Devolo DLAN 500AV Wireless+ Starter Kit review

Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ Powerline starter kit

The Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ is part of a growing segment of the home networking market: the powerline adaptor. These adaptors allow you to use the wiring in your house as a data pipe instead of laying down ethernet cable around your house. This new offering has a claimed max gross throughput of 500Mbps when connected via ethernet. This means the product is aimed at the top end of the market; as opposed to slower 200Mbps for its maximum data rate. See all Wi-Fi/networking reviews.

The kit itself consists of two adaptors. One plugs into an electrical socket near your router, then connects using the single ethernet connector. The second unit is plugged into a mains point elsewhere in the house, letting you connect to your network by either ethernet or Wi-Fi. So the kit's uses are in essence two-fold: to extend the reach of the Wi-Fi network to other parts of the house and/or to provide high-speed ethernet connections to anywhere there is a plug socket. 

The units themselves are rather stylish and unobtrusive looking, coloured white and made of a high-quality plastic. The remote (client) unit has a smattering of indicator lights for power, ethernet, home (connection to the master unit) and power.

Unlike most Powerline adaptors this one boasts three ethernet ports on the second-room unit – most have only one or two. With an increasing number of devices (smart TVs, Sky+, Tivo, Apple TV, and other set-top boxes, as well as laptops, PCs and games consoles) benefitting from a wired ethernet connection for fastest download speeds, having three ports is a real plus.

Another benefit of the Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ is the power pass-through socket on both adapters, allowing you to connect another plug through it and so not using up valuable power sockets.

The adaptors are quite bulky but a nice white design so shouldn't stand out too much in the average home.

UPDATE: Devolo has since released the Devolo dLan 650 triple+ Powerline adapters that are 17 percent faster and boast Gigabit Ethernet ports but lack the wireless function. We still think that the 500AV Wireless+ is worth considering despite the slightly slower speed because the ability to add a second Wi-Fi hotspot is so useful.

Speed tests

We tested the Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ Starter Kit in two houses.

House 1: Our control test, which we use to compare all Powerline systems, is a Victorian house with average-age wiring and the usual array of electronic devices (TV, Sky+, Hi-Fi, lamps, microwave, computers, etc) plugged into the power lines. The Internet router was situated in the office on the second floor, and we used Powerline to test data speed on the ground floor.

If your house was built more recently you may well achieve faster speeds than we did, see our second house test below.

First we must emphasise that despite all the Powerline manufacturers caliming 200Mbps or 500Mbps speeds these are theoretical maximums, and you will never see such speeds via Powerline. You'll be lucky to get 100Mbps from a 500Mbps Powerline (especially as the ethernet port uses 10/100 ethernet), but don't fret as this is well fast enough for most needs, such as watching catch-up TV or downloading fairly large files. And rest assured it's much, much faster than standard home Wi-Fi.

We got speeds up to 96Mbps but the house average was 59Mbps using Powerline and ethernet. This is sufficinet for most users, and we downloaded HD TV with few pauses.

Using the Devolo's Wi-Fi function we created a new hotspot downstairs and achieved an average speed of 47Mbps – compared to the 16Mbps we could get through the home's standard Wi-Fi. It took just under 3 minutes to pass a 1GB file using the Powerline Wi-Fi, compared to over 8 minutes using the normal Wi-Fi.

However much we might grumble about not getting the advertised 500Mbps (300Mbps claimed for Wi-Fi) there's no denying that an ethernet-wired average of 59Mbps and a Wi-Fi speed of 47Mbps is leagues faster than the 16MBps we had before when using Wi-Fi.

Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ Wi-Fi

House 2: We also tested this unit in a block of flats made in the 1960s with wiring of undetermined age. This is important, as it is in part the wiring that will determine the speed of your connection. These first tests were ethernet only (no Wi-Fi) with the master unit plugged into the router and the client plugged into a laptop via ethernet cable. We then varied the connection to the mains power, creating four different setups.

For setup 1 we used a 4m mains power-cord extension on both the router side and the client side, with the building's wiring in between the rooms (physical distance 10m). Using this setup the system reached a speed of 40Mbps. This is not a good result for a 500Mbps-rated system, although using two 4m extension cables was probably undermining performance here too.

For setup 2 we removed the extension cable on the client side and plugged the adaptor directly into a mains socket. Using this setup the data rate increased to 75Mbps, which is certainly an improvement – but lower than you might expect from a half-decent Wi-Fi setup at this distance.

For setup 3 we tried to give the system the best chance possible in a practical setup. Both adaptors were plugged directly into mains plugs in adjacent rooms, with no extension cords and no other devices plugged in to muddy the signal. Using this setup the data rate was just 60 Mb/s. We re-tested this result several times and the result was the same every time.

For a final setup we plugged both units into the same power block to test the maximum data rate, creating a range of less than 0.5m. This returned a fantastic rate of 280Mbps but is fairly academic as you wouldn't use a set up like this in real life..

From testing it seems safe to draw two conclusions: firstly, that the data rate of 500Mbps is unlikely to be achieved between rooms if it cannot be achieved even across the same power block.

Secondly, that the data rate you get may be determined by the quality and the path of the mains power wiring in your house. Our testing showed greater speeds connecting at greater physical distances than in adjacent rooms, which may be due to the path or quality of the wiring between the two points.

The Devolo unit also provides Wi-Fi on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. We tested the Wi-Fi at 1m, 5m and 10m with several concrete wall occlusions.

On the 2.4GHz band the speeds were as follows: 93Mbps at 1m, 59Mbps at 5m and 18Mbps at 10m, the latter arrangement including reflective obstructions. These are respectable speeds compared with other modern routers we have tested using the same setup.

On 5GHz the results were 95 Mb/s at 1m, 95Mbps at 5m and 15Mbps at 10m, with occlusions. Here the maximum data rate at 1m was very surprising - at 1m a 5GHz signal should have a higher data rate. However, this was confirmed to be a 5GHz signal in the settings, while the Wi-Fi indicator light backed this up by turning blue (green is for 2.4GHz).

The lack of any drop in datarate at 5m was a good result but, as expected, the 5GHz signal did not fare well with walls.

Check out all our Powerline adapter reviews and also our group test of the best Powerline adapters we've tested. You can get more information on Powerline including explanations of Powerline speed myths and lots of tips and trick in our feature What Is Powerline.

Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ Starter Kit: Specs

  • Powerline and 11n wireless adaptor
  • HomePlug AV standard
  • dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • WPA2, WPS, dLAN AES
  • passthough mains power socket
  • 3x 10/100 ethernet LAN ports (client), 1 LAN port (host)
  • Powerline and 11n wireless adaptor
  • HomePlug AV standard
  • dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • WPA2, WPS, dLAN AES
  • passthough mains power socket
  • 3x 10/100 ethernet LAN ports (client), 1 LAN port (host)

OUR VERDICT

This Devolo powerline/wireless system is simple to set up – real plug and play. The best-case speeds reached over powerline were far from the claimed 500Mbps, but this is true of all powerline adaptors as much as Wi-Fi underperformance. The speed of this device will in part be determined by the unique wiring of your house, but our tests prove that speeds will likely be at least three times what you'd expect of your standard Wi-Fi when a few rooms from your router. The Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ will be of particular use if you want to hardwire more than one ethernet-enabled device such as TV or Sky+ box, as it boasts three ethernet ports. Its wireless function means we still prefer the 500AV to the newer and faster 650+ Powerlines from Devolo.