Zyxel Powerline Range Extender REVIEW
With personal WiFi hotspots, restaurants, and other establishments having Guest Access points and homes with WiFi routers, it is truly amazing to think how fast and ubiquitous the internet has become. If you have a home under 2000 square feet, likely you can get by with a single router. There are limits to the range and there will be dead spaces due to device interference and due to walls/beams/studs etc. I have a two-story home with a basement, and my router lives in the bottom of my home. I have roughly 3 areas in my home that are WiFi dead zones. I have tried moving the router but this is limited by the cable source for my home. Outside of purchasing a new mesh home WiFi system, a range extender may be an option for you. Zyxel provides a neat option called the Zyxel Powerline.
If you are unfamiliar with Powerline technology, HomePlug/PLC, this provides a means to connect devices using one thing that all of our homes already have installed, the wiring. By connecting a single device to your router, you can connect your internet signal to every outlet in the home. Add as many adaptors as you need and have reliable high-speed Internet with wireless or ethernet connectivity. The Zyxel Powerline device uses the latest HomePlug AV2 technology to provide the internet to all of the far reaches of your home and provides 20% boost over previous versions.
The Powerline PLA5236 and PLA5206 arrived in a large clear plastic slip cover. These are 2 separate devices, in two separate boxes. The larger PLA5236 box has a picture of the device on the cover, a rectangular device with 2 antennae. There are 4 icons along the front left detailing: easy phone app set up, easily eliminate internet dead spots, extend your wireless network, superfast Wi-Fi speed up to 900 MBps. Along the edges of the box (top, bottom, and sides) is blue vs the yellow coloration of the PLA 5206V2 device. This color coding is quite convenient.
Along the left side of the PLA5236 box, you will find the product specifications. The device has two 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 connections with auto MDI/MDIX support and states it can support data transfer rates up to 867 Mbps for 5GHz in speed mode, 400 Mbps for 2.4GHz in range mode and 200Mbps for 2.4 Ghz and 433 Mbps for 5GHz in mixed mode. LED indicators along the front of the device will detail power on/off, ethernet link activity, Wireless (2.4GHz vs 5 GHz) and Powerline Link/activity. Furthermore, the packaging details the WPS connection (best way to connect devices), 10-watt power consumption and all within a 4.92″ x 1.57″ x 2.91″ shell, weighing 0.62lb. You can expect to find the ethernet adapter, ethernet cable and a quick start guide within the packaging.
The second box contains the plug-and-play 1000 Mbps Powerline 2 Port Gigabit Ethernet Adaptor, the PLA5206 v2. The cover is a small rectangle with 2 ethernet ports in the base and a reset button. The packaging is rimmed with yellow coloration, allowing complete separation from the other packaging. Along the left side panel, you will similarly find the specs for the device. The product has two 10/100/1000 Mbps RJ-45 connectors and is capable of transmitting up to 1000 Mbps and receiving up to 1000 Mbps. There are 3 LED indicators on the front of the device to indicate Power status on/off, power line link/quality and ethernet link/activity. This device measures 2.48″ x 1.18″ x 3.66″ and weighs 0.26lb, Inside of the box, you can expect to find a clean white rectangle outlet device with the above specifications, a quick start guide and a 59″ yellow Ethernet cable.
I opened the ethernet adapter first (yellow box PLA5206 v2). The Quick start guide was incredibly easy to follow. Let me start by telling you what this device does. Above in the history, I noted that my router was tethered to the point of entry of the internet. This was partially true as I have another source upstairs from my television. The secondary problem is my desktop does not have a wireless receiver and I must rely on LAN connection. This device functions in concert to provide the internet over a power line. Step 1 requires you to plug on of the adapters into a power outlet and then connect the ethernet cable between the router and the device. You will then utilize a second similar device to provide integer over the power line. for more secure connection, press and hold the reset/encrypt button on the first device for 2 seconds and then repeat for the other within 2 minutes. Now, I could move my router for better signal and connect this device to the router and another to the power line in my basement and have Wi-Fi over the power line. The quickstart guide is incredibly easy to follow and setup is a breeze.
Instead of having #2 of the PLA5206 v2 as mentioned in the instruction manual, this kit comes with the PLA5236 1000Mbps Powerline Wireless Extender. Setup of this device is a little more complicated than the device above. The instruction manual notes 3 distinct methods of setting up the system. You can use the Easy Setup app on Google Play or Apple App store. To use the app, you must have a wireless modem in the home. Connect the phone and enjoy easy setup through the app. Pick the device PLA5236 and PLA5206. You will then be taken to a WiFi connection screen. You now get to set the passwords for both channels. This setup is incredibly easy with the app and was the method I chose over option B and C> Essentially, you will follow the on-screen setup prompts. Remember to WRITE DOWN THE PASSWORD, you will not be able to access this again through this app. If you forget and you try to connect to the network later, press the reset button the bottom of the PLA5236 device for 15 seconds and it will reset the system. Connect the 5206 to your home router and then place the PLA5236 in an area that needs more internet signal. This will link the two PLA device and perform a network test.
The second option is to setup the system via WiFi. Located on the bottom of the device, you will find the SSID and password. You will need these for setup. Find a location within your wireless network, but at a point, you wish to extend the signal and plug the device into a power outlet. Once powered on, you will then connect to the SSID of the device. Enter the password for the wireless network. As a really nice aside, both the 2.4 and 5GHz channels share the same password. You will then connect the PLA5206v2 to your router and to power. Log in to either the Windows site http://zyxelsetup or to the Mac Site http://zyxelsetup.local. You then NEED to change the password. Follow the setup wizard, change the wireless displayed name and then your system is setup and you are ready to have internet signal in a new place.
Option C utilizes a direct LAN connection and relies on your desktop being plugged into the router and the PLA5206 v2 being plugged into the router as well. Log in to the same sites as above and follow the same steps as above. This option is essentially a duplicate of option B if you do not have a laptop with wireless capabilities.
Using the device:
Setting up the app and devices took less time than removing them from the packaging. Now that you have this system set up, the larger PLA5236 device acts as a range extender and produces WiFi signal. Additionally, you can use the ethernet ports x 2 to directly link to a device such as a desktop. I downloaded the OneLink app as well from Zyxel and this provides you some additional utility. The Easy Setup was incredibly easy, essentially touch buttons until done. There is no control option through this, however. One wonderful feature of the “One Connect” app is that you can change the password (cannot do this with the original app). Also, you can run speed tests on the Zyxel station. I ran five tests total: test 1 83.93 Mbps down and 4.09 Mbps up, test 2 53.55 Mbps down and 4.60 Mbps up, test 3 59.02 Mbps/5.51Mbps, test 4 81.13 Mbps/3.91Mbps, test 5 65.46 Mbps/4.67. I was not as excited about the upload speeds but the download speeds were anywhere from 50–100% of my internet speed from my Linksys Velop.
You cannot ask for an easier setup from a product that seems overwhelming just looking at the box. It really is as simple as plug in, download app and click buttons. If you are looking for a WIFI extender, this will maintain speeds close to normal but expect some reduction. I wish that the setup app would allow you to review the password. If you forget the password, reset both devices by holding the bottom button for 15 seconds. You can then run the setup again and reset the password. I ran an HTML 5-speed test while connected to the device WifI and got 84.7 Mbps down and 1.34 Mbps upload. Again, I was a little disappointed with the upload speed. Overall I am completely pleased with the device and it is a wonderful way to expand your network. I rate it at 5/5 stars.
Originally published at macsources.com on April 17, 2017.