TP-Link TL-PA211 Powerline Adapters

My wireless network setup wasn’t cutting it for me in my house any more so I decided to try ethernet over power as a possible solution. The idea is that instead of running ethernet cables all over your house you use your electrical cabling instead and special doobries that you plug in to wall sockets have ethernet ports on them that you can plug standard ethernet cables into.

I did very little market research beyond scanning some Amazon reviews and, because I didn’t want to spend fortune because I needed four of them I picked TP-Link’s TP-PA211 which is officially called the AV200 Mini Multi-Streaming Powerline Adapter.

The units arrived today and the setup was ridiculously simple. Essentially, unless you want to mess about installing Windows software you simply plug the devices in and press some buttons. More on this later.

However first I wanted to mention the Windows software that TP-Link supplies. I’m not sure what the software does or how well it does it for two reasons. The first is that I use Macs, not Windows PCs so I couldn’t install the software even if I wanted to. The second is that the software ships on those mini CDs, the sort that cannot be used in slot-loading drives. If I had a Windows laptop I can pretty much guarantee that it would be a slot-loader which makes these discs useless. You can of course download the software (if you are running Windows) but it does beg the question of why TP-Link include the discs rather than, say, a piece of paper with really big text on it telling people that they can download the software. Anyway, rant over and I hope it’s only a very few people who get the mini CDs stuck in their slot-loading drives.

So the non-Windows setup consists of pressing a button on the bottom of the unit for a few seconds and then pressing the an equivalent button on another unit for a few seconds. You even have about two minutes to make it between units. Really it is simplicity itself and I had no problems getting the devices to recognise each other. It is then just a case of plugging in ethernet cables and off you go.

I really don’t have a very scientific way to test the speed of it all but my Apple TVs seem to stream content from my computer faster than they did over wifi so I’d say that they are fast enough. Since the alternative is flakey or no connectivity via wifi I’m happy to conclude that they are an improvement.

A few final things you should note:

  • I don’t live in a block of flats so my electricity supply is about as isolated as it can be. I’m therefore not too worried about sending data over the electrical wiring in my house. If you do live in flats then this may be more of a concern. The TP-Link devices do incorporate data encryption but I cannot attest to how robust it is or whether you’re any better or worse off than the security wifi offers.

  • The devices come with 1m long ethernet cables. This may be sufficient if the device is next to whatever you need to connect it to but you might want to buy some longer cables when you order these.

  • You need to plug the devices straight into a wall socket rather than a multi-socket adaptor. This ensures that minimal speed degradation occurs.

I’d recommend the TP-Link TL-PA211 to other people and actually the entire ethernet over power thing works really well. It’s always fun to try out a technology you’ve not used before and today I certainly wasn’t disappointed.