Best Powerline Ethernet Adapters 2021
We did dozens of hours of research and testing to help you get an Ethernet connection anywhere with our top powerline Ethernet adapters.
Powerline: it’s not just the singer from A Goofy Movie whose songs hold up better than you remember.
Powerline adapters use your home’s electrical wiring to create an Ethernet connection anywhere you have wall outlets. With powerline adapters, you can connect devices (like a basement TV or office printer) to the internet when they can’t get a reliable Wi-Fi signal or when it’s not practical to use an Ethernet cable.
We recommend the TP-Link TL-PA9020 for most people because it’s affordable and easy to set up. The Netgear PLP2000 offers excellent features with a slightly high price tag. The Zyxel PLA6456 isn’t as user-friendly as TP-Link or Netgear’s adapters, but it’s still a great option for power users.
Best powerline Ethernet adapters
Compare top powerline Ethernet adapters
The TP-Link TL-PA9020 is our top powerline Ethernet adapter pick because of its excellent support app, quick installation process, and low price tag.
The Netgear PLP2000 shares many of the TP-Link’s specifications but landed at second place thanks to its higher cost and one-year warranty.
The Zyxel PLA6456 was more finicky than the TP-Link or Netgear powerline adapters, but its management tools make the unit an excellent fit if you want additional control over your powerline network.
Best overall: TP-Link TL-PA9020
- Is easy to install
- Has an excellent setup application
- Has oddly located LEDs
- Is a little bulky
The TP-Link TL-PA9020 checks off all our major requirements for a powerline Ethernet adapter: it has two Ethernet ports to connect multiple devices, a pass-through power outlet, a lengthy two-year warranty, and HomePlug AV2 support for transfer speeds up to 2 Gbps.
For only $89.99, the powerline adapter is also an affordable way to get internet coverage across your home. Mesh Wi-Fi systems extend your Wi-Fi router’s signal, but with prices that start at $200, they’re worth the cost only if you’re dealing with Wi-Fi coverage issues in a large multi-story home.
We’re big fans of TP-Link’s tpPLC application, which lets you manage your TP-Link powerline adapters. You can see all of your connected adapters, track transfer speeds, and update firmware. The application’s straightforward design is a breath of fresh air compared to typical network devices that hide settings behind a bird’s nest of tabs, menus, and sub-menus.
But TP-Link made the odd choice to put its LEDs on the side of the TL-PA9020 when most powerline manufacturers stick them on the front of their adapters. If you’re ever troubleshooting the TP-Link, you’ll have to crawl down to check the adapter’s LEDs, which is a little bit of a hassle.
When we plugged the TL-PA9020 into a bottom plug on a wall outlet, the adapter also lined up nearly flush to the top plug’s ground outlet. On the top plug, you’ll still be able to insert two-prong devices, but three-prong power cords will be a tough squeeze.
Thanks to the TP-Link’s pass-through outlet, you’ll still be able to plug devices into the power outlet. But slimmer adapters like the Zyxel PLA6456 will give you full access to both plugs in a wall outlet.View on Amazon
Honorable mention: Netgear PLP2000
- Comes with a power outlet
- Has two Ethernet jacks
- Doesn’t have extensive management tools
- Is expensive for a powerline adapter
- Only has a 1-yr. warranty
On paper, the Netgear PLP2000 is nearly identical to the TP-Link TL-9020 with its included power outlet, (thankfully front-facing) indicator LEDs, and two Ethernet ports. But the Netgear is also saddled with a heftier $109.99 price tag and a comparatively short one-year warranty (TP-Link’s adapter has a two-year warranty).
The setup process for the Netgear was a breeze, and both adapters quickly paired to each other after we plugged them in. Netgear’s support resources include the PLP2000’s manual and troubleshooting page, but surprisingly, the adapter doesn’t have a support app or settings page like TP-Link or Zyxel’s powerline adapters.
With TP-Link and Zyxel’s adapters, you can see network performance and adjust settings directly on the device. But if you have to troubleshoot the Netgear, your only tools will be your computer’s network settings page and the Netgear’s status LEDs. The Netgear’s basic management tools won’t make the adapter a great fit if you want to tweak network settings or add multiple adapters to your network.
Fortunately, most customers won’t need these support tools thanks to the PLP2000’s plug-and-go setup process. But at the same time, we wish Netgear would’ve thrown IT-fluent users a bone here.View on Amazon
Best for power users: Zyxel PLA6456
- Doesn’t cover up the top wall plug
- Has a full-featured configuration tool
- Has a single Ethernet jack
- Occasionally needs connection resets
The Zyxel PLA6456 covers the basics for a powerline adapter with its front-facing LEDs and power outlet. The Zyxel’s single Ethernet jack is a slight disappointment since the TP-Link adapter offers two jacks for around the same price.
Still, we were big fans of the Zyxel PLA6456’s small form factor. The PLA6456 is only 4.45 inches tall, and when you plug it into the bottom jack of a wall outlet, you’ll still have full access to the top plug. If you’re plugging the Zyxel into a room with few outlets, having full access to both plugs is a small but nice convenience.
We also liked Zyxel’s advanced configuration tool, which includes features like power-saving and IPv6 settings. While most people likely won’t touch these options, they’re a nice inclusion for advanced users who want to get into the nuts and bolts of their powerline network.
Under the hood, the Zyxel is built a little differently. Most adapters (like TP-Link and Netgear) use a standard called HomePlug AV2 to create a powerline connection, while the Zyxel uses a different tech called G.hn Powerline Wave 2.
To translate this jargon into plain English, we didn’t see a huge difference between either standard during our performance testing. Your powerline internet performance will depend on your home wiring and internet connection more than whether it’s a G.hn or HomePlug adapter.
But the PLA6456 occasionally lost its connection and needed to be reset when we moved the adapter between testing locations. If you’re frequently moving your Zyxel adapter between rooms, you might need to budget some time for troubleshooting.View on Amazon
What to look for in a powerline Ethernet adapter
Powerline adapters are an easy way to extend your home internet network, but like with any network extender, the technology comes with its own pros and cons. Look for powerline adapters that offer a power outlet, HomePlug AV2 or G.hn Wave 2 support, and network management tools.
Consider your home’s wiring
Powerline adapter performance heavily depends on the age and layout of your home’s electrical work.
In our testing area (an older small one-story home with a basement), all three adapters performed best when they were on the same floor. But when we moved them between floors, their download performance dipped by up to 30% depending on the outlet.
We’d suggest testing outlets around the house to find one that offers the fastest download speeds. Devices like dimmers switches and large appliances can lower transfer speeds if they’re near an adapter.
To ensure a steady powerline connection, you’ll want to find an outlet that’s far away from any disruptions.
Get a power outlet
Most powerline adapters will block off at least part of a top outlet when they’re connected to a bottom outlet, and we think it’s worth paying extra for the convenience of having an open power outlet.
Don’t skimp on specs
We’d recommend buying only HomePlug AV2 or G.Hn Wave 2 adapters with transfer speeds of at least 2,000 Mbps in order to get the most out of your powerline connection.
You’ll always lose some internet performance with extenders that aren’t “running Ethernet cable across your house” (although this option also risks making your house look like a 2000s-era LAN party), but saving money with a slower adapter lowers your powerline connection’s maximum speed out of the gate.
By sticking with AV2 or Wave 2 powerline adapters, you’ll maximize the available bandwidth for your powerline connection and have the fastest download speeds.
Look for network tools (if you’d need them)
TP-Link and Zyxel’s adapters come with handy support tools that let you view download performance and adjust network settings. Although most users won’t need these features, they can be useful if you want to manage every part of your home network.
And get the extra Ethernet port
We’d also recommend powerline adapters with two Ethernet ports for convenience. Multi-Ethernet port adapters are a great way to connect multiple devices like a TV and video game console to the internet, although single-Ethernet port adapters are often cheaper than multi-port models.
Do I need a mesh Wi-Fi system or powerline Ethernet adapter?
Powerline Ethernet adapters can be a great solution if you need to get an internet connection to a single location like a home theater setup or office that’s far away from your router. Mesh Wi-Fi systems are a better fit if you need to improve wireless internet coverage for multiple people.
The best powerline adapters combine ease of use with excellent support features. The TP-Link TL-PA9020 is our top pick because it covers all the bases with its two Ethernet ports, low price, and full-featured management app.
Netgear’s powerline adapter offers a straightforward installation process for users who want an adapter that’s easy to set up, while Zyxel’s convenient configuration tools are built for networking-savvy users who don’t mind getting into the weeds.
To determine the best powerline Ethernet adapters, we personally installed each adapter throughout our testing house and evaluated areas including design, performance, and usability.
In our testing environment (a small one-story house with a basement), we measured each adapter’s download performance using its average Speedtest result.
During testing, we plugged each manufacturer’s primary adapter into the same outlet in the middle of the basement, which is also where our modem was. We then moved the second adapter across four outlets located throughout the home:
- Middle of the basement
- Stairwell between the basement and main floor
- Middle of the main floor
- Back room of the main floor
Our test environment also had a 200 Mbps internet connection, so scores closest to 200 Mbps are better. Each test was conducted by connecting a laptop to the second adapter via Ethernet cable.
Powerline adapter speed test results
Generally, we didn’t find huge performance differences between each powerline adapter since they’re built on similar AV2 and Wave 2 powerline technology. For more information on our methodology, check out our How We Rank page.
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