The 10 Best Powerline Network Adapters
How Powerline Networking Works
Powerline networking is a communication protocol that allows you to use electrical wiring to carry broadband data between devices. It's the ideal way to extend an existing network to other areas of your home or business, without having to run more Ethernet cables or get a more powerful router. A router or modem is connected to an adapter, which is then plugged into a standard wall socket. Another device somewhere else is connected to a similar adapter and also plugged into a wall socket. Once both adapters are plugged in, they make a network connection via the electrical wiring.
Electrical wiring in the common home can support a number of frequencies and signal types. Electricity is transferred at 50 and 60 Hz. Another signal can be sent along the same wire, at the same time as the electrical current as long as it running at a different frequency. If you send another signal at a different frequency across the same wire, it won't interfere with, or be affected by, the electricity. Your internet data gets transmitted at 3 kHz or higher, which means neither signal has any chance of interfering with the other.
While you may have only started hearing about powerline networking recently, it isn't a new technology. The power companies have been using it since the 1920s to send signals to electric meters. This is how they know to switch to off-peak rates at different times.
Powerline Vs. WiFi
One might think that with the prevalence of wireless internet, there would be no need for anything that makes use of a wired connection, but powerline networking actually has a number of benefits over Wi-Fi.
First and foremost is connection quality. Unlike with Wi-Fi, your signal strength won't decrease as you get farther away from the signal source. Your network strength will be just as good 50' away from your internet source as it is 5' away. A powerline network is also more stable than Wi-Fi and will never drop a connection unless your internet goes out completely. Faster speeds are another huge advantage of powerline networks. Both Wi-Fi router companies and powerline network companies tout speeds considerably higher than any user will ever experience, but actual users of powerline networks have seen speeds upwards of 500 Mbps, as opposed to Wi-Fi where it is rare for any user to experience real life speeds over 100 Mbps.
Security is another area where a powerline network is more advantageous than a WLAN. It is easier for a hacker to access your network when the signal is being broadcast to areas outside of your home, and let's face it, most of us try to buy the strongest router possible to ensure we get a good Wi-Fi signal in every nook and cranny of our home. In order to gain access to a powerline network, a hacker would have to physically connect to one of your wall outlets.
Powerline networks are also easier to set up as you will find out in the next section. They don't require you to mess around with confusing router settings or set up a password-protected wireless local area network.
How To Set Up A Powerline Network
Trying to hook up a device that doesn't have wireless capabilities to your router or modem can be inconvenient, especially if the device is far away from your internet source. You will have to buy a really long Ethernet cable and then figure how to hide it so you aren't left with an unseemly wire running along your floor or ceiling. Setting that same device up with a powerline network takes away all the hassle, and doesn't require any technical know-how. No matter how tech savvy you may or may not be, if you can plug in your TV or your blender, you can set up a powerline network.
The majority of powerline network adapter kits you buy will come with at least two adapters, but some may include three or even four. Just check to be sure you aren't accidentally purchasing one adapter that is being sold as an add-on to other kits. You need at least two adapters to make a powerline network connection.
Your first adapter needs to be connected via an Ethernet cable to your internet source. This can be your modem or a wireless router if you will be using one in conjunction with your powerline network. The other adapter gets attached to the device you want to provide with internet connectivity, also through an Ethernet cable, and then plugged into another wall socket. The two adapters will automatically detect each other and the connection will be made. That's all it takes. You'll now have a working powerline network set up in your home.