Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ Starter Kit full review
Powerline technology is the great unknown wonder of the digital home. Powerline technology allows you to create a network using the existing mains electrical wiring in your home or office. It’s more efficient than laying down metres of ethernet cable round the house and faster and more reliable than wi-fi. Here’s our review of the Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ powerline starter kit, and also advice on what speed powerline adaptor you need.
If a room has a spare power socket you can simply plug in a small powerline adaptor and from there connect whatever device you have (laptop, PC, smart TV, Sky+ box, Tivo, printer, games console, etc) to your internet connection via ethernet. It makes fancy features such as catch-up TV as simple as channel hopping.
iPlayer downloads taking too long or breaking up over wi-fi? Connect your player or set-top box via ethernet powerline and it’s like plugging it straight into your router.
The real joy is the simplicity of the whole thing. A starter kit like the £130 Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ includes two HomePlug adaptors. You connect one via ethernet to your router and plug in to a nearby power socket. You take the other one to the room you require a fast internet connection in, and plug that into another power socket. You can then link that adaptor to your nearby device (TV, etc) by ethernet cable or wi-fi.
Bingo. Job done. That’s it.
You can buy additional compatible adaptors (around £85) and add one in every room if you want. Garden shed connected to the same power lines as your home? Get fast broadband speeds there, too.
The Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ adaptor features three ethernet LAN ports so you can connect TV, set-top box and games console, for example, via just the one unit. It works with Macs and Windows PCs.
Devolo gets extra points for including an integrated electrical socket in the adaptor so you can still use the host socket for other power connections. You could even connect a power strip to it.
The Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ comes with management and monitoring software on a CD but none of it is required to get going straight away. It's pretty much a case of take it out of the box and plug it in for immediate gratification.
There's also an iOS and Android app called dLAN Cockpit that lets you manage and configure functions such as parental control, guest accounts, wi-fi times schedules, and so on.
Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ goes one step further than standard powerline kits in creating new wi-fi zones in your home.
They work much better than wi-fi extenders that rarely give much of a significant boost to your wi-fi. This sets up a new wi-fi hotspot, with its own 16-key password key, and can be set up with wi-fi encryption (WPS, WEP, WPA/WPA2).
This has real potential for families. You could set up wireless access in a child’s room and set parental controls to that room exclusively or to nearby rooms too. For example, you could set the connection to certain times to limit internet usage.
Using a wireless powerline system you should achieve wi-fi speeds like that you get in the room your router resides in. Wireless powerline won’t be as fast as what you’ll get with ethernet powerline but Devolo claims a theoretical maximum speed of 300Mbps for wireless connections.
Like most networking techs powerline gadgets come in different speeds: principally 200Mbps and 500Mbps.
As its name suggests the Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless+ creates a premium 500Mbps home network. Devolo also sells a 200Mbps starter kit for around £100.
For a number of reasons (old or ropey wiring, interference from laptops, microwaves, etc) you’re unlikely to enjoy those speeds as fast as claimed. Depending on your local factors 200Mbps powerline adaptors might range between 20 and 90Mbps; 500Mbps adaptors maybe up to 200Mbps. We were able to get just under 200Mbps in our tests of the 500 Starter Kit.
And of course it’s all very much dependent on the speed of your home broadband.
What speed powerline adaptors do you need?
Powerline is never going to be as fast as straight router to device via ethernet but it should be plenty fast enough for most digital home duties.
A 200Mbps powerline setup should be enough for streaming iPlayer or other catch-up TV services in standard definition, browsing the web, streaming music and online gaming.
You should go for a 500Mbps powerline for HD video streaming and sharing large files around the network, or if you have multiple devices connected at the same time.
You won’t get 500MBps, as explained above, but it’s a damn sight faster than you’ll get with standard wi-fi.