TP-Link TL-PA251 HomePlug Kit review
Thanks to its pass-through plug sockets, the TP-Link TL-PA251 HomePlug kit lets you connect devices to your network without sacrificing your all-important mains sockets. The kit consists of two 200Mbit/s HomePlug devices, each with a single Fast Ethernet port. The plugs are designed to be used non-wireless devices such as Sky HD boxes, smart TVs and media centre PCs, but you can use them with any other device too.
Setting the adaptors up is straightforward and the adaptors' pairing buttons secure the network with 128-bit encryption. Each HomePlug has three LEDs that let you know when they’re plugged in, when the HomePlugs are paired and when the Ethernet connection’s working, so you always know the state of your powerline network. We must say that we’re not fans of the setup utility, which looks as if it’s a relic from the mid-90s, but you’ll only have to use it if you plan on adding HomePlug adaptors from other manufacturers to your network and need to set the password manually.
We tested the kit with both plugs close together and saw a data transfer rate of 76.3Mbit/s. This was enough to let us watch Full HD videos and media without any stuttering and dropped frames. However, the data rate dropped to 40Mbit/s when we moved one of the HomePlugs to a distance of 10 metres. We could watch 1080p and 720p videos, but not always with clean and fluid playback. This is a real shame, but we could at least listen to our music at that distance without incident. Bear in mind that our lab is a noisy electronic environment, so is really a worst-case scenario for powerline kit.
If you’re a movie fan and want to stream the contents of your media collection to your smart TV or games console, you should consider a 500Mbit/s-rated kit such as the Devolo dLAN 500 AVTriple+, which has passthrough sockets but, at £112, is also much more expensive. If you can live without the pass-through plug sockets, you're better off with the 500Mbit/s-rated TP-Link TL-PA511 AV500 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit.