capsule review

ZyXel PLA-401 v2 HomePlug AV Powerline Wall Mount Ethernet Adapter & ZyXel PLA-470 HomePlug AV Powerline Switch

At a Glance
  • ZyXEL PLA-401 v2 HomePlug AV Powerline Wall Mount Ethernet Adapter

    PCWorld Rating

    ZyXEL powerline adapters hit the high points, with a four-port ethernet switch, connection-quality indicator light, and useful software.

Since a powerline network requires at least two adapters, we combined ZyXel's PLA-401 v2 HomePlug AV Powerline Wall Mount Ethernet Adapter with the company's PLA-470 HomePlug AV PowerLine Switch to form our own "starter kit." The total price is about the same as that of two-adapter kits from other vendors. We connected the PLA-401 wall-mount adapter to our router as the base station, and used the PLA-470 desktop adapter (with four-port ethernet switch) to connect our remote devices.

As was the case with the other powerline kits we tested, setup was plug-and-play, throughput was very good, and video streaming performance was rock-solid. You simply plug the two adapters into the wall, and then connect your devices via ethernet to the adapters, and the devices detect each other automatically within a few seconds. The powerline LED glows red or green depending on the quality of the connection, which helps you to troubleshoot bad outlets.

Buttons on each adapter let you change the default encryption passphrase in seconds, a worthwhile precaution to take if you share circuitry or just want to be ultrasecure.

ZyXel includes a software utility that you can use to prioritize streaming traffic among connected devices; this is a useful feature for a four-port switch that works with shared 200-mbps bandwidth.

The adapters' design is somewhat utilitarian, and the four-port switch is quite large compared to the Belkin Powerline AV+ Starter Kit F5D4075 and the Linksys PLK300 PowerLine AV Ethernet Adapter Kit powerline switches we tested. But theZyXel adapters performed well and together offer most of the extras included in competing kits, such as the software utility and connection-quality indicator lights. The ZyXel hardware is a good choice if you need multiple ethernet ports for a home theater.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    ZyXEL powerline adapters hit the high points, with a four-port ethernet switch, connection-quality indicator light, and useful software.

    Pros

    • Four ethernet ports on remote adapter
    • LED connection quality indicator

    Cons

    • Utilitarian design
    • Have to put kit together from two products
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