With the Linksys PLEK500 Powerline Adapter Kit, the speed of home powerline networking has been turned up a significant notch.
This is the first adapter kit that supports the latest HomePlug AV2 standard. This standard, in theory, offers the speed cap of up to 1.5Gbps. The kit, however, doesn't quite support the top speed of the standard; rather, just 500Mbps at most, which is the speed at which certain HomePlug AV-based devices are capable. Nonetheless, in my testing, it has indeed offered the fastest sustained real-world speed among all powerline adapters I've seen.
Whether this performance is going to be just the new normal for powerline adapters, we'll have to wait and see when more HomePlug AV2-based adapters become available. In the meantime, the Linksys PLEK500 is the fastest powerline adapter kit you can get, enough to justify its relatively high price of $120. For more choices, check out the alternatives on this list.
Design, setup, and features
The Linksys PLEK500 is a kit consisting of two identical PLE500 powerline adapters. This is normal packaging, since you need at least two adapters to create the first powerline connection. Currently, it seems you can't buy just a single PLE500 adapter, but it will likely be available soon. After the first kit, you'll just need one more adapter for an additional connection.
From its appearance, the PLE500 looks like most powerline adapters you've seen, taking the form of the power adapter from a small electronic device, such as a cordless phone. The biggest difference is the fact it comes with a three-prong plug, instead of the two-prong one found in others, such as the Actiontec PWR500 or the Trendnet TPL-406E. On the inside, however, it's quite different, being the first I've seen that supports the new HomepPlug AV2. HomePlug AV2 is backward-compatible with previous HomePlug powerline standards, and in in my trial, the PLE500 indeed worked with existing powerline adapters.
The PLE500 is relatively compact, but not enough so to easily share a multiple-socket wall outlet with other devices. Chances are, it will obstruct the access to nearby receptacles. And you do need to plug the PLE500 into a standard wall outlet, for two reasons. First, the adapter doesn't come with a pass-through socket, meaning you can't plug anything else into the same wall outlet it occupies. And second, powerline adapters generally need to be plugged directly into the wall to work well, and not into a surge protector or power strip.
On top, the adapter houses three LED status lights for the power, the home network, and the network port. This network port is on the bottom side of the adapter and supports Gigabit Ethernet, which is a must for the adapter to offer its top 500Mbps-rated performance. Technically, the HomePlug AV2 standard can offer "Gigabit-class" performance, and a new chip from Broadcom promises up to 1.5Gbps, but the PLE500 supports only the 500Mbps tier. Note that, even if the adapter supported the top speed of the HomePlug AV2 standard, its best potential speed would still be limited by that of its network port.
Also on the top, interestingly, the adapter still carries the Cisco logo. Linksys was sold by to Belkin awhile ago, and this is its first powerline adapter that's been released by Linksys since the transition.