Powerline adapters can be an excellent solution for distributing Internet access throughout your home. In particular, it's a great choice when your environment has too many obstructions or too much interference for Wi-Fi, and you don't want to hardwire Ethernet.
Powerline throughput is about on par with Wi-Fi. However, Wi-Fi latency is higher (worse) than Powerline latency.
Both Wi-Fi and Powerline adapters can be subject to intermittent interference. Powerline adapters can be affected when running large home appliances. In contrast, Wi-Fi can be affected by other wireless devices, microwaves, and obstructions (e.g., walls blocking the signal).
Powerline adapters can be significantly affected by the quality of your home AC wiring. If the quality of your home wiring isn't known, you will not know whether it will work well before trying it.
Check out my Recommended Powerline Adapters and Wi-Fi Systems below.
When to Use Wi-Fi
I recommend that you use Wi-Fi rather than Powerline adapters if you:
- Have a reasonably small coverage area or can use multiple Wi-Fi access points
- Don't have dense obstructions which will block the signal
- Don't have too much Wi-Fi interference (e.g., from neighbors)
Are Powerline and Wi-Fi Good for Fast-Paced Gaming?
If you want to use your network for fast-paced games, I don't recommend Wi-Fi or Powerline adapters.
As I'll discuss below, MoCA adapters (Ethernet over coax) may be a great alternative solution. If you have existing coax wiring in your home, MoCA provides a better overall connection.
A pair of Powerline adapters allows you to use AC wiring for Ethernet communication. Powerline adapters behave like an extension for an Ethernet cable. You can create an Ethernet network by simply plugging a pair of Powerline adapters into your wall outlets. Powerline adapters can communicate over the same wires as you use for AC power transmission.
|Ethernet Cable & Alternatives||Setup Complexity||Supported Speeds||Supported Distance||Latency||Reliability|
|Ethernet Cable - Ethernet over Twisted Pair (e.g., Cat 6a)||Excellent||Excellent||Good||Excellent||Excellent|
|Powerline - Ethernet over Powerline||Excellent||Fair||Good||Fair||Poor|
|MoCA - Ethernet over Coax||Good||Good||Good||Good||Good|
|Wi-Fi - Wireless||Good||Fair||Fair||Poor||Fair|
Suppose you're looking for an alternative to Ethernet cables and Wi-Fi. In that case, we believe that MoCA (Ethernet over Coax) is the clear winner compared to Powerline due to the faster speeds and better signal quality. However, there are still some use cases where Powerline may be the best solution. Powerline is a little easier to set up than MoCA. MoCA adapters require coax cabling in your rooms, which may not exist in your case.
Suppose your Internet speed is less than 200 Mbps or your devices on the network do not support gigabit Ethernet. In these cases, Powerline adapters may be the best of the two options for you, as they offer a lower price point.
On the other hand, MoCA adapters are a better option when you want to fully utilize a higher-speed Internet connection and have existing coax cabling between rooms.
You could also consider using both! For example, MoCA adapters might work great for connecting an upstairs and downstairs via coax. At the same time, Powerline adapters would be great for getting Internet to a garage that has no coax line available.
Learn more about MoCA adapters in my article, Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters.
For even more alternatives, check out my article, The 6 Best Ethernet Cable Alternatives for Home Networks.
- Easy wiring using existing power outlets (connect an Ethernet cable)
- Low cost (compared to MoCA adapters)
- Encrypted (some products)
- Up to a 300-meter range
- Some models have built-in Wi-Fi
- Plug and play setup (no configuration required)
- Often a lower connection speed of around 150-350 Mbps compared to the advertised 1-2 Gbps
- Powerline devices need to be on the same electrical circuit
- May cause noticeable electromagnetic interference with some devices such as speakers (static sound)
- Power strip, GFCI outlets, and AFCI circuit breakers may degrade Powerline network signals
- Some models block an outlet when connecting directly into a wall outlet
If you don't want to put holes in your walls to add new Ethernet wiring, then Wi-Fi can be a great solution. However, you may need a Wi-Fi repeater or mesh system to eliminate Wi-Fi dead zones if you have a big home.
- Easy to set up
- Newer versions support high speeds
- Higher latency can be bad for gaming
- Walls and other obstacles can block the signal
Powerline adapters will work for providing high-speed Internet to your gaming computer or console, but they are not your best option.
Powerline adapters have lower latency than Wi-Fi, which is good. However, they do not have the same reliability or speed compared to their alternatives.
Suppose you have coax cabling in your home. In that case, MoCA adapters are a better option, as they provide faster speeds and better reliability.
Ethernet cables (e.g., Cat 6a cable) will always provide the fastest, most reliable, and lowest latency solution.
- Use existing home wiring as a replacement for Ethernet cables.
- Extend wireless coverage.
- Backhaul for a Mesh Wi-Fi System (i.e., a wired backbone for the Wi-Fi satellites).
- Get Internet access into hard-to-reach places in your home.
- Use wired connections to avoid Wi-Fi interference from neighbors.
- Avoid the latency of Wi-Fi while playing games on consoles and computers.
- A secure alternative to Wi-Fi.
Recommended Powerline Adapter: NETGEAR PLP2000 Powerline 2000 Mbps Adapter
- This model includes some great features:
- An extra passthrough Ethernet port
- An extra outlet (although the device will block part of a second wall outlet)
- 2 Gbps (theoretical) speeds
- Support for encryption
- Check the latest price of the NETGEAR Powerline 2000 Mbps Adapter Kit on Amazon (affiliate link).
- Additional accessories you may need:
Recommended Wi-Fi System: NETGEAR RBK752 - Orbi Tri-Band Mesh WiFi 6 System
- Wi-Fi 6 for some of the fastest Wi-Fi speeds
- Supports up to 40 devices at once
- Satellite extender helps to eliminate dead zones
Powerline adapters can be very simple to set up. Conceptually, you can think of a pair of Powerline adapters as an extension for an Ethernet cable. More than two Powerline adapters behave like an Ethernet hub combined with Ethernet cables.
Most Powerline adapters are configured similarly.
To set up Powerline adapters:
- Plug one Powerline adapter into a power outlet and connect it to your Internet router via an Ethernet cable.
- Plug one or more additional Powerline adapters into power outlets in rooms where you want Internet access. Connect them to computers or other network devices via Ethernet cables.
- Pair the Powerline adapters by holding down the button on each adapter for a few seconds.
That's it! Your devices should now be on the network and have Internet access.
If you want to learn more about internet equipment, networking, wiring, or troubleshooting, check out these articles:
- Cat 5e vs. Cat 6a - Which to Buy? - This article compares the various categories of Ethernet cables.
- How to Connect Ethernet Cables - Network Switches & Couplers - This article explains how to use network switches and couplers for extending and distributing your network.
- How to Extend Your Ethernet Range Beyond 100 Meters - This article discusses long-distance Ethernet options.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Wiring & Optimization Guide - This guide shows you how to wire and optimize cable Internet for your home or office.
- Essential Equipment Guide for Cable Internet - This guide shows you the essential components required for setting up your cable Internet connection.
- Ethernet Over Coax?! A Complete Guide to MoCA Adapters - This guide discusses how to use existing coax cabling for distributing Ethernet and Wi-Fi throughout your house.
- Ultimate Cable Internet Troubleshooting Guide - This guide shows you how to troubleshoot cable Internet problems.
- The Best MoCA Adapters to Buy - This article discusses our recommended MoCA adapters and which accessories are needed.
- Ethernet Over Power?! A Complete Guide to Powerline Adapters
- Are Powerline Adapters Good for Gaming?
- How to Set Up and Use Powerline Adapters
- MoCA vs. Powerline
- Powerline Adapters vs. Wi-Fi
- Powerline Adapters vs. Ethernet
- Do Powerline Adapters Need to Be on the Same Circuit?
- Do Powerline Adapters Work in Apartments?
- Will Powerline Adapters Work Between a House and Garage?
- Will a Powerline Adapter Work With an Ethernet Switch?
- How Many Powerline Adapters Can You Use?