When an Ethernet cable from your router to your computer is not possible, you are left to choose between the lesser of two evils – WiFi extenders or Powerline adapters. But which one is better?
Both technologies have their pros and cons, and we’ll take a look at both to explain how each option might work for you. Ultimately it all depends on your specific use case. More on this below.
WiFi Extenders and Powerline Adapters – What’s the Difference?
Wi-Fi repeaters and Powerline adapters are two completely different types of technologies designed to achieve the same goal of providing more reliable Internet connections over long distances.
A Wi-Fi repeater is essentially like a small hub that can be physically placed between the router and your computer to receive the Wi-Fi signal from the router and distribute it over a longer distance.
The Powerline adapter requires two outlets connected to your home’s network. Powerline adapters can connect to your router wirelessly or wired and send a signal through your home’s electrical wiring, allowing it to travel further and remove wall restrictions.
Which is better? Powerline adapter or Wi-Fi extender?
Now that we’ve briefly explained the technology behind Powerline adapters and WiFi repeaters, let’s take a look at the performance of both. Obviously, the goal of both products is to allow the computer to receive a stronger signal, usually because the Wi-Fi signal from the router is out of range.
Although a Wi-Fi repeater can extend the WiFi signal, there is significant degradation when using such a product. This is because the signal is transmitted to one location and then transmitted to another. This can increase your network latency and reduce overall speed. Despite this, walls, furniture or ceilings can also interfere with signal transmission.
On the other hand, Powerline adapters simply take the WiFi signal from your router and carry it straight to your computer. In terms of latency, Powerline adapters are far superior to WiFi extenders.
The speed you get with a Powerline adapter depends on the quality of the wiring in your home. This means that while a Powerline adapter may generally be the most suitable solution for extending Wi-Fi range, it is not for everyone.
For example, the wiring in my own house is good enough that I can get as close as possible to the full speed of my network, and in turn very close to the speed that an Ethernet cable would give. As a result, I would recommend purchasing a Powerline adapter first, and if yours is slow, return it and try a WiFi extender instead.
How to install a Powerline adapter – the most important advice
Since Powerline adapters pass your WiFi through the electrical wiring in your home, many people are afraid of this technology. It is widely believed that they are difficult to set up and require DIY skills. Fortunately, this is not the case at all, and Powerline adapters are very easy to set up.
The overall process may differ from brand to brand, but usually all you have to do is plug the Powerline adapters into two empty outlets, plug them into your network, and press the pairing buttons. Some of the newer ones automatically detect each other, which further simplifies the setup process.
For example, my TP-Link Nano Powerline 600Mbps adapter has the following instructions.
To create a secure Powerline network:
- Plug two Powerline adapters into wall outlets.
- Click the connect button on one adapter.
- Press the mate button on the other adapter.
The great thing about Powerline adapters is that you can add them to the same network. This allows you to get excellent Internet connection in all rooms without dragging Ethernet cables along. As you can see below, the instructions for adding new adapters to an existing network are very similar.
To join an existing Powerline network:
- Click the mate button on any adapter in the existing network.
- Press the mate button on the new adapter.
We highly recommend purchasing a Powerline adapter with an Ethernet cable. This allows you to connect adapters directly to the router and directly to your PC, reducing latency and the risk of potential packet loss or disconnection.
Can a Powerline switch beat ethernet cable?
Even if you have great electrical wiring at home, a Powerline adapter can never be as reliable as an Ethernet cable. The Powerline adapter allows the Wi-Fi signal to pass through the electrical wiring, but it is not a physical connection between your computer and the router like an Ethernet cable.
Using a Wi-Fi connection can never be 100% reliable – you may experience dropouts due to interference from other wireless signals or when furniture or walls interfere with the signal. Powerline adapters reduce noise significantly, but never completely.
As with a regular Wi-Fi router, another thing to consider is that Powerline adapters can degrade in performance when they overheat. On the other hand, an Ethernet cable will never have this problem.
In most cases, a Powerline adapter can achieve speeds close to or equal to an Ethernet connection under optimal conditions, but it can still experience intermittent slowdowns in latency or connection. If you need to rely on a crystal clear connection with minimal loss, you should definitely use an Ethernet cable.
To summarize on this topic, the Powerline adapter is almost always the best option. In rare cases, the electrical wiring in your home may not be optimal, so a WiFi repeater will be more suitable.
In all cases, an Ethernet cable remains the most suitable option. You can find Ethernet cables 100 meters or more on Amazon, so you should never have distance issues. Enjoy!