When it comes to connecting your home to the Internet, few devices have proven more useful than powerline adaptors. Where wi-fi fails, be it due to chickenwire type wall construction or other reasons, powerline adaptors provide a quick and easy solution. They're generally better than wi-fi for gaming too.
They can also reduce the need to run CAT5 cable through your home - doing this properly usually means running it through the walls and all the fun and games that brings. You'll never see Gigabit speeds from powerline adaptors, at least not yet, but the latest models are able to keep up with the best that home fibre optic broadband here in the UK can throw at them.
When it comes to choosing a set, 500Mbps adaptors are now pretty much standard. However, there's quite a bit of difference out there in terms of the technology used and speeds you'll likely achieve. The last set from Zyxel we saw, for example, only use 100Mbps hardware inside, so claiming speeds of 500Mbps is just a tad misleading. However, while Devolo uses 1Gbps hardware, its speeds generally fail to break the 200Mbps barrier - less than half of their advertised speed. So it appears that no one is really the truth, at least not as far as real-world results go.
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With that said and done, let's look at Zyxel's latest powerline adaptors - the PLA4211. Unlike the PLA4201 that we looked at last time, the PLA4211 is a pass-through adaptor, allowing you to plug in your PC or other devices into the same socket - useful if you only have one socket nearby. The 'kit' we've reviewed includes two single LAN port adaptors and retails for £55 - considerably less than the likes of Devolo's dual 500Mbps kits.
The adaptors themselves are pretty hefty compared to the PLA4201. They're nearly 2cm deeper and 3cm longer. However they're still noticeably shorter than Devolo standard pass-through adaptors, so if your sockets are located close to the carpet, the PLA4211 may be an alternative if you need a pass-through adaptor.
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Installation is a doddle and we just had to plug them in, check for the latest firmware and were were up and running. Sadly, Zyxel still seems to be using 100Mbps hardware, as this showed up in the network status, meaning that the PLA4211 will be limited to 12.5MB/sec transfer speeds. On the side of each unit is a Encryption sync button that allows you to setup a secure network by syncing adaptors on the network.