TP-Link may not be a company that jumps into your head as quickly as some of the more traditional network companies, but if you're searching for powerline networking on a budget, then you'll soon find its kit popping up in your searches.
The AV500 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit, which goes by the code of TL-PA511KIT, boasts a pair of identical 500Mbps units that can be used to extend your network to the more out of reach areas of your home.
The package itself packs a pair of TL-PA511 adaptors, two Ethernet cables, an installation guide and a CD that's home to a couple of utilities that make checking and managing your connections straightforward. TP-Link makes no claims to supporting the IEEE1901 standard to up the performance of its hardware to support 500Mbps connections, but it does still claim that the units are backwards compatible with all HomePlug AV kit running at 200Mbps.
The adaptors themselves aren't the classiest we've ever seen, with the dark sides and white fascia sure to catch your eye due to their high contrast rather than striking good looks. The units are fairly compact, although not quite in the same league as the Netgear XAVB5101 or Devolo dLAN 500 AVmini.
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Importantly TP-Link has engineered the AV500 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor units to be thin - thin enough so as to not interfere with your ability to turn the power switch on and off.
Three LEDs on the front of the device highlight any problems with the connection, with the Powerline LED showing the strength of the connection using a traffic light system of red for less than 48Mbps, amber for less 80Mbps and green for higher. On the base of the unit you'll find the single gigabit Ethernet port next to a tiny button for setting up a secure network.
We were surprised by the performance on offer from the the TP-Link AV500 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit, which managed to turn in read and write performance as good as any units out there - easily on a par with sets that cost twice as much. Read and write performances of 66.4Mbps and 55.2Mbps in a real-world setup are to be commended,
Conventional wisdom dictates that the latest hardware costs a premium. Conventional wisdom has a bit of a problem with this starter kit, since despite a price that would normally get you yesterday's technology, everything is present and correct with this 500Mbps starter kit, including top-notch performance. About the only thing not to like is the styling, and that seems like a reasonable price to pay to save half the cash of some other options.