HomePlug Buyer’s Guide (Part 3) - ZyXEL PLA4205 Gigabit Adaptor & Netgear Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501

5/8/2012 9:28:02 AM

ZyXEL PLA4205 Gigabit Adaptor

Just shy of $60 may look like a good price for a 500Mbps HomePlug AV2 network adaptor, but don’t be fooled. This package contains only a single unit, meaning that to actually use your network, you’ll need to buy a second. In fairness, $120 isn’t a terrible price for an AV2 setup, but nor is it the great value it might initially seem.

Of course, that’s not the only piece of trickery here. You may notice that the connection speed was just given as 500 megabits, even though the product clearly has the word ‘gigabit’ in the model name. This does not refer to the speed of the HomePlug network, but instead to the speed of the Ethernet port that connects your computer to the adaptor. In case it isn’t clear, let me spell it out for you: this is largely pointless. You’ll never get a connection faster than the minimum speeds any portion of a network is capable of. It’s like adding an inch onto the top of a milk bottle and claiming that you’re somehow offering a bigger pint. 500 megabits of that gigabit connection are always going to be wasted bandwidth.

Description: ZyXEL PLA4205 Gigabit Adaptor

ZyXEL PLA4205 Gigabit Adaptor

Now, with the disclaimers out of the way, we can concentrate on the actual product, which is actually not bad. A low-power 1W mode activated if no Ethernet connection is detected (i.e. your computer is switched off) and multi-coloured LEDs on the device indicate the line quality of the network – a major factor in determining the maximum speeds you can expect to get from your device.

No pass-through and only one Ethernet port make this a fairly basic adaptor, and ultimately its high cost belies a lack of practical features. If you have multiple devices, the price of buying into this system could soon stack up. No wonder ZyXEL tries to make it look and sound better than it is.


Price: $60 RRP

Adaptorsincluded: 1

Protocol: HomePlug AV2


Features: 6

Cost: 6

Overall: 6


Some interesting features, but not as practical as it could be, and definitely overpriced


Netgear Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501


Description: Netgear Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501

Netgear Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501

Unlike most HomePlug networks, you can expect to get the full speed.

Let’s start with the bad things: the XAV5501 adaptors are big. Really big. Tall enough that they might potentially get in the way of things that might be found somewhere near your plug sockets, such as mirrors, or light fixtures.

That aside, this is probably one of, if not the best adaptor on the market, and with a company like Netgear attached, it’s probably not hard to figure out why (no disrespect meant to Xylicol, Solrock and Devo or whatever those guys were called). This is a name brand delivering a product worthy of that name.

Of course, you pay for that name, but unlike most HomePlug networks, you can expect to get almost the full speed out of this one. The always-appreciated plug-through outlet is a joy to find. The Ethernet port is at the side, which is a shame because it restricts the choice of where the adaptors can be placed, but it’s not a deal-breaker (and at least the port isn’t located on the bottom as in some adaptors).

The bundled configuration utility, NetgearPowerline, is simple to use and administer, allowing you to set the QoS preferences and change the password, as well as access to other statistics and features. It’s clear that Netgear’s years of service in the network industry haven’t been wasted, and this was by far the most simple and user-friendly application used.

Although the fastest in practical terms, it isn’t exactly perfect, but there’s value in the name. it’s definitely far from the cheapest HomePlug AV2 adapter on the market, and no one would blame you for going with a less well-known manufacture to save money, or chase features missing from the XAV5501. However, when you pay for this, you’re not paying for the speed or the features, but for the peace of mind a brand name offers. Anything else is a bonus.


Price: $180 RRP

Adaptors included: 2

Protocol: HomePlug AV2


Features: 7

Cost: 7

Overall: 7


Lives up to its name, and that’s all it ever needed to do.

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