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LAN & WAN Reviews

Introduction

Cisco Linksys PLE400 and PLS400 Powerline AV adapters

At a Glance
Product - Cisco Linksys PLE400 Powerline AV 1-Port Network Adapter (PLEK400 - kit of 2)
- Cisco Linksys PLS400 Powerline AV 4-Port Network Adapter (PLSK400 - kit of 2)
Summary 200 Mbps HomePlug AV powerline adapters based on Broadcom chipsets
Pros • Can provide higher throughput than other HomePlug AV devices
Cons • No powerline quality LED
• Not available as single adapters

Cisco recently got back into powerline networking with the release of two 200 Mbps HomePlug AV adapters. Cisco told me they elected to stay with 200 Mbps powerline while most other vendors have also fielded 500 Mbps Homeplug AV compatible adapters because Homeplug AV is an approved standard while 500 Mbps powerline is not.

At any rate, Cisco now has the PLE400 Powerline AV 1-Port Network Adapter and PLS400 Powerline AV 4-Port Network Adapter, which come in two kits. The PLEK400 contains two PLE400s, while the PLSK400 contains one PLE400 and one four-port PLS400. The adapters come only in these kits—you can't buy single adapters.

The HomePlug Certified Products database shows the individual adapters and their kits as Homeplug AV Certified. And the product boxes even display the HomePlug AV Certification logo.

Like other 200 Mbps powerline adapters, the Ethernet ports on both products are 10/100, not Gigabit. And while you can't find this spec on the product webpages, the label on each adapter shows a 100 - 240 VAC rating.

Figure 1 from the product support page FAQ, shows the usual Power, Ethernet and Powerline lights. But unlike other current powerline adapters I've seen, the Powerline indicator doesn't change color to indicate link quality.

PLE400/PLS400 lights, buttons, ports

Figure 1: PLE400/PLS400 lights, buttons, ports

Inside

Peeking inside powerline adapters has gotten kind of boring, since everything I've reviewed to date has used the same Qualcomm Atheros chipsets. So I expected to see the INT6400 / INT1400 chipset I found in most of the adapters in the HomePlug AV Adapter Roundup.

I was quite surprised, then, by my first sighting of Broadcom-based powerline designs! Both adapters use a Broadcom BCM60321 Powerline Networking SoC. Qualcomm Atheros-based designs have separate analog front-end and digital chips. But Broadcom has opted to combine both in one device with good results, as you'll see in the Performance section.

Inside the PLE400

Figure 2: Inside the PLE400

The PLS400 has a BCM53101 7 port managed 10/100 Roboswitch to provide the four-port 10/100 switch, while the PLE400 has a Broadcom BCM5241 single port 10/100 Ethernet PHY. An unspecified amount of RAM is inside the BCM60321 and I saw 1 MB of Macronix flash on the PLE400 board (to the left of the BCM60321 in Figure 2). I suspect the PLS400 has the same amount of flash, probably on the underside of the board, which is soldered to the plug prongs that are fixed to the case.

Inside the PLS400

Figure 3: Inside the PLS400

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