TP-Link AV1200 Gigabit Powerline Kit Review
Setup & Installation
Setting up and installing this kit can either be simplicity itself or can take a long, long time. This is because – just like with all powerline-based systems – both the base station and range extender need to be on the same 110V electrical circuit in order to communicate with each other. In theory, this should not be that big of an issue as a lot of homes are wired with multiple rooms on the same 20 amp circuit. In reality, each room may have its own circuit, and in some cases there may even be multiple circuits per room! Unless you either wired your home yourself, or at the very least had an electrician who made copious notes, this makes installation part a game of chance and part trial and error. However, we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves.
The very first thing that has to be done is plugging the PA8010P base station into a wall outlet near the network’s router. When this is done, the PA8010P is physically connected to a free port on the back of the router using one of the included RJ45 cables. At this point, the PA8010P will start sending out simple broadcast packets over the ground and positive wiring and wait for a return signal from any powerline adapters on said circuit.
The next step is to ‘simply’ plug the WPA8630 range extender into a free wall outlet that is on the same circuit. In the majority of cases the two devices will recognize each other and create an extended powerline network capable of up to 1200Mbits/second. The trick really is getting both parts on the same circuit.
This has always been a major weakness of powerline network adapter. However, thanks to the wireless abilities baked right into the WPA8630, if you are unable to find a wall outlet even remotely close to where you wish to have your network extended all you need do is ensure the WiFi abilities on the WPA8630 are turned on. It will – assuming no encryption key is needed – connect to the router’s wireless abilities and create an extended 5GHz and 2.4Ghz network. This really does make this kit much more flexible and easier to work with, as in a worst case scenario as you will get an extended network…just not one that relies upon your home’s electrical wiring. This is a game changer and makes the AV1200 a much more interesting product than nearly any other powerline adapter we are aware of.
One thing that is worth noting is that while the base station ‘should’ be directly connected to the main router, nothing says it absolutely has to be. In fact, as long as its RJ45 cable is talking to a device which is directly connected to the home network and allows pass-through networking/routing, the PA8010P will happily work. For example, if you plug the PA8010P about half the distance away from the main router, and then plug a Linksys RE7000 directly into the PA8010P, using the RE7000’s single RJ45 port you can easily create a powerline network. Although that network will be slower and have much higher latency that one using the main router. However, this can actually allow for greater throughput at extended distances than relying upon any small wall outlet wireless range extender, as powerline connections have a lot less signal degradation over distances and do not care about the number of walls or other obstructions between the sender and receiver.
Much like the installation process, the software and GUI that is used for the advanced configuration is different than the typical range extender. To be specific, owners have two options for controlling how the AV1200 components work. The first is a simple little application called the PLC Utility, which is certainly simple and rather crude in its appearance, but it does allow for basic tweaking.
For instance, clicking on the PA8010P so that the small pop-out icons appear will allow for QoS tweaking. Whereas clicking on the WPA8630 icon allows for basic changes such as turning the LEDs on or off.
If this level of customization is not enough, all users need do is either click on the ‘web’ option in this program or manually type in the WPA8630’s IP address in any web browser. This opens up a more typical graphical user interface that is very similar to what most wireless range extenders make use of. One noteworthy feature is that if you use multiple components in an extended, or complex, powerline network any changes made in the GUI will be automatically replicated on the other devices. So users only need to make changes once for the entire network to be configured. This is a nice time saver to say the least when dealing with more than a simple two-piece powerline adapter kit!
The topmost tab is the Status tab, and as the name suggests this gives a visual representation as well as a textual representation of the powerline network as well as the wireless networks. Basically, with just a glance, users can find the name of a network, and see precisely what devices are connected and at what speeds.
As the name suggests, the Wireless section deals with everything wireless networking related. For example, you can not only change the wireless network names, but when the networks should be active and even what network(s) should be setup when the range extenders are unplugged, moved to a new location, and then restarted.
The device settings section deals with the powerline network configuration. For example, you can not only change the name of the powerline network, but also the encryption key, as well as more miscellaneous features such as if/when the status LEDs are on or off.
The Parental control section offers fairly basic ‘net nanny’ abilities, and this is where you can configure these options. Just be aware that they are rather basic, but they are nevertheless nice to see included in this class of device.
The Guest Network tab allows for the creation of basic, short-term networks that allow ‘guests’ the ability to connect to the internet, but not allowed to connect to other devices on the network. Basically, if you don’t want a friend to see your NAS files, but they need to check their email this is where you can control what they have access to. Compared to a router these options are basic, but once again they are not bad for this product class.
The System Tools offers a grab bag of options that do not fit into any of the other categories. This includes restoring the device default, upgrading firmware, and even setting the network’s official time.