit plugged into wall/device. Done. We can also pair the two kits being reviewed today together to give extra plug sockets network access, again with auto setup. True plug and play.
Where we can then go with the Wi-Fi adapter is to enable wireless. For most people the ideal method will be to boost the existing network in our home. For that we press the WPS/pairing button on the router and then do the same on the TP-Link AV500 Wi-Fi adapter and the two will sync and expand/clone our network. No extra passwords required.Alternatively we can receive a network signal through the powerline and then broadcast it via a new network name to devices. The choice is yours.
TP-Link AV500 Review – Software
Although we have noted that the AV500 devices are very much plug and play we do get some software to provide some advanced configuration.
The first is our Wi-Fi utility which searches for Wi-Fi capable powerline adapters and allows launches a web interface. From that we can configure the Wi-Fi adapter in detail, as well as update its firmware if needed. For standard powerline adapters we have a seperate program.
For standard adapters (including the non Wi-Fi adapter in the Wi-Fi kit) we have the TP-Link Powerline Utility. The first screen of the utility gives us some basic info on the local device, the second then lists each of the TP-Link devices on our network and the speed at which our remote devices are connected at. Then in screen three we can configure prioritisation for types of media, if we want. Finally we have the the system tab which allows us to update firmware, reset the local (or all) device and then change the powerline network name.
TP-Link AV500 Review – User Experience
So, in terms of our overall experience, it was a very positive one with the TP-Link AV500 devices. Set-up couldnt be easier. We plug in the devices and they auto configure and are ready to go within 60seconds. And thats it. Which means we can basically set them up, including all the unboxing and walking to plug them in, within 10minutes. Having the applications are a bonus as they give advanced users the options they may need too. That said, we did note that TP-Link could do with making a unified application for all of their recent devices, with the single latest version available on their site. That would make everyones life easier.
Would we change the design? Probably not too much. It could be useful to have an on/off switch on the front for UK consumers as busy plug sockets could make it harder to reach round to the wall switch and turn off. Maybe we would go with 10/100/1000 ports for future proofing but that isnt really a necessity as the speeds of this kit will outperform most storage drives and home internet connections. And wireless-ac on the Wi-Fi adapter would always be appreciated…but again isn’t essential. In terms of the specifications, the kits are designed to transmit up to 300meters on a single circuit. They support 128-bit AES Encryption and have a data rate of up to 500Mbps over wires. For the Wi-Fi adapter we have wireless-n support with WEP. WPA/WPA2 (and PSK) with 300Mbps speed.
That brings us to support and value. For the former we get a 3-year warranty and 24/7 support which is good. For the pricing, the devices are set at a competitive level and really the only way that value could be improved is a couple of extra RJ-45 cables in each box so we can use both ports on each adapter without needing to order extra cables (even if they are super cheap).
Decent performance, easily enough speedfor home networks/internet connections. Could not be easier to set up. Well worthy of our recommended award.