Pros: No setup, Can expand almost all existing networks, Cheaper and easier than wiring, Coverage up to 5000 sq. ft.
Cons: Speed issues, More latency than standard Ethernet, Performance depends on your house's wiring
Speed issues, More latency than standard Ethernet
If you are looking to get an internet connection from point A to point B then there are generally three options. You can use a standard Ethernet cable, you can use Wi-Fi, or you can use a Powerline setup. Powerline will use the existing electrical lines in your house and transmit internet packets over them. This turns your house into a king of pre-existing Ethernet network. Here is a quick list of the pros and cons of these three networking options. There are many more pluses and minuses for each, but this is just a basic list.
I will be reviewing 2 TPL-408E units which are exactly the same as the TPL-408E2K. Starting with the box we see some key features including the fact that the device uses Homeplug technology.
The side shows some more features. The device is listed at 500mbps, but more on that later.
The back side of the box shows a comparison between the previous generation of 200mbps units.
Included in the box would be 2 units with cables, a manual and utility CD, as well as an instruction manual.
Taking a closer look at the unit, you will see that it is slightly larger than the size of a credit card. It is about one inch thick and features a single Ethernet port on the bottom as well as a sync button.
From the back we see the dual prong port and some model information. The unit must be plugged directly into the wall to achieve maximum performance.
The physical aspects of the unit are pretty simple, so I will now move on to the review.
The box says the unit has a gigabit port, the product description says the unit is capable of 500 mbps , I spoke with Trendnet and they said the actual unit should receive 200-300 mbps , and I am receiving anywhere between 30-175mbps . What is up with that? Why can't the product have a stated speed that it can actually achieve? Why say the unit has a gigabit port if it can only handle 500 mbps? Why say it can handle 500mbps if you can only get 200mbps out of it? Do you see my issue? Trendnet's math issues out of the way, the unit performed well in perfect circumstances, but when I tested in a typical setup, it was less than stellar. The number one thing that affects the speed is the distance away from the breaker box.
When both units were placed in the same room as the box, I achieved around 150 to 175mbps. This is slightly low, but acceptable. When I moved to a more practical setup with computers and adapters on different floors, that performance plummeted. I was only achieving about 50mbps. This could very well be the fault of my house's wiring, but I would have expected better as there is no way to tell how your house is wired until you try out a unit.
These issues aside, the unit was still plenty fast enough to stream HD content. If you need anything faster you should seriously consider running Ethernet cables. Ethernet cables will provide a latency of <1ms, Powerline will be between 1-5ms, and Wi-Fi will be anywhere from 20-50ms typically. Depending on your needs Powerline could be perfect for you.
There isn't much to say about usability. I was expecting to have to troubleshoot when I first plugged the unit in, but it worked right out of the box. This is one of the few products with no assembly required. Just plug the thing into the thing and you are good to go. Pushing the sync button on the first time will help the devices find each other if you are having issues the first time. After this there is no need to and the units will connect giving you a working signal. It takes just 10 seconds or so for the two devices to find each other and communicate.
The included software won't be used too much so I don't feel there is enough to say about it to make a whole new category. The software shows connected devices as well as info about them. You can also upgrade firmware and perform a factory reset.
To wrap it up, the Trendnet TPL-408E2K is a great little product. It offers the freedom of Wi-Fi and the performance of Ethernet. Performance will vary greatly depending on your house's wiring and your proximity to a breaker box. Even if your house is wired horribly and you are very far from a breaker box, you should still get a decent connection. I would recommend this product to anyone who has low to medium network needs and a situation where hard wiring is not an option.