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LAN & WAN Reviews

Administration

Powerline adapters are designed to be easy to install, and the TP-LINK product is no different. You can just plug them in and they will use a default network name (HomePlugAV) with 128 bit AES encryption. If you press the Pair button as described in the callout diagram, the network key is changed from the default to a unique value. This prevents other adapters from connecting to your network.

While you don't really need a utility to manage or setup the basic features, TP-LINK provides a simple utility you can download. The short gallery below shows you a few screenshots of the utility, which lets you check status, view adapter link rate, set QoS priority and VLAN tags and upgrade firmware.

Performance

We tested the TP-LINK TL-PA8030P using our standard powerline test procedure with all results entered into the Powerline Performance Charts. For this comparison, I chose the top four ranked AV2-MIMO products, which included the NETGEAR PL1200 Powerline 1200, TRENDnet TPL-3202E2K and Broadcom-based D-Link DHP-701AV PowerLine AV2 2000.

The Downlink Throughput plot below shows that the TP-Link had the highest throughput at all three tested locations.

Downlink throughput comparison

Downlink throughput comparison

The composite iXChariot downlink plot shows steady throughput at all locations with lower throughput at more distant locations.

Downlink thoughput IxChariot composite

Downlink throughput IxChariot composite

Uplink throughput, however, is a different story. The plot below shows that the D-Link HDP-701AV had a clear advantage for locations A and C. In location E, the TP-LINK just narrowly edged out the D-Link.

Uplink throughput comparison

Uplink throughput comparison

The uplink IxChariot plot shows a high throughput variation for Location A that caused its significantly lower average. Throughput in Locations C and E is more consistent, but still lower than downlink.

Uplink thoughput IxChariot composite

Uplink throughput IxChariot composite
The TL-PA8030P's simultaneous up/downlink IxChariot plot shows very lopsided results with the downlink stream having achieving three times the average throughput as uplink. The downlink plot also showed significantly more variation than the uplink plot.

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink
Adding another simultaneous stream pair gained almost 40 Mbps for a total throughput of 446 Mbps. In this test run, average uplink had about a 20% advantage over downlink - in part due to the imbalance between pair 1 downlink and pair 4 uplink.

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink x2

IxChariot simultaneous up/downlink x2

Performance Tests - Noise

Noise tests were run in Location E. In the plot below, the top, blue line shows the baseline throughput test with no noise introduced. The middle green line shows throughput when noise is introduced throughout the entire test. When the noise is removed at 30 seconds into the run, the red plot shows that throughput gradually climbs to the levels in the original "no noise" plot.

However, the red and green plots run concurrently at the same throughput levels from about 10 seconds up until 30 seconds when the noise is removed. This indicates that the the adapter hasn't adapted to the noise, but only adapts to the absence of noise.

Location E noise test - downlink

Location E noise test - downlink

Closing Thoughts

Using our new simplified classing, the Powerline Ranker places the TL-PA8030P in a tie for #1 with the NETGEAR PL1200 Powerline 1200. This earns both products a SmallNetBuilder Ranked #1 award

SmallNetBuilder Ranked #1

Comparing the Ranker Performance summary for the two products shows both had equal numbers of #1 and #2 sub-ranks, which accounts for the tie. Performance is the only thing the two products tie in, however. Remember both adapters in the TL-PA8030P KIT have three-port Gigabit switches and 16A filtered pass-through AC outlets, a combination no other product currently offers.

Ranker Performance Summary

Ranker Performance Summary

Currently, the TL-PA8030P KIT is available only in-store at select Frys and Microcenters.  TP-LINK tells us it will become "more generally available" in September. As of this writing, it is not on Amazon, and NewEgg is showing it only from a third-party vendor at $146.24 (+ $34.99 shipping).  While the TL-PA8030P Kit is unique by virtue of its three Gigabit Ethernet ports, that's a tremendous premium to pay. However, you can order it now from Frys for $99.99 - about 20 bucks more than the top-ranked NETGEAR PL1200.  But note it won't ship until after September 7.

If you don't need three Gigabit Ethernet ports, the PL1200, currently at $80, still offers the best bang for the buck.  Though not tested, TP-LINK's TL-PA8010P KIT, a single Gigabit Ethernet port version of the TL-PA8030P KIT with passthrough power outlet, is very competitively priced on Amazon also around $80 and available for immediate Prime shipment. You can also go with NETGEAR's PLP1200 passthrough outlet version, which Amazon is also currently showing at $80, the same as the sans-outlet version.

No matter which way you go, you'll be getting the best powerline adapter you can buy right now, for relatively little money.

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