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Like all HomePlug AV devices, the PLE400 and PLS400 ship with 128 bit AES encryption enabled, using the same default key, so you can just plug and play. They also have buttons that can be used to set a different security code. Setting the code works like setting up a Wi-Fi WPS connection. You press the button on one device until a LED starts blinking. You then have two minutes to press the button on a second adapter to complete the setting.

You can also usually change the security code using a utility program. Cisco doesn't include one in the product boxes. But both Windows and MacOS versions of the Cisco Powerline AV utility are available as downloads. The powerline utilities for Qualcomm Atheros-based products all require WinPCap. But that didn't appear to be required for these adapters, or at least I didn't see the installer install it.

Cisco Powerline AV utility - Status

Figure 4: Cisco Powerline AV utility - Status

Figure 4 provides a taste of the utility and you can see the other three screens in the Gallery.

Image Gallery

Performance

I tested all the adapters at three locations in my home using this procedure. I wanted to test two of the same adapter, but Cisco sent one of each kit, instead of two of the PLSK400. So the PLS400 was tested with a PLE400.

I ran separate up and downlink tests at each of three test locations . I also ran simultaneous up/downlink and four-stream tests at Location A. All results have been entered into the Powerline Performance Charts.

Figure 5 shows average uplink throughput for all three test locations and Figure 6 shows downlink. I haven't added the ability to filter the charts for 200 and 500 Mbps adapters, so all tested adapters are shown.

Average uplink throughput

Figure 5: Average uplink throughput

The new Linksys adapters seem to have an edge over the Qualcomm-Atheros adapters when looking at total average throughput.

Average downlink throughput

Figure 6: Average downlink throughput

The throughput vs. location plots in Figures 7 and 8 show that the Linksys adapters really outperform the other adapters in the Location A same-outlet test.

Uplink throughput vs. location

Figure 7: Uplink throughput vs. location

But the difference isn't as pronounced when the adapters are moved apart or, as Location C shows, in all locations.

Uplink throughput vs. location

Figure 8: Downlink throughput vs. location

Use the Powerline Charts to explore further.

Closing Thoughts

Even though the PLE400 and PLS400 can provide higher throughput than other 200 Mbps HomePlug AV adapters, you probably won't notice the difference in real-world use. And they're not the cheapest HomePlug AV adapters going--those would be the TRENDnet TPL-303E2K, which you can get for around $60 a pair.

But if you want to spend about $30 more, and about $10 less than a NETGEAR XAVB2001 kit, you'll get the comfort of knowing that those bits are probably flowing a bit faster through your home or apartment's power lines.

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