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Zyxel PLA5236KIT AC900 Powerline Wireless Extender kit review

If you need to bring internet to that far corner of your sprawling home and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on a Wi-Fi system like the Google Wifi or the TP-Link Deco M5, you should definitely consider the Zyxel PLA5236KIT Powerline AC900 1000 Mbps Wireless Extender kit. It does basically the job of a mesh system, extending your home network farther with relative ease, but at a much lower cost of about $85 (coverted, about £65 or AU$110).

The kit’s performance isn’t great and it can be a bit challenging for novices to set up, but if you have some patience and just want to quickly share internet access, it gets the job done. If your house is already wired with network cables, it’s better to get a standalone access point instead.

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The ZyXel PLA5236KIT includes a power line adapter and a power line access point (right).


Dong Ngo/CNET

How it works

The PLA5236KIT includes a power line adapter (model PLA5206 v2) and a power line Wi-Fi access point (model PLA5236). You first connect the adapter unit to an existing network — a router or a switch — and then plug it into directly a wall socket. After that, plug the access point unit into another wall socket at the far place. The two will connect to each other using the electrical wiring in between — as long as it’s no more than 900 feet (300 meters) in length — as though it were a network cable, effectively extending the home network to the access point unit’s location.

Note that, like all power line adapters, the kit only works well if your home has just one electrical wiring system, meaning the wiring is continuous and without circuit breakers in between. The units need to plug directly into a wall socket to work, so don’t use them with a power strip or surge protector. Also, appliances, like ceiling fans or refrigerators, might adversely affect performance to a certain extend.

Clunky web interface

While setting up the hardware is as straightforward as mentioned above, setting up the PLA5236’s Wi-Fi can be a challenge if you’re inexperienced. Usually all you have to do is create a name for the Wi-Fi network and pick a password for it, but Zyxel somehow manages to turn this simple job into such a pain via a terribly designed web interface.

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