Netgear Powerline 500 WiFi Access Point Review
Another of Netgear's offerings to hopefully make our lives easier
With all these Powerline products it is now extremely easy to fully integrate the whole of your house into your home network. Gone are the days of drilling holes everywhere or having unsightly cables running around the whole house to get the internet or a network connection to non-wireless capable devices. If like this reviewer you have lived in your house for many years, there won't be too many walls that haven't suffered from the cable butcher. With this XWNB5201 set you now simply install one adaptor near your router and another adaptor in a room of your choice and wired and wireless access to your home network will become instantly available. Priced at around the £110 mark (although we did find it as cheap as £75) this set should offer an affordable way of getting wireless access to those far away areas in your house. Read on to see how well it does!
Styling and Design
To the front of the main Powerline adaptor we have three LED indicator lights - Power LED, Powerline LED and Ethernet LED. When the adaptor is powered up the Power LED will show a green light, which will then show amber when it enters power saving mode, which uses less than 0.5 watts. The Powerline LED is enabled with Netgear's Pick-A-Plug feature which allows you to easily choose the electrical outlet with the strongest link rate. You will see a green, amber or red light which goes from a scale of over 80 Mbps link rate for green, 50-80Mbps for Amber and under 50Mpbs for red. This lights up within seconds and is handy for instantly telling you the best place to put the Powerline adaptors. The final light is the Ethernet LED which is enabled when you have connected the Ethernet port to a powered-on device. The Powerline adaptor with the WiFi access point also has the same Power LED and Powerline LEDs, but instead of the Ethernet LED it comes with a WiFi LED which lights up solid blue when the wireless access point is up and running.
In line with previous Powerline products from Netgear, adding a third or more Powerline adaptor is also very simple, just plug it in and press the security button on this new device and it will connect itself to the existing Powerline network. The adaptors in the XWNB5201 kit are fully compatible with Homeplug AV and previous Netgear Powerline AV products. The Wi-Fi access point adaptor also has an Ethernet port so with the enclosed 2 metre Ethernet cable you can also use it as a conventional Powerline adaptor to get the best from it.
Performance and Testing
Using DUMeter software and firstly testing connected via Ethernet we can see that the full speed available from our internet connection is achieved when downloading a 1GB test file. With a peak of 45 Mbps the file took just a couple of minutes to download. 45 Mbps should be well within the capabilities of these Powerline adaptors but it is still good to see that is achievable with no interruptions or failures.
Onto streaming and again no issues were found here and performance was as expected with both BBC iPlayer HD and Netflix HD. They started playing immediately and the download speed required, as can be seen in the screenshots from DUMeter above are comfortably within the confines of what these Powerline adaptors can achieve. With a peak of just over 8Mbps and maintaining a comfortable 2Mbps streaming speed for BBC iPlayer and a peak of 38Mbps for Netflix whilst caching (with the film immediately playing) which then maintained a level of about 2-3 Mbps, no stuttering or freezes were encountered.
We now get to the file transfer testing, where we should reasonably expect to see speeds much higher than the downloading speeds seen above. With DU Meter again in our chosen test socket we can see a downlink peak speed of 78.9 Mbps and a much lower uplink peak speed of 55.8Mbps. Moving the Powerline adaptor as close as we could get to the main adaptor we saw those speeds increase to 80.3 and 73.8 respectively. Obviously nowhere near the 250 Mpbs speed quoted by Netgear, but as we have explained above, due to the Ethernet port only being 10/100, you wouldn't see more than 100Mbps anyway. The speeds here should be fast enough to transfer files across the network quickly.
Finally a repeat of all the above tests were carried out using the wireless access point in the Powerline adaptor. With the file transfer testing the speeds dropped to 10.1Mpbs downlink and 19.4Mpbs uplink. Downloading a test file also saw speeds drop to 12.3 Mbps. These speed drops are slightly disappointing given that the XWN5001 has a/b/g and n 2.4 Ghz wireless capabilities up to 300 Mbps. Clearly we won't get more than 100Mbps anyway but better speeds would have been welcome here. As above with the streaming tests, the lower speeds received here are more than enough to cope with both BBC HD and Netflix HD. We did see an increase in the download speeds up to 18Mbps when we moved the Powerline adaptor right next to the main adaptor, so it is also worth trying various sockets (if you can) to find the best one. As with all Powerline adaptors they are susceptible to interference should you have a high powered device in an adjacent socket. We plugged in a toaster and turned it on and saw instant reduction of up to 10% in the normal speeds received. So perhaps make your lunch elsewhere when using the Powerline adapters.
Netgear XAVB5201 Powerline Utility
- Very easy to setup
- Pick-A-Plug LED
- Energy saving features
- Good performance
- Only a 10/100 Ethernet port
- 500 Mbps claims are rather spurious
Netgear Powerline 500 WiFi Access Point Review
Once again Netgear haven't disappointed us with the Powerline 500 WiFi Access Point set (XWNB5201). The installation and setup is as simple as we have come to expect and literally within minutes you've setup a wired network with the addition of a wireless access point. Once both devices are plugged in, you just press the security button on each device to enable the 128-bit encryption then simply install the Netgear Powerline Utility software on any PC connected to the main router to setup the wireless security and that's all you will ever need to do. You can even uninstall the software after that as you won't need it again for everyday use. Within minutes you now have a Powerline network offering wired or wireless access to areas of the house you previously thought impossible without unsightly cable runs or getting the drill out.
We were slightly disappointed with the claims by Netgear of 500Mpbs Powerline speed. Firstly this includes both the downlink and uplink speed so that is reduced to a theoretical maximum of 250Mbps straight away, then we have the issue that the Ethernet ports are only 10/100 and not 10/1000. Meaning you won't ever get more than 100Mbps at the very best. Netgear have qualified these claims by saying that the quoted speeds allow for additional Powerline adaptors to be fitted and still allowing you to get up to 100Mbps from each of them, but to us that appears to be slightly misleading marketing. Those of you buying this expecting to get more than 100Mbps will be disappointed.
Taking the above into account we were still impressed with the wired performance received. During the file transfer tests, speeds of around 80Mbps were achieved which means a 1GB file could be transferred in as little as 2 minutes and the full download speed of 45Mbps from our internet connection was realised when downloading several test files. The speeds achieved were also more than enough for HD streaming from the likes of BBC iPlayer or Netflix. With Netgear's Pick-A-Plug feature it is also very easy to find the socket that will give you the best connection or at least instantly tell you what kind of performance you will get from your chosen socket.
As with previous Powerline products this is fully Homeplug AV compatible and adding additional Powerline adaptors is as simple as plugging them in and pressing the security button on the side. The software will run on Windows 8, 7, Vista, XP and Mac OS X and the coverage on this set is quoted at up to 500m2. The XWNB5201 works without issue and is very easy to setup with excellent performance based on the wired tests. It's perhaps a tad expensive at £110 but lower prices are available if you shop around, the wireless performance is slightly poor and the claims of up to 500 Mbps speeds are somewhat spurious. However, overall this is another quality Netgear product and as such we feel it's a worthy winner of our Recommended badge.
Ease of Use10
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges here.
Maximum Data Transfer Rate 500 Mbps Maximum Data Transfer Distance 500 Metres Wireless Data Transfer Yes Wireless Standard(s) IEEE 1901, IEEE802.3 and Homeplug AV compliant Data Encryption Features Yes Number of remote receivers 2
Width 86 mm Depth 40 mm Height 67 mm Weight 0.085 Kg