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 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 most 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 Routers 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/modem 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 smart device (TV, SKy box, console, laptop, etc) you want to get online.
That's it. It really is plug and play.
Most Powerline adapters come in a Starter Kit of two adapters, but can buy "whole home" kits of three. You can also add extra 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 consider adapters that have an integrated "pass-through" power socket and therefore don't take up a valuable wall socket.
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.
Can I trust the speed ratings?
All Powerline adapters are marketed with the theoretical maximum speeds, from 500Mbps to 2,400Mbps.
You won't actually get anywhere near these top speeds, but they are indicative of the technology inside that can be compared against each other.
To really find the true performance comparison, 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 Powerline adaptor 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 2021
TP-Link AV1000 - Best value, fast 1,000Mbps 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 - our favourite - 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
Devolo Magic 2 Wi-Fi Next - Best Powerline for 2,400Mbps speed 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 1,200Mbps 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
TP-Link AV1200 / AV1300 - Best 1,200Mbps 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.
Even better, 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 - and a pass-through power socket on each adapter.
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
Tenda PH3/PH5 AV1000 - Best budget 1,000Mbps 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.
It's comparable to the TP-Link TL-WPA7510KIT Wi-Fi Powerline that we also recommend.
The entry-level PH3 lacks the Wi-Fi and one of the Gigabit Ethernet ports, but is very affordable.
Read our full Tenda AV1000 Powerline Extender review
Netgear Powerline 1000 - No frills budget 1,000Mbps Powerline
The Netgear Powerline 1000 is rather limited by its no-frills features: one Ethernet port per adapter and lack of wireless. But we do give points for the pass-through sockets.
While found lacking in features, it will still make a huge difference to your home network and PC or entertainment download speeds.
The price is great, even if you can get cheaper (but not as fast) with a 500Mbps Powerline such as the Trendnet Powerline 500 AV Kit that lacks the handy pass-through sockets.
Read our full Netgear Powerline 1000 review
Trendnet Powerline 1200 AV2 Wireless Kit - Fast 1,200Mbps Powerline with 3 LAN ports
The Trendnet WiFi Everywhere Powerline 1200 AV2 Wireless Kit (TPL-430APK) has a long name and a very large second adapter with prominent antennae to signal its Wi-Fi functionality.
This starter kit is actually two different adapters, the TPL-421E in Trendnet's other non-wireless starter kit and a TPL-430AP adapter that builds you a new Wi-Fi hotspot in the second room.
Performance is impressive, but we were slightly put off by the giant adapter and its lack of pass-through power socket.
It does boast three Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connecting of multiple devices, but we find the TP-Link TL-WPA8630PKIT a more affordable option for three LAN ports and a Wi-Fi connection.
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 (TPL-421E) 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.
Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi - 1,200Mbps 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 (more than the Trendnet TPL-430APK and the TP-Link TL-WPA8630PKIT), 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 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
Powerline adapters are a great solution, but there may well be other ways to speed up your home network.