Do Different Powerline Adapters Work Together?

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With the vast choice of different powerline adapters now available, you may be wondering if different powerline adapters work together, or whether you will be stuck having to use the same make and model each time. 

Powerline adapters from different manufacturers or those operating at different speeds can work together providing they meet the same HomePlug standard. When operating at different speeds, the powerline network will be limited by the slowest adapter.  

In this article, we’ll look at the different standards of powerline adapters, whether they can be used together, and how different adapters can work well together on the same powerline network.

Can Powerline Adapters Be Mixed?

Different makes and models of powerline adapters can be used on a single powerline network providing they all meet the same standard. 

This not only applies to powerline adapters from different manufacturers but also those that operate at different speeds. 

Something to keep in mind whilst on the topic of the different speeds is that regardless of the speeds that powerline adapters are capable of, the faster adapters can only work with slower adapters at the slower speeds, so you will be limited by the slowest adapter. 

For example, if you have one adapter that supports speeds of up to 500 Mbps and another that only supports up to 200 Mbps, both adapters will only be able to achieve a maximum speed of 200 Mbps. 

The slowest powerline adapter will always influence the maximum speed you can expect to achieve across the entire powerline network. 

In regards to the different standards that powerline adapters will meet; they must meet the same standard if you want them to work together on the same powerline network. 

As one example, an older adapter that only meets the HomePlug 1.0 standard will not only be limited to 85 Mbps but will also not be compatible with a newer adapter that meets the HomePlug AV standard and supports speeds beyond 200 Mbps. 

These two different standards may belong to the same HomePlug family and can co-exist on the same electrical wiring, but won’t be able to communicate with each other on the same powerline network. 

When comparing different powerline adapters, especially the more modern ones, you will find that the vast majority will work with others providing they meet the same standard. 

The likelihood that different adapters from different manufacturers will work together is still high, but not an absolute guarantee, so I would suggest doing some research into the specific adapters you are looking at purchasing to make sure they are compatible with your existing adapters. 

If you are new to powerline networking and are looking to buy your first adapters, I would recommend sticking with the same make and model wherever possible. Starter kits come with two adapters, allowing you to form the powerline network, but you can also purchase single pack adapters for when you need to extend the network further. 

What Are the Different HomePlug Powerline Adapter Standards?

There are several different standards for powerline adapters, with the majority of them belonging to the HomePlug family. Each new standard has introduced better performance alongside other improvements. 

Each of the HomePlug specifications has been developed by the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, who in 2016 announced that their specification would be put into the public domain for others to deploy the existing standards. 

The main HomePlug specifications that we are more likely to see in a home network are: 

  • HomePlug 1.0 
  • HomePlug AV 
  • HomePlug AV2 

The first HomePlug specification that was introduced back in 2001 was HomePlug 1.0 with an initial maximum data transfer speed of 14 Mbps, however, this was superseded by turbo HomePlug adapters that supported speeds of up to 85 Mbps despite them still using the same HomePlug 1.0 specification 

This was later replaced with HomePlug AV in August of 2005 which improved upon HomePlug 1.0 as it had sufficient bandwidth for VoIP and HDTV. It supports speeds of up to 200 Mbps and so can still reasonably be used today. 

It was a popular way of distributing HDTV throughout the home due to not only being incredibly convenient but also cost-effective. 

HomePlug AV2 was introduced in January of 2012 and was capable of delivering speeds up to five times faster than that of HomePlug AV, supporting speeds of up to 1000 Mbps, also known as gigabit. 

In addition to this, coverage through the home also improved. 

As well as improving on using powerline adapters with VoIP and HDTV, HomePlug AV2 made recording footage from security cameras and gaming online much better thanks to its ability to better cope with needs for high bandwidth, quick response times and low latency. 

Most, if not all, HomePlug powerline adapters these days will meet the AV2 standard. 

What is is another standard of powerline adapter which is very separate from HomePlug, despite it still using the existing electrical wiring within the home to provide a network connection. 

It is a newer standard that was developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and can support speeds of up to 2400 Mbps. It can also provide a more stable connection and a PLC range of up to 500 meters. 

Whereas the HomePlug standard is limited to operating only over powerlines, can work over existing telephone wiring, plastic optical fiber, and coaxial cables. 

Is HomePlug Compatible With

HomePlug powerline adapters are not compatible with adapters and will not inter-operate with each other on the same powerline network. 

Two separate powerline networks will need to be established if using a mix of both HomePlug and adapters. All of the HomePlug adapters will need to be on one network with all of the adapters needing to be on the other. 

How to Add a Different Powerline Adapter

If you already have an existing pair of powerline adapters and come to add a third or replace one that has gone faulty, you’ll be pleased to hear that it is easy to add a different powerline adapter to an existing powerline network. 

For this example, we’ll assume that you already have a TP-Link powerline network setup and are looking to add a NETGEAR adapter into the mix. 

The first step is to reset the NETGEAR adapter back to its factory default setting, just in case it has been used previously which is likely to be the case if you bought it second hand. 

Resetting a powerline adapter back to factory defaults usually involves holding down a small button for several seconds, but this will vary between the different makes and models, so if you are in doubt, check the documentation that came with the adapters or consult the manufacturer’s website. 

This button is often too small to be touched with your finger to prevent it from being pressed by mistake, so you’ll need to take a thin pin and use that to hold it down. 

Once you have reset the NETGEAR adapter back to how it left the factory, press the pair button that will be found on the primary TP-Link adapter that will be connected to your router with an ethernet cable. 

You then need to press the pair button on the NETGEAR adapter, making sure it is already plugged into a power outlet and turned on, of course, within around 30 seconds. 

The NETGEAR adapter should then form part of the TP-Link powerline network and appear within the TP-Link’s interface. 

If you’re not sure how to access the interface, find the IP address of the TP-Link adapter and browse to that address in your web browser. Once you have signed in, you should see all of the adapters that are a part of the powerline network, including the NETGEAR one. 

Something to keep in mind if you are using powerline adapters from ZyXel is that they can go offline if nothing is connected to it. 

They can certainly be mixed and used alongside different adapters but will drop the connection if a device is not connected to it within around 30 seconds. 

This is not the case with adapters from other manufactures which will quite happily remain part of the powerline network regardless of whether a device is connected to it or not. 

Recommended Powerline Adapters 

If you are looking for some powerline adapters for your own home network, here are some recommendations.

TP-Link TL-WPA4220 – The powerline adapters I personally use myself and have found great success with. Very quick and easy to get set up with speeds that will be perfect for most people. 

D-Link DHP-P701AV – These powerline adapters offer the best speeds and built-in noise filtering whilst remaining very easy to setup.

TRENDnet TPL-407E2K – This is your budget option that includes two powerline adapters in a bundle and has useful features such as a power-saving mode.