Devolo Magic 2 Wi-Fi full review

Devolo’s latest range of home-network systems offers next-generation Powerline and advanced Mesh WiFi features, especially powerful for larger data-hungry homes.

Most homes today, whether in a modern penthouse or a rural cottage, require a fast home network. The demands of streaming TV services such as Netflix, Amazon and Sky, online gaming through multiplayer consoles, online video calls, social-media, home office, Alexa, and other data guzzlers, get ever greater.

Broadband is trying to keep up with super-fast services of over 350 megabits per second (Mbps).

But as we move to 4K TVs (with 8K on the horizon), and with a set in more than one room, with everyone in the house always on their phones, pushing that data around the home is not easy. One room might be fine, but today we expect every room to be up to speed with our demands.

Our main recommendation to improve your home network is installing a Powerline network.

Powerline is an extremely easy-to-setup solution that uses the power cables in your home to carry data around the building. See What is Powerline?

With Powerline, you can add wired Ethernet ports in different rooms and also - with some specially equipped Powerline adapters - add powerful new Wi-Fi hotspots.

Another solution is to install a Mesh Wi-Fi network, which lets you place wireless extenders around your home to boost wireless signals.

In a Mesh system there’s a main router connected directly to the modem, and then extra modules (known as nodes) placed through the home (as many as your space requires). Mesh satellites communicate with each other and create a single wireless network, sharing the same SSID and password so your devices seamlessly connect and disconnect from individual nodes in the background as you move around.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems work well, but can be held back by Wi-Fi’s innate failings when it comes to distance from your router. See Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks.

German manufacturer Devolo has been one of the pioneers of the Powerline industry for the past 15 years, and is a benchmark for speedy and stylishly designed adapters.

Its new product, Magic, takes Mesh Wi-Fi and adds Powerline as the backbone, therefore making the signals much stronger than from a traditional Mesh system.

The technical stuff (skip if you feel queasy)

The weakness of Mesh is that the data backbone remains Wi-Fi, which, as we all know, gets weaker the further it is away from the original source (usually the router) and is further blocked by floors, ceilings, walls and even furniture.

By using the physically wired Powerline to carry the signal around the home, Devolo claims that there is significantly less weakening of the signal, and therefore the faster downloads in each room.

In addition, Magic 2 uses the second generation of G.hn Powerline-chips (Gigabit Home Networking), which boasts data rates up to 2.4Gbps (gigabits per second).

In comparison, most other Powerline adapters are based on the HomePlug AV2 standard that has a maximum data rate of 1.2Gbps.

G.hn also has greater range: 500 metres compared to AV2's 400 metres.

With more homes being supplied with super-fast gigabit fibre, such advances are welcome - especially as the speeds quoted are maximum theoretical data rates rather than the real-world speeds you’ll actually get in your house.

G.hn might never reach its 2.4Gbps maximum, but it should be significantly faster in real-world environments than the older HomePlug AV2.

(G.hn adapters are incompatible with HomePlug, but two different networks can co-exist in the same electrical circuit.)

Devolo Magic Adapters Home

Set-up is much easier than it sounds

That was the technical explanation. Don’t panic! Setting up a Powerline network is simple.

A typical starter kit comes with two Powerline adapters. One is the base unit that connects directly to your router via a supplied Ethernet cable, and is plugged into a power socket nearby. The other Powerline adapter is plugged into a wall socket in the second room you need the fast access in – most likely a living room with smart TV, games console, etc. You can connect these devices to the second adapter via Ethernet cable and/or create a new Wi-Fi hotspot there (if the Powerline adapter boasts this function).

If you have multiple devices that require the wired connection, look for a Powerline adapter with more than one Ethernet port.

With Devolo Magic, once you've plugged in the first adapter, all other adapters that are plugged in within the next two minutes are automatically connected to each other - without you having to push a single button. During this pairing process, a unique security ID is exchanged between the devices, making the installation extra secure.

You don’t have to change the settings of your router - it’s plug & play and easier then installing most Mesh-WiFi systems, where you have to change the settings of your router.

Devolo Magic Powerline Mesh systems

Devolo Magic systems and pricing

There are four types of Magic (magic 1 LAN, Magic 1 WiFi, Magic 2 LAN, and Magic 2 WiFi), each with different configurations.

The entry-level Magic 1 LAN offers fast Powerline connections around the home, but lack the ability to create new Wi-Fi hotspots or a wireless Mesh network. A Magic 1 LAN Starter Kit (with one base unit and one second-room adapter) costs £99.99. You can add extra single adapters for £54.99 each. Each adapter has one Gigabit Ethernet adapter for wired device connections.

Magic 1 WiFi, as its name suggests, adds wireless and Mesh functionality. The Magic 1 WiFi Starter Kit costs £129.99; a three-pack Multiroom set with two secondary Wi-Fi adapters costs £199.99. The Wi-Fi adapters feature two Gigabit Ethernet ports, so you can connect more than one data-hungry device in the second or third room. You can buy extra single Wi-Fi adapters for £84.99 each.

Magic 1’s maximum (theoretical) speed is 1,200Mbps. Devolo believes this is more than capable of providing a network fast enough for everyday home-office and browsing applications, plus HD streaming.

Magic 2 has a max (again theoretical) speed of 2,400Mbps. This extra speed is recommended for UltraHD streaming and particularly busy data-download homes.

There’s a Magic 2 LAN model (Starter Kit costs £129.99) but this lacks the extra Wi-Fi hotspot and has just the one Gigabit Ethernet port. Extra adapters cost £69.99.

The Top-of-the-range Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit costs from £169.99 for the Starter Kit with one base unit and one second-room Wi-Fi Powerline adapter (with two Gigabit Ethernet ports); to get the full benefit of Mesh (and if you have a larger home) then the Multiroom Kit is a three pack (with base unit and two Wi-Fi adapters) priced at £269.99. Extra Magic 2 WiFi adapters cost £109.99 each.

This might seem expensive but if it noticeably speeds up your home network then it’s a one-off payment worth making.

While it seems pricey compared to other Powerline kits, it’s not so far off other Mesh systems. The closest comparison is TP-Link’s £249 Deco P7, which also uses Powerline (based on the older HomePlug standard) as the Mesh backbone, but is a two- rather than three-pack like the Multiroom Magic 2.

One of our favourite Mesh systems (the Linksys Velop Dual Band) costs £219 for the three pack but doesn’t have the benefit of the Powerline backbone.

The Google WiFi Mesh system costs £329 for the three-pack, so the Devolo Magic 2 Multiroom isn't the most expensive.

All the Magic adapters boast a pass-through power socket, which means you don’t lose a plug point when it’s installed.

Devolo Magic LAN house

Devolo Magic LAN features

Lacking the ability to add extra Wi-Fi hotspots or create Mesh Wi-Fi networks, the more basic LAN versions of Magic are more like conventional Powerline kits. Plug one adapter into a socket near your router, wire it to the router via Ethernet cable. Get the second adapter, and plug that into a power socket near the device you want to improve the data speed to (say, your smart TV), and then connect that adapter to the device via another Ethernet cable.

It's like having one long cable from your broadband router to your smart TV; see illustration above.

Devolo Magic WiFi features

With the WiFi versions of Magic you get to either add a second Wi-Fi hotspot (of similar speed to what you'd get standing next to the router) in another room far away.

On top of this is the Mesh functionality, that can create the fastest-possible wireless network in your home. Devolo's Magic WiFi kits feature the latest Mesh technologies.

Magic WiFi systems feature "Fast Roaming" that works so that all wireless clients, such as smartphones and tablets, are always connected to the strongest Wi-Fi hotspot. When you move from room to room with your mobile device, it will discover and connect with the fastest hotspot. Integrated “Band Steering” further ensures that all Wi-Fi clients are automatically assigned to the best wireless channel and the optimum frequency.

“Config Sync” allows the router‘s WiFi configuration data to be transferred with ease to all WiFi access points (using a single SSID).

An “Airtime Fairness” feature processes the requests of faster wireless clients at a higher priority, preventing older devices - which may require more time for a download - from creating WiFi bottlenecks.

Devolo Magic WiFi house

Devolo Magic Powerline speed tests

As with all our Powerline and Mesh reviews, we test in a real-world environment – in this case a three-story Victorian townhouse. Remember that no one home is identical to another, so you may get faster or slower results than we do. But rest assured that in comparing different system we should have a decent idea of which comes out as the top performer.

We tested the top-of-the-range Magic 2 system. With its maximum speed of 2,400Mbps we expected great things, although in the knowledge that such theoretical speed claims (by all networking manufacturers, not just Devolo) won’t be reached in our imperfect homes, with their troublesome walls, ceilings and other electrical devices causing noise and data barriers.

First, we tested the Powerline connection at its fastest, by placing one adapter in the same room as the base Powerline adapter that is connected to the router.

In our real-world test environment, we achieved an impressive speed of 456Mbps – our fastest in all Powerline tests we’ve performed so far in this test environment.

Next, when tested in a more realistic setup with the second adapter in a room two floors away, speed predictably dropped – here to 119Mbps. (Remember that you might well get much faster than this in your own home, and we have seen reports that switching off Sonos speakers greatly improved speed, which we will check on soon.)

This was actually a little slower than previous tests we had run using TP-Link’s AV1000 Powerline Adapter Starter Kit (TL-WPA7510), where we nudged closer to 130Mbps, but the difference is minimal really and could easily be explained by the time of day when we ran the tests. That said, the Magic’s G.hn Powerline-chips didn’t blast past the older HomePlug standard as much as we had expected and that makes us wonder whether the 2,400Mbps potential is really going to make much difference in the wild.

Our third test was on the Wi-Fi performance in the second room (far from the original wireless router). In a non-Mesh trial, we achieved 104Mbps, which isn’t so far off the wired speed and noticeably faster than our previous fastest Powerline Wi-Fi (90Mbps from Devolo’s own 1200+ Starter Kit).

So, the Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit performed about as well as our previous fastest Powerline winner and a little faster using its new Wi-Fi hotspot.

Magic 2 WiFi Mesh tests

Later, we tested the Magic 2 WiFi in our Mesh test environment, and this is where you can see that speeds in different places will differ wildly. We didn't test wired Powerline connections here, just the Wi-Fi strength in the Mesh system.

The Mesh Wi-Fi side of things works well, although Devolo could put a little more effort into making its app and manual more helpful for first-time users. The Multiroom kit that we tested contained three adaptors – a LAN (base) adaptor for connecting to our existing router, and two Wi-Fi Powerline adaptors that you can place in other rooms.

However, the three adaptors all look very similar, and the manual doesn’t make it clear which adaptor should be connected to the router and which ones go into your other rooms. And, while trying to set-up our new wifi network, the Devolo app on our tablet told us to ‘press the PLC button’ – without actually telling us to where find that button on the adaptors.

But, once we got past those initial hiccups, the Wi-Fi and Mesh networking features provided impressive performance.

With one of the Magic 2 Wi-Fi adaptors in a nearby hallway, and the second adaptor in our office, we found that we were able to get a consistent Wi-Fi speed of around 700Mbps from both adaptors – outpacing a number of conventional Mesh systems that we’ve reviewed recently, and allowing us to move around freely with our laptop at last.

And, of course, if you’re still having problems with your Wi-Fi signal then the Magic 2 WiFi adaptors also provide two Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections (as well as that handy pass-through option for using your mains power socket too).

And while the Devolo app does have a few rough edges, it also provides a number of useful features as well. By default, the dual-band Wi-Fi adaptors create a single network that combines the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, but the app also allows you to split those into two separate networks if you want to, as well as providing a ‘clone’ option that allows the new Devolo network to use the same Wi-Fi name and password as your existing network.

The app’s parental controls could be more extensive though. There is an option to create a schedule that limits Internet access to specific times of day, but some rival Mesh devices also allow you to create more varied schedules and profiles that cater for children of different ages in your family.

However, there’s no doubt that the Devolo Magic 2 kit provides good performance for both wired and Wi-Fi connections, and that its versatile combination of PowerLine and Wi-Fi networking can be extremely useful for larger homes that normally struggle to get a good Wi-Fi signal.

Devolo Magic vs TP-Link Deco P7

The Magic WiFi’s closest rival would be the  TP-Link’s Deco P7, which also combines Mesh networking with Powerline connectivity. However, the P7 costs around £250 for a two-piece kit. The top-of-the-range Magic 2 kit costs £269, but provides a three-piece kit that lets you use its LAN/Powerline adaptor to connect to your existing router, and two separate Wi-Fi adaptors that you can place in other rooms - along with the useful mains pass-through socket option.

Admittedly, most homes won’t need a high-end kit such as this, but for larger homes that have trouble getting good Wi-Fi the versatility and performance of the Magic 2 will be ideal - and, of course there’s also the option of the less-expensive (£169) two-piece Starter Kit for smaller homes.

Mesh or just Powerline

As Mesh is really aimed at homes that require more than one extra wireless hotspot, smaller or average-sized properties might be better off just using standard Powerline adapters - with one extra Wi-Fi hotspot if required. Check for your Wi-Fi weak areas and where you need better wireless connections.

The Devolo Magic 1 WiFi Kit costs from £129 for the Starter Kit with one base unit and one second-room Wi-Fi Powerline adapter with Wi-Fi.

For £85 the non-Mesh TP-Link TL-WPA7510KIT (two adapters, each with one Gigabit Ethernet port, one with Wi-Fi) offers comparable speeds (in our tests). With Magic, you are still a price premium for the more sophisticated Mesh features. Check out our roundup of the best Powerline starter kits to see our recommendations.

Where the Magic 1 and 2 win doesn’t appear to be straight-line Powerline performance, but they do make a reaal difference in homes that require more than one extra Wi-Fi hotspot, where the more advanced Mesh features should shine.

(Additional reporting by Cliff Joseph.)

Verdict

The Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit is best suited for larger homes that require more than one extra Wi-Fi hotspot. Here, the top-end Mesh features (Fast Roaming, Band Steering, Config Sync, and Airtime Fairness) should ensure you get the fastest WiFi possible wherever you are in the house.

Considering its top-of-the-range Powerline and Mesh features it compares well with similar Mesh systems on price.

Smaller houses can probably make do with just the one extra Wi-Fi hotspot, and there are cheaper Powerline Wi-Fi kits available that will do much the same job.

Specs

Devolo Magic 2 Wi-Fi: Specs

  • 1,200Mbps or 2,400Mbps Powerline and Mesh Wi-Fi system, with Powerline backbone.