Netgear Powerline 500 review

The Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221) are the dinkiest and one of the cheapest starter sets of Powerline adapters that we’ve tested.

Priced at just £29.99 this set includes two 500Mbps Powerline adapters. Each boasts just the one (10/100) Ethernet port, and there’s no added Wi-Fi hotspot functionality – so this is a bare bones system – but that’s all many people need from a Powerline.

Powerline adapters create a fast, wired network using the electrical wires in your home. Set up is as simple as plugging in one adapter to a wall socket near your modem/router, and then connecting that via Ethernet. In the second room where you need faster download speeds for your smart TV, Sky+ or Virgin/Tivo, Apple TV, games console, or PC/laptop you do the same by plugging the other adapter into a wall socket, and connecting that to the home-entertainment devices using the supplied Ethernet cable. See Powerline explained.

The minimal size of the Netgear Powerline 500 adapters will also delight householders who baulk at the bulk of many more sophisticated Powerlines. They are about half the size of the Devolo dLan 1200+ or similar Solwise SmartLink PL1200AV2 or TP-Link AV1200 starter Powerline sets. See our favourites in our Best Powerline adapters round up.

(The Netgear Powerline 500 XAVB5221 replaces the earlier Netgear Powerline 500 XAVB5201 adapters.)

As with all Powerline adapters you won’t actually get 500Mbps speeds, as this is just the theoretical maximum speed. Many limiting technical factors (not least the non-Gigabit Ethernet ports, which will pull back top speed to 100Mbps) and environmental barriers (your home electrical system, other devices plugged in around the home) mean that 500Mbps is a nonsense.

But these adapters should still greatly boost your home network to a performance level that will transform your download speeds for catch-up TV, online gaming and the like.

Netgear Powerline 500 home network cheap

Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221): speed tests

Creating a perfect test environment for Powerlines is impossible as everyone’s house will have different circumstances; and even the same house environment will behave differently at different times.

We always test in the same manner and same environment, and with the same test procedures to achieve as close to consistent results as we can manage.

The Netgear Powerline 500 scored acceptable results, even narrowly beating several other more-expensive 500Mbps-rated adapters.

Our average real-world speed score for these adapters was 61Mbps – miles below the claimed 500Mbps but enough to greatly improve on your home network if you rely on standard Wi-Fi.

We have achieved over 400Mbps with a 1,200Mbps-rated Powerline but in a less realistic situation with the two adapters next to each other on a wall socket. Once separated by a couple of floors and 15 metres or so the envirnmental limiting factors of a house set in. The faster 1,200Mbps-rated Powerlines averaged a real-world score of 100Mbps.

Netgear admits that top speeds will be well below the stated Megabits Per Second rating, as the adapters have a traffic light LEDs that tell you about link rate. The lowest is Red, which Netgear calls "Good" at under 50Mbps. Amber ("Better") scores between 50-80Mbps. And Green ("Best") has a link rate above 80Mbps. Our test result of 61Mbps is therefore acceptable for a 500Mbps adapter but not as fast as some models can reach.

Netgear Powerline 500 home network adapter

Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221): basics only

As mentioned earlier the Netgear Powerline 500 has just the one Ethernet port per adapter, which isn’t enough for many households with a smart TV, Sky+, and games console etc. However, if you buy a multi-port £20 Ethernet Switch you can extend even a one-port adapter’s usefulness.

Otherwise, look for adapters with two or even three ports, but you’ll see prices rise for this.

Some Powerline adapters feature a Passthrough socket on the adapters so you can still connect other plugs to the wall socket. These are usually found on larger, more expensive Powerline sets (see our Best Powerline Adapter round up feature). The Netgear Powerline 500 reviewed here don’t have a Passthrough so each adapter will eat up one of your electrical wall socket points. You shouldn’t add Powerline adapters to an extension strip, so if you are short on electrical wall sockets you should consider investing in adapters with Passthrough.

And there’s no Wi-Fi (found on, again, more expensive adapters) on the XAVB5221 so this is for wired connections only. If you want to extend your wireless network too, the Powerline 500 isn’t right for you.

Netgear Powerline 500 XAVB5221

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.

Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221): Specs

  • Two (2) Powerline 500 Adapters (XAV5221)
  • One 10/100 Mbps† Ethernet port each
  • IEEE 802.3 compliant
  • IEEE 1901 compliant
  • Homeplug AV compliant
  • Two (2) Powerline 500 Adapters (XAV5221)
  • One 10/100 Mbps† Ethernet port each
  • IEEE 802.3 compliant
  • IEEE 1901 compliant
  • Homeplug AV compliant

OUR VERDICT

While it lacks certain handy functions, such as the ability to add a new Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as features (more than one Ethernet port per adapter, for instance, and a Passthrough socket) the Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221) is inexpensive, simple to set up, and performs adequately for most home uses. If you want faster speeds and all the bells and whistles look elsewhere, but we rate this starter kit as great value.