capsule review

Linksys PLK300 PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapter Kit

At a Glance
  • Linksys by Cisco PLK300 PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapter Kit

    PCWorld Rating

    The lack of a connection quality indicator and a wall mount option devalue this otherwise very capable powerline kit, which has four ethernet ports on the remote adapter.

Linksys's powerline networking kit performs much the same as the other five HomePlug AV kits we looked at during the same review period (among them, the Belkin Powerline AV+ Starter Kit F5D407 and the Netgear XAVB101 Powerline AV Ethernet Adapter Kit), providing reliable high-definition video streaming with sustained throughput of approximately 60 mbps. It provides a convenient, plug-and-play way to hook up home theaters without running ethernet wiring all over the place or putting undue strain on your Wi-Fi network.

Plug one adapter into a wall outlet and into an ethernet port on your router, and plug the second adapter into another outlet in a remote location. A few seconds later, after the two devices recognize each other, you have a functioning network.

The remote adapter contains four ethernet ports, so you can connect multiple living-room devices such as game consoles, DVRs, Blu-ray players, and streaming-media boxes. Though these devices will share the powerline network's bandwidth, you'll rarely use more than one or two of them at a time.

Unfortunately, Linksys made some choices that reduce the kit's usefulness somewhat. First, it only comes in a desktop design, meaning you'll have to find a place to put the adapters. Most powerline adapters just sit in your wall outlets.

Second, Linksys omitted the color-coded connection-quality indicator lights that all of the other HomePlug AV kits have. Instead, a single blue color indicates that a connection (good or bad) exists. Linksys representatives said that they adopted this blue-light special to simplify the product. And since the network's bandwidth is divided among the adapter's four ports, the reps said, a green light (indicating that the adapter had a good connection) might be misleading, since a specific port might not be getting good throughput despite the positive signal. Nevertheless, the red/amber/green link-rate indicator in the other kits offers a clear indication when one outlet is better than another (powerline networks may not work well if your circuitry is old or compromised).

Linksys again cited simplification as its motivation for failing to include a software utility. Most users won't need such a utility, but it can come in handy for tasks like updating firmware and setting quality-of-service priorities.

Overall, the Linksys kit is easy to install and performs very well, but its dumbed-down design decisions hurt its standing.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The lack of a connection quality indicator and a wall mount option devalue this otherwise very capable powerline kit, which has four ethernet ports on the remote adapter.

    Pros

    • Four remote Ethernet ports
    • Very good setup and documentation

    Cons

    • No LED connection quality indicator
    • No wall plug mounting
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