Devolo MicroLink dLAN powerline Ethernet adaptor

Wired networking through the mains

Once again, I connected one MicroLink to a Windows laptop upstairs in my home, and the other to a PowerBook downstairs. I used the same sockets and - in the case of the Windows machine - the same distribution board as I used to test the PL-100. The Windows box was different from last time, but its specifications were close enough.

devolo dlan multilink ethernet adaptor

As before, I copied a large folder from the Windows machine to the Mac, timing the transfer. I ran through the process half-a-dozen times to obtain an average transfer time. I also checked it against Mac OS X's Activity Monitor utility, which has a throughput read-out of its own.

First off, I measured a transfer speed of 20.86Mbps. Enabling the encryption, I got pretty much the same figure: 20.81Mbps. Trying a third time after switching on the dishwasher yielded 20.98Mbps. Putting on the washing machine didn't appear to impact performance. During the runs, Activity Monitor gave between 20.88Mbps and 22.8Mbps.

These numbers compare to the 16.43-16.88Mbps I got for the pair of Pl-100s I tried. To be fair to the ZyXEL products, I had more machines drawing power from the mains when I tested them than was the case with the Devolo tests, but I wouldn't expect that to account for all the difference. Your experiences may differ, depending on the state of the mains in your building.

Subjectively, swapping data between the two machines and accessing the Internet felt much faster with the MicroLinks than with my 802.11g WLAN. And for all the 'operate anywhere' freedom of the wireless network, I usually find myself connecting to it in the same two or three locations, all within easy reach of a free power socket. If you're in the same situation, the MicroLinks a worthy alternative, particularly as broadband speeds rise and the airwaves become more crowded with local WLANs.

The units conform to the HomePlug 1.0 specification, so they're backwards compatible, but Devolo recommends sticking to either the older 14Mbps HP 1.0 products or the newer 85Mbps 'standard plus' products rather than mix the two. At just £140 for a pack of two 85Mbps, it's worth the upgrade.

Verdict

With its natty translucent blue casing, the MicroLink is more consumer friendly that ZyXEL's PL-200, though it's no easier - or harder - to use. A major benefit is the built-in power plug, allowing you to shove it in a mains socket and forget about it until you need it. Anything that cuts down on cable clutter is a winner in my book. But it's the speed advantage that recommends the Devolo product, above rival offerings and wireless. ®

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Devolo MicroLink dLAN powerline Ethernet adaptor

Fast data transfers using the mains wiring and a conventient connector...
Price: Two-unit Starter Kit: £140
Single unit: £75 RRP