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Powerline adapters can be seen as a great alternative to Wi-Fi, but do they need ethernet cables to function, and are they even included when you buy a powerline kit?
Powerline adapter kits do come with ethernet cables as they are required to establish a physical network connection with the router. Ethernet cables may not be included when purchasing a single adapter that is not part of a starter kit, or when the kit is second hand.
Let’s look at why you do need at least one ethernet cable to set up a powerline network, and whether some of the more popular brands include any cables with their powerline adapters.
Do You Need to Use Ethernet Cables With Powerline Adapters?
When using powerline adapters and setting up a powerline network, ethernet cables are required despite the powerline network seeming to work wirelessly.
A typical powerline network that we would use at home involves having at least two separate adapters that are usually positioned in different areas of the home.
The primary adapter will need to be positioned close to the router, whereas you have much more freedom in regards to the position of the secondary adapter.
The reason for this is that the primary adapter must be connected to the router using a physical ethernet cable.
Most people won’t want a long ethernet cable trailing around their home so will want to place the primary adapter as close to the router as possible to minimize the length of cable that is needed.
Once the primary adapter is connected to the router, the second one can be placed pretty much anywhere as the powerline signal gets transferred from the primary to the secondary by making use of the electrical wiring already found within the walls.
Given that you don’t see this wiring, it does give the impression that the communication between the powerline adapters is wireless, but this is technically not the case.
Although an ethernet cable is absolutely needed to connect the primary adapter with the router and establish a powerline network in the first place, a second ethernet cable is not necessarily always needed for the second adapter.
Some powerline adapters will need their own ethernet cable as this is the only way in which you are able to connect a wired device to the powerline network, but more commonly found these days are powerline adapters that can be used with an ethernet connection in addition to providing a Wi-Fi network.
The powerline adapters that I personally use, the TP-Link AV600 Powerline Wi-Fi Kit, comes with two adapters. The primary adapter only contains one ethernet port which is used to connect with the router, so you can’t plug an additional device into this particular adapter.
On the other hand, the secondary adapter contains two separate ethernet ports for connecting two different wired devices, whilst also acting as a Wi-Fi extender.
This adapter is capable of providing its own mini Wi-Fi network where it has its own SSID and password, or extending the existing Wi-Fi network that originates from the router.
In theory, you could have two wired devices connected to the powerline network using ethernet and then several more connected wirelessly.
So, when setting up a powerline network, at least one ethernet cable is absolutely required to establish a connection between the primary adapter and the router, but you may find you need more depending on how many ethernet ports the secondary adapter has, how many devices you actually want to connect to these ports, and whether it provides any Wi-Fi functionality.
What Type of Ethernet Cables Come With Powerline Adapters?
It is difficult to tell what type of ethernet cables come with powerline adapters as it is not usually mentioned in the product description or printed on the jacket of the cable itself, which is usually the easiest way of being able to identify the type of cable.
I looked through all of the paperwork that came with my powerline adapters as well as on the specifications page on TP-Link’s website, but couldn’t find any reference to the category of cable anywhere.
All I could find was a reference to the number of cables that came in the box and their length, which is still useful to know.
In case it was only TP-Link that didn’t mention the type of cable they provided; I did some research into other brands.
Unfortunately, the other brands didn’t say what type of cable they use either, but I was at least able to find how many cables you will receive in the packaging and their lengths.
|Make and Model||Quantity of Ethernet Cables Included||Length in Meters||Length in Feet|
I wouldn’t say that you necessarily need to base your decision on which powerline adapters to buy based on the number of ethernet cables they come with and their lengths as ethernet cables are relatively cheap to buy on their own, but it is useful to know this information nonetheless.
Which Ethernet Cable Works Best With Powerline Adapters?
There isn’t any particular ethernet cable that works best with powerline adapters.
If you are not using the cables that came with included with the adapters themselves, I would recommend you use at least a Cat5e ethernet cable.
Although there have been several new iterations of ethernet cable since Cat5e, it is still perfectly suitable for the majority of people.
It has a bandwidth of 100 MHz and supports transfer speeds of up to 1 Gbps, which most of us won’t get anywhere near reaching anyway.
If you don’t have any existing cables and are buying brand new, you will probably want to go for one of the newer standards, like Cat7, but this is more to future-proof yourself rather than provide any huge performance benefits.
But if you already have Cat5e cable lying around that can be used, I would just use this rather than go out and buy new.
If you are using anything older than Cat5e, I would definitely recommend an upgrade as Cat5e does provide noticeable benefits over sticking with Cat5.
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.
Recommended Ethernet Cables
If you are looking for some Ethernet cables, here are some recommendations.
Monoprice Cat6a Cable – This cable is half the thickness of a regular Cat6a cable and comes in a variety of lengths and colors.
Vandesail Cat7 Cable – This cable delivers the best performance with speeds up to 10 Gbps and supports a bandwidth of 1,000 Mhz. The flat design is also space-saving.
Fast Cat Cat5e Bulk Cable – Buying in bulk and making your own Ethernet cables could save you money in the long run and offers more flexibility around the length of cable you need.