Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus: Triple-tech connectivity for the home
Mix’n’match powerline, Wi-Fi and Ethernet
Review I currently use a cheap - 10 quid from eBay - Cisco four-port 10/100Mbps switch to feed the various devices in my living room that require a wired Ethernet connection to the network. The switch connects to the router, which happens to be one floor up and at the other end of my flat, by way of a 500Mbps powerline link.
I’ve not measured the distance between the two, but we’re talking at least 10m (33ft) as the crow flies, or as the electrician wires.
Devolo dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus: powerline in, three Ethernet, one Wi-Fi out
It’s a set-up that works very well, providing a decent - he tells me - gaming experience for the nipper when he’s on his Xbox, and for me and the missus to watch BBC iPlayer on the TV, which is used more for catch-up services than broadcast telly these days. I find I don’t need a DVR now.
The only flaw with the above arrangement is the need for two extra power sockets: one for the switch and the other for the powerline adaptor. But here is a unit that puts them all into a single casing, incorporates its own Wi-Fi hotspot and sports a pass-through power socket so it’s net take-up of wall outlets is nil.
This extra functionality naturally makes Devolo’s dLAN 500 AV Wireless Plus rather larger than not only single-port powerline adaptors but also than those units with pass-through power sockets. I’ve used one of the latter before, during a previous review test, and I was readily able to turn it off at night by flipping the wall outlet switches, located between the two sockets themselves. The larger size of the AV+ means I can’t flip that switch without removing the Devolo box first. Fine for me to do, but too much faff for other family members.
Pass-through power means no net loss of socket outlets
Inside the Wireless Plus, Devolo has fitted one of its own 500Mbps HomePlug/IEEE 1901 powerline adaptors. This is hooked up to a three-port switch. And the 10/100Mbps sockets, for a welcome change, are placed on top of the device so they are much more accessible than if they were situated on the bottom. It also means inserted cables won’t be squashed against the floor - if they’ll fit that way at all, which depends on how far down the wall the power socket is situated - though it does make for an untidy sprout of Cat 5 wiring.
The Wi-Fi adaptor is a 2.4GHz and 5GHz (though not at the same time) 802.11n job. It's dual-band, yes, but not able to support simultaneous usage. So if, like me, you use both at once, the better to support new and legacy wireless devices at the same time, you’ll have to decide which you want the AV+ to support.
You can set it up as a wireless network in its own right, but a more likely usage scenario is that you’ll want to extend an existing network, which is largely a matter of replicating your main WLAN’s SSID and its WPA 2 security key in the Wireless+ settings.
These can be accessed through Devolo’s Mac, Windows, Linux, Android and iOS software: Cockpit. Incidentally, you’ll need each adaptor security code to change its settings over the network rather than directly. These are printed on the back of the hardware and are thus inaccessible when the device is plugged in, so make sure you jot down an adaptor’s code down before plugging the hardware in.
The Ethernet ports are on top for easy access
You can use Cockpit to apply a user-defined encryption key to all the adaptors on your powerline network, but it’s easier to use the button on the front of the device. Press it for a second and you then have two minutes to do the same on the other adaptor, or adaptors. At this point the two units will negotiate a common key.
To add another adaptor, just repeat the procedure with the new unit and any one of the existing ones. It’s easy and it works. As does the Wireless+’s own settings UI, accessible through any web browser running on the network, wired or wireless. It provides all the set-up options you’d expect from a modern wireless hotspot, though not as comprehensive an array of settings as the likes of Tomato or DD-WRT do.
If you don’t require the Wi-Fi functionality, it’s easy to disable in the settings or by pushing a button on the front of the unit. I found the Wireless+ to deliver a reasonable performance in line with 802.11n in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
It’s not on a par with a good wireless router, which will have a better antenna array than the Devolo adaptor. The Wireless Plus wasn’t designed to be your main wireless connection point. Its role is to extend the reach of an existing network with either a range boost or to take it into a room that’s impervious to Wi-Fi.
Devolo’s Cockpit software lets you monitor powerline links in iOS and Android
My wireless router gives me good, apartment-spanning connectivity, and can do guest networks too if I ever need one. For me personally, then, the Wi-Fi is the least useful part of Wireless Plus. Not so the integrated switch, which means I can remove the Cisco unit I was using before and gain a power outlet for something else. An extra port would be nice - years ago I tested a Netgear 85Mbps HomePlug adaptor with four integrated 100Mbps Ethernet ports, two on each side - but I can live with three. Only you can say whether that’s a sufficient number in your place.
I found the switch and the adaptor to which it’s connected to operate to the expected limits of 100Mbps Ethernet and 500Mbps powerline. The latter is very dependent on distance, wiring quality and pathway, and noise from household appliances, which are all site-dependent.
For me, I measured adaptor-adaptor speeds of around 230Mbps, which is what I’d expect given the location of my two units and the performance of 500Mbps units I’ve tested in this configuration before. Devolo’s kit is slightly better than rival offerings I’ve tried, giving a decent speed over a greater distance than many do, but the Wireless+ doesn’t bring anything to the powerline party that the firm’s other dLAN 500 offerings don’t.
The Reg Verdict
Devolo’s dLan 500 AV Wireless Plus is a truly utilitarian product: you buy one because one or more of its features meet a need you have. This product has two benefits beyond the basic 500Mbps powerline link: 2.4GHz or 5GHz Wi-Fi, and its three-port Ethernet switch. It handles all three connectivity methods as well as anyone can expect from the current generations of these technologies, but not noticeably better than a combination of standalone units might.
That matters because you can buy one of Devolo’s own 500Mbps powerline adaptors with integrated Wi-Fi and a separate three-or-more-port switch for less than the price of the Wireless+ unit. That means you’re paying a premium solely for the integration and the pass-through port.
If you have the power sockets to spare, then cheaper, separate units is surely the way to go. If you find the Wireless+’s three-port limit too restrictive, you’ll have to go for the two-product approach whether you care about the cost saving or not.
But here’s the thing: the integration is handy. Having powerline, switch and even Wi-Fi all in one box, with no extra wiring or power bricks required, is very convenient. The question is, are you happy to pay a little extra for it? If you are, the Wireless+ is a functional unit that performs well. ®
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