A common question that gets asked on searches and forums is whether different makes and models of powerline adapters can be mixed and matched and still work together. There are all sorts of different brands with different speeds so is there a definitive way of finding out whether two different powerline adapters are compatible?
You can mix and match modern powerline adapters as long as they meet the same HomePlug AV standards, as intercompatibility is a requirement to be certified with that standard. Also faster powerline adapters will work with slower ones if compatible, but only at the slower speed.
Lets look at the issue in more detail below.
The HomePlug Alliance Sets Standards For Powerline Adapters
Standards for powerline adapter compatibility are set by the HomePlug Alliance, which is like a voluntary industry body for the powerline adapter industry. It helps to set standards and provides guidance and support to the powerline adapter industry to improve the scope and standards of home connectivity solutions. Here is the mission statement from their own page:
HomePlug Alliance is a group of companies working together to develop technology specifications and certification & logo programs for powerline networking. HomePlug Alliance brings together the individual researchers, technologists, strategic thinkers, market experts, business decision-makers and product developers, and unites them in a common goal: to create a global environment where powerline communications can thrive.
One of the things they do is set standards for homeplugs or powerline adapters, and any plugs that meet the same standards will by definition be cross compatible. They started off in 2001 with the Homeplug 1.0 standard, moving on later to the Homeplug AV standard, the most common and relevant nowadays. A new Homeplug AV2 standard is also being introducted, though this only appled to top of the range next gen gigabit powerline adapters.
The Homeplug Alliance has an excellent search tool on their website that allows you to look up your model and see if it is Homeplug AV/AV2 compliant. You can search manually for your model(s) and filter by manufacturer and standards to see if they will be compatible.
Cross Compatibility of Modern Adapters is High But Not Guaranteed
If you look use the search tool linked above you will find that a good number of different powerline adapter makes and models will indeed be cross compatible. Intra brand compatibility of modern AV adapters is especially high nowadays, in other words, different models of the same brand most often work together. However, compatibility across brands is still not uncommon with so many being AV certified.
If you do have a compatible pair the only issue to consider is that, as with any network, the speed of powerline networks is determined by it’s weakest link. In other words, if you have two powerline adapters of different speeds, then they will often work together but only at the lowest speed. So if you have an AV200 adapter and an AV500 adapter, then the best speed you can hope to get is 200 mbps, that of the slowest adapter.
Another issue to watch out for is older powerline adapters, that are still on the older Homeplug 1.0 standard. These were the first powerline adapters, introducted in the early 2000s, and their maximum transfer speeds was only around 85 mbps, whereas modern models come with an absolute minimum speed of 200 mbps and usually 500 mbps transfer rate.
The Homeplug 1.0 powerline adapters are obsolete now and will not work with never AV/AV2 models, but they very rare, so if you are trying to mix and match really old powerline adapters from more than a decade ago then you may have issues getting them to work. Entry level modern AV certified adapters are really cheap now if you need a newer model; see our page on powerline adapters for more information.
Cross compatibility of powerline adapter models makes it easy to add new adapters and new devices to a home powerline network
TP Link Products are Universally Cross Compatible
Whilst cross compatibility inside and between all major brands is very good nowadays, TP Link are exceptional on this in that pretty much all of their product range has universal cross compatibility, over both the wired and wireless powerline adapter range. So all their models will work equally well with each other, though as we said network speeds will be determined by the slowest adapter.
This is great, as it allows for easy expansion of home powerline networks as bandwidth needs grow for gaming, streaming and downloading. New models can easily be added to the network even if they are different from the existing models on the network and the adapters will still communicate
For example, if someone starts out with a pair of wired powerline adapters like the TP Link TL-PA4016P Kit from Amazon for gaming in one room, but then at a later date someone else wants to have another adapter in their own room for streaming but also to connect Wi-Fi devices, then they can get a more advanced model that has Wi-Fi booster functions on it like the TL-WPA-4220 Kit and the two models will work together.
See TP Link’s help page for adding more powerline adapters to a home network.
See our Product Comparison Table page for all the TP Link products we promote on this site. We focus on TP Link on this site as they are one of the most widely available and popular brands. However cross compatiblity between all the brands is pretty good nowadays.
All products in the table are cross compatible so there is no problem in picking different models to expand your home powerline network to include more devices and wireless connections as and when needed. This is the major strength of the TP Link brand.