Small, cheap, quick home networking
In the right circumstances Powerline devices are a great way to quickly and easy connect up your devices. The reason I say that is because the performance of such devices is heavily dependant on the quality of the cabling it’s used on. Most people have no issues, but in my experience you’ll never get anywhere near the speeds quoted on the box.
In this particular example, the TRENDnet TPL-406e is quoted as having a throughput of 500 Mbps, which is the fastest type of Powerline device available at the moment. In practice though, you’re never going to get those sort of speeds. So, how well does the TPL-406e actually go? Read on to find out.
Out of the box
I’ll start off by saying that the TPL-406e is probably the smallest Powerline adapter that I’ve ever seen. This might not be too important to you if you’re planning on hiding it out of sight anyway, but if you’ve no choice but to have it out in the open then it certainly becomes more important.
It also means that the TPL-406e is less likely to cause you any issues when plugged in to multi-socket extension blocks (though it’s always recommended to plug Powerline devices directly in to a wall outlet).
In terms of design, the TPL-406e cirtainly looks and feels well made. The crisp edges and recessed TRENDnet logo give it a modern look, while the green status LEDs aren’t so bright as to distract when in plain view.
To the base of the unit you’ll find the single Ethernet port and recessed reset button. It’s a shame that this model only includes a single port when competitors are including two, but it does help to keep the size and price of the unit down.
As mentioned previously, the TPL-406e is rated as up to 500Mbps, though in reality you’re not likely get speeds anywhere need that.
When using two of these units together, with one connected directly to a Gigabit router and the other connected to a PC I obtained sustained data transfer speeds of around 80Mbps, well below the stated speeds.
This might seem terrible, but in my experience of Powerline devices it’s actually pretty good. The wiring in my home is notoriously noisy, and most other 500Mbps adapters have only yielded actual transfer speeds of around 40-50Mbps. So, when compared to other devices, the TPL-406e seems to make better use of noisy mains cabling.
It’s worth noting also that TRENDnet provide a CD with a configuration utility for the adapter, and this gave a speed rating of 160Mbps, acknowledging that the quality of the line was not the best.
The TPL-406e is certainly amongst the better Powerline devices that I’ve reviewed. The compact design and modern look mean that it’s not going to look too obvious if you’re forced to have it out in the open, and the performance is better than I’ve experienced with other 500Mbps units that I’ve reviewed.
It’s also a pretty inexpensive unit, coming in at under £25, including P&P, for a single adapter from Dabs.
Personally, I tend to avoid Powerline devices in favour of running actual network cables to my devices, but given the performance and styling of these units, I would be more than happy to use them if running a network cable was going to prove too difficult. The 80Mbps performance that I experienced is still more than quick enough to stream full HD video, so for connecting a SmartTV up to your home network it’s an obvious choice.