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Zyxel PLA 5205 600Mbps Powerline Adaptor Review

Zyxel PLA 5205 600Mbps Powerline Adaptor Review

Manufacturer: Zyxel
UK Price (as reviewed): £79.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $119.99 (ex. Tax)

We always look upon new speed ratings on powerline adaptors with a fair degree of skepticism. Even Devolo's adaptors, which have usually been proven to be the fastest, struggle to achieve a third of their rated speed. This obviously leads to a fair amount of disappointment when you plug in 500Mbps powerline adaptors that you expect to be transferring data at around 60MB/sec and you're lucky to see anything near 20MB/sec (160Mbps). In fact the fastest speed we've seen is 18.8MB/sec (150.4Mbps), which was plugging two Devolo 500Mbit adaptors right next to each other.

However, for those of us that are familiar with these useful little gadgets it's something we've come to expect. Yes, the rated speeds vary wildly but they still generally out-do Wi-Fi (especially at distance) and the convenience of distributing your network throughout your home's mains cabling certainly beats wiring up the place with Ethernet (Cat5e) cable.

Zyxel PLA 5205 600Mbps Powerline Adaptor Review
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The fastest current standard of Powerline is rated at 1000Mbps but reports of the quality of sets that use the technology have been pretty poor, with them often outperformed by 500MBps units. So, today we're looking at the more modest next step up in the form of a 600Mbps set. Zyxel's new PLA5205 powerline adaptors are actually based on the same HomePlug AV2 standard as most 500Mbps kits but the company has managed to stretch the rated speed to 600MBps. We'll see shortly if it's made any difference.

Being based on the same standard they are backwards compatible with HomePlug AV and IEEE 1901 models (although don't forget that they'll only run at the speed of the slowest adaptor in the network).

Zyxel PLA 5205 600Mbps Powerline Adaptor Review
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We're looking at the PLA5205 kit, which includes two 600Mbps adaptors and retails for £80. This is considerably more than the company's 500Mbps offerings: the PLA4211 kit for example offers power passthrough - absent on the PLA 5205 - and costs less than £50. However, there's is a key piece of new technology that accounts for at least some of that higher price.

Zyxel PLA 5205 600Mbps Powerline Adaptor Review
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SmartLink Plus is a new technology that aims to deal with electrical noise and achieving the best speeds in any given situation. It allows the adaptor to send simultaneous signals across all three socket pins (for those of you that didn't listen in your physics lessons or have never wired a plug these are ground, neutral and live), which Zyxel claims allows the new PLA5200 series to deal with electronic noise far more effectively, even when used in a power strip.

For those of us with pesky single power sockets, this could prove very useful indeed, though as we've noted previously using a Powerline adapter with a power-socket pass-through largely gets round that problem anyway. Nonetheless, we're obviously just as keen to see if this technology can add some much-needed grunt in general too.

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