At a street price of around $50 for a kit of two units, the Actiontec 500 Mbps Powerline Network Adapter Kit is a bargain. And that's not the only good thing about it.
The kit, retail model number PWR511K01, comes with two identical adapters, currently the smallest of their type, that offered very good performance in my testing.
The only real complaint I have is that these adapters don't support Gigabit Ethernet, hence offering the limited data rate of the regular Ethernet standard at most. However, the affordable price and the supercompact design still make the kit an excellent investment for those wanting to expand their wired network to the far corners of their home, where a Wi-Fi signal can't reach.
Design, setup, and features
The reason power-line adapters tend to come in a kit of two is because you need at least two adapters to create the first power-line connection. The two adapters included in the Actiontec PWR511K01 kit are those individually modeled PWR500, indicating that they support the Powerline AV+ 500 standard, which has a theoretical speed cap of 500Mbps.
Like most power-line adapters, the PWR500 has one network port. Unfortunately, unlike any Powerline AV+ 500-based adapters I've seen, the PWR500's network port doesn't seem to support Gigabit Ethernet but just the regular Ethernet standard, which caps at 100Mbps. This means, despite the adapters' support for Powerline AV+ 500, their top data rate is 100Mbps at most.
Measuring merely 2.2x1.2x3.4 inches, and weighing 6.4 ounces, the PWR500 power-line adapter is the smallest of its type I've seen. In fact it's just about one-fourth the size of the Netgear XAV5501 adapter.
The new power-line adapter is shaped like a two-prong power adapter and can be snapped on a wall socket. While this is a terrible design for a larger power-line adapter -- since a large adapter crowds the wall socket area and blocks access -- the small physical size of the PWR500 poses less of a problem when used in areas with multiple wall sockets.
And you do want to use it in an area with multiple wall sockets. This is because the PWR500 adapter itself doesn't comes with a pass-through socket, meaning that should you use it in an area with just a single wall socket, there will be no outlets left for other devices. Note that, like all power-line adapters, the PWR500 adapter should be plugged directly into a wall socket. In most cases it doesn't work well or at all when plugged into a power strip or a surge protector.
Right next to the network port, the adapter has a security button that helps create a secure network connection between multiple units. This is only necessary when you want to keep your power-line network secure, in case you live in an apartment building and don't want others to tap in your home network by using another power-line adapter in their own apartment. This secure feature worked well in my trials, though it only works if you plan to use power-line adapters from Actiontec. If you want to use a mixed pool of power-line adapters from different networking vendors, this secure feature shouldn't be used for compatibility purposes.