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Wireless Network Adapter Reviews

Adapter / January 29, 2016

The Actiontec Wireless Network Extender Plus Powerline Network Adapter 500 Kit (retail model PWR51WK01) is a sure, and easy way to extend your network, both wired and wireless. It's a good fit for a large home with concrete walls, or separate households in an apartment building that want to share a single Internet connection.

It's far from perfect, however. The kit uses slow Wi-Fi and Ethernet standards and hence provides connection speeds only fast enough for casual Internet sharing and mild file sharing. Additionally, the included adapters don't come with a pass-through power socket, and one of them is very bulky.

In all, if you're looking for a quick and effective way to extend your home network, at the current street price of around $90, the PWR51WK01 is a very good buy. For more choices on power-line products, check out this list.

Actiontec kit with a WPB3000 adapter The new Actiontec kit comes with a very large WPB3000 adapter which has a built-in Wi-Fi access point. Dong Ngo/CNET

Bulky design, easy to setup
The kit includes two power-line adapters of different models. One of them is the compact, adapter

PWR500 model , and the other is a new WPB3000 model that's about five times its physical size. The former is a traditional adapter with a single LAN port; the latter has two LAN ports and a built-in Wi-Fi access point.

As is the kit's intention, you connect the PWR500 to your existing router using a network cable (one short cable is included with the kit), and place the WPB3000 at the far corner. When you plug both of them into their power socket, the two will connect to each other using the home's electrical wiring. Now you can add two wired clients, such as two desktop computers, to the network using the two LAN ports on the WPB3000. On top of that, you can also add many Wi-Fi clients to the network by connecting them to the WPB3000's built-in Wi-Fi network.

The above is also exactly how you set the kit up. Included in the box is a sticker with the default Wi-Fi network (network name and password) printed on it. With that information, there's nothing else you need to do to start using the kit. The fact that you can place the two adapters far away from each other, up to about 1, 000 feet in terms of power wiring length, means the kit is a lot more effective than traditional Wi-Fi range extenders.

Note, however, that both adapters take the shape of a two-prong snap-on power adapter, and neither has a pass-though power socket. While this is OK for the PWR500 since it's very compact, for the other, this is a terribly bulky design. When used, it will for sure crowd the wall socket and block access to adjacent receptacles. And since that power-line adapters require to be plugged directly into the wall (and not on a power strip or protector) to work well, make sure you have multiple power sockets at the far corner where you intended to plug the WPB3000 in.

Also note that power-line adapters tend to come in a kit of two because you need at least two adapters to create the first power-line connection. After that you only need one adapter per additional connection. That said, you should buy the PWR51WK01 kit only if you don't already have any power-line adapters, otherwise, just the WPB3000, or alternatively the

ZyXel PLA4231, is needed for the Wi-Fi extending purpose.

Both adapters come with a security button to create a secure connection between them (so nobody can tap in your network by using their own power-line adapter, a seniority that's very possible if you live in a multiple-unit housing complex), and the WPB3000 also support Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS). WPS allows for quickly adding a Wi-Fi device to network by pressing a button, you don't even need to know the network's name and password.