The Zyxel PLA6456BBKIT powerline adapter kit is a quick way to extend your wired network from one end of your home to another, without running an actual network cable. It turns a couple of power sockets into two ends of a standard network connection.
The kit’s included two adapters are rather bulky. But in return, they feature a passthrough socket and sports the latest G.hn Wave-2 Powerline standard. And the connection between the two proved to be quite fast in my testing. So at around $90, they are worth the time and effort you save from wiring your home.
Zyxel PLA6456: A bulky but practical design
The Zyxel PLA6456BBKIT includes two identical three-prong plug-in powerline adapters, model PLA6456. (Adapters made for the EU markets will come with designs compatible with local socket types.)
The adapter itself is quite large, measuring 4.45 x 2.51 x 1.65 in (113 x 64 x 42 mm ). So, when plugged in, it’ll probably block access to the adjacent receptacles. To make up for that, it has a passthrough socket on top. This design is especially helpful if you want to use the adapter at a place where there’s only one power outlet.
Just plug the two adapters into two power adapters, and that’s it. They now will have a powerline connection between them. Now use two network cables to connect one adapter to your router (or switch) and the other to a wired device, like a printer or a desktop computer, and the device will be part of your home network.
Each PLA6456 has three status lights on top for Power, Powerline, and Ethernet. Power and Ethernet are apparent — they indicate if the adapter is plugged into power or a network device. The Powerline light changes its color to show the quality of the Powerline connection. Green means you get 80Mbps or faster; amber means something between 20 Mbps and 80 Mbps; red means slower than 20mbps.
Zyxel PLA6456’s detail photos
128-bit AES encryption
On the side, the PLA6456 adapter has a reset/sync button. You can press and hold this button for 10 seconds or longer to reset the adapter, or press and hold for two seconds on each adapter within two minutes, to establish a secure connection between them. The adapter features 128-bit AES encryption.
Out of the box, the two of the PLA6456BBKIT comes with encryption turned off. If you choose to turn the encryption on, you’ll need to do the same each time you add another adapter — you can use up to 14 together. Generally, encryption is only necessary if you use powerline adapters within a building where multiple homes share the same power wiring system.
Simple web interface
Other than the sync button, you can also turn on the encryption via the adapter’s web user interface. To get to this interface, you’ll need to point a browser to the PLA6456’s IP address, which you will need to figure out manually and use the PLA6456’s default password, which is FLYPIG2400.
The web interface also allows for a few other settings, including the ability to upgrade the adapter’s firmware.
Zyxel PLA6456’s specifications: G.hn Wave-2 Powerline but no multi-gig port
The PLA6456 adapter sports the latest has a G.hn Wave-2 Powerline standard that’s capable of delivering up to 2400 Mbps data rate using the electrical wiring.
But that’s only the theoretical speed, which is also irrelevant due to the adapter’s standard Gigabit network. At best, you’ll get 1Gbs out of the PLA6456BBKIT.
Zyxel PLA6456: Fast performance
The PLA6456BBKIT didn’t deliver full 1Gbps in my testing, but it was still the fastest powerline kit I’ve tested. With a distance of some 10 feet between the two adapters, I got the sustained speed of more than 530 Mbps or about half the speed of a wired Gigabit connection.
Generally, you need to plug powerline adapters directly into power sockets for them to work. I tried the PLA6456 units with power strips anyway, and they worked, but at a much slower speed of around 200 Mbps.
I also tried placing the adapter much further away around my home and generally got around 350 Mbps. So you can expect the speeds to be fast enough to deliver a respectable broadband connection in full.
When it comes to wired networking, it’s best to run network cables. However, when you can’t do that for one reason or another, a pair of powerline adapters is the second-best option. And the ZyXel PLA6456BBKIT is a decent buy among these second-best choices.