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Wi-Fi Router Charts

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Mesh System Charts

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The User Guide references a PLA Series Configuration Utility. But it wasn't included on the CD in the box that contained only documentation and wasn't found via Support searches for either PLA5206 or PLA Series Configuration Utility.

My experience has shown these utilities are of little use anyway. I've yet to find a powerline device that had any updated firmware to be installed. And the QoS configuration screens are not user friendly and have no useful documentation.

The only possible use is to check link rate, which again, I rarely find provides an accurate reflection of the actual throughput of a powerline connection.


I tested the PLA5206 using our standard powerline test procedure, with all results entered into the Powerline Performance Charts.

I pulled all AV2 SISO adapters tested so far, i.e. TP-LINK's TL-PA6010, Linksys' PLEK500 and ZyXEL's PLA5205, into the three location comparison plots below. All except the PLA5206 are AV2 SISO-500 devices, using QCA's QCA7450 / AR1540 chipset.

The Downlink Throughput plot below shows the PLA5206 having the highest throughput only in my worst-case Location E. The TP-LINK TL-PA6010 has the highest best-case (Location A) downlink throughput of 267 Mbps vs. the PLA5206' 201 Mbps.

Downlink throughput comparison

Downlink throughput comparison

Uplink is a different story with the PLA5206 turning in the highest Location A throughput of 279 Mbps! But the TL-PA6010 isn't far behind with 263 Mbps.

Downlink throughput comparison

Downlink throughput comparison

The simultaneous up /downlink IxChariot plot for the PLA5206 shows a huge mismatch in the two directions, with a definite preference for uplink (transmit) traffic. At least total throughput is up a bit to 308 Mbps.

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink

Adding more simultaneous streams doesn't add much to total throughput. With two up/downlink streams running simultaneously, total throughput is only 327 Mbps, with the up / downlink imbalance still obvious.

IxChariot downlink summary x2

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink x2

Broadcom told me that their devices perform line condition adjustments during the first 10 seconds of steady traffic. They also said the devices do a lot of adaptation to work around noise. So I did some quick tests in Location E, where most of my worst powerline noise sources (our smartphone and tablet chargers) live. The tests were similar to those run on the TP-LINK TL-PA6010, basically plugging and unplugging a particularly noisy wall-wart while an IxChariot stream was running, and seeing what happened.

The composite plot below shows the baseline Location E downlink test, run with all noise sources unplugged. Also shown is a test that starts the same way, then has a noise source plugged in around 18 seconds in, then uplugged at the 30 second mark. Sure enough, throughput recovers to the initial value within 30 seconds.

Location E noise test

I also ran a two minute torture test with all noise sources plugged in to see how the adapter would cope. I started by unplugging the adapter to clear any previous adaptations, plugged it in and let it link, then started the test. There's an initial adjustment at the 10 second mark, just as Broadcom said. But there's also a very slow increase in throughput of about 5 Mbps average over the two minute test, by my eyeball. This is certainly a welcome addition, but nothing to write home about.

Location E noise test - 2 minute

Location E noise test - 2 minute

Closing Thoughts

There's not much sense using the Powerline Ranker to sum up, since the PLA5206 currently stands alone in its AV2 SISO-750 class. So let's look at the Powerline Charts' average down and uplink values for all AV2 SISO products.

For downlink, TP-LINK's TL-PA6010 is the clear choice with 17% higher average throughput than the PLA5205. For uplink, the two products are tied.

HomePlug AV2 SISO comparison

HomePlug AV2 SISO comparison

Pricewise, however, the TP-LINK has a huge price advantage at only $73 vs. ZyXEL's $129. Bottom line, despite ZyXEL's much bigger "number on the box", TP-LINK's TL-PA6010KIT still seems the clear choice if you need a pair of HomePlug adapters today.

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