Devolo dLAN 500 Wi-Fi Powerline Network Kit Review

AVForums takes a look at Devolo's solution to weak Wi-Fi

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

2

Devolo dLAN 500 Wi-Fi Powerline Network Kit Review
SRP: £125.00

Introduction

Powerline Adaptors have certainly put an end to the dark days of home networking where you really struggled to get a network connection or wireless access to all areas of the house. No longer do you have to resort to cables everywhere, drilling holes in walls or having to use multiple routers as wireless access points. Nowadays, as long as the room that needs a network access has an electrical outlet, then by simply plugging a powerline adaptor into a socket near your router and then one in the relevant room, your problems are solved.

Due to the increase in popularity of these wonderful devices there are now multiple options available from basic wired adaptors, to sets that offer wireless access points, ones with AC passthrough and even ones built into wall outlets. Many manufacturers have now joined the game such as Netgear, TP-LINK, Zyxel, D-Link and now Devolo, the manufacturer of the dLAN 500 WiFi Network Kit. This is a triple adaptor set offering three 'up to' 500Mbps adaptors, one wired and two also offering WiFi access points. We have yet to review a Devolo product but have heard great things about them, so let's see if they deserve their reputation.

Styling and Design

The Devolo 500 WiFi Network kit contains three powerline adaptors. The main wired adaptor - a dLAN 500 duo - and two wireless adaptors - the dLAN 500 WIFI. They keep the same look and feel that we find with most of the powerline adaptors these days with a hard white plastic shell and air vents around the outside. Although the Devolo adaptors have a more rounded edge to their look and are a fair bit chunkier with perhaps a slightly nicer feel. They are small enough to fit easily in a double wall outlet but unfortunately due to the increased size they won't fit in a 4 way extension without blocking the neighbouring sockets (although it is not recommended to use them in an extension anyway). To the bottom of the dLAN 500 duo we find two Fast Ethernet ports and the security button with just one Fast Ethernet port per dLAN 500 WIFI adaptor.
Devolo dLAN 500
The main adaptor has one LED light to the front which will stay on to indicate there is a connection setup or flash at varying intervals to indicate if it is in power saving mode, setting up the encryption or if no connection is available. The two 500 WIFI adaptors have two buttons to the front with LED lights. The first is for the Wi-FI and is used to turn it on or off, activating WPS and showing a solid LED light that indicates the Wi-Fi is on. No LED indicates the Wi-Fi is off and a flashing LED shows that the device is in pairing mode.

Connection speeds are colour coded

The second button is the dLAN and is used for encrypting your network or to remove a device from the network. The LED will be on if the connection is setup and flashing if no connection is available. Similar to Netgear's Pick-a-plug feature which gave a different colour LED depending on the connection speed, the dLAN LED on the Devolo 500 WIFI adaptors will illuminate solid green to show it is suitable for HD video streaming, orange for SD video streaming and online gaming and finally red for simple data transfer and internet access.

Setup

Devolo dLAN 500

The setup with the Devolo powerline adaptors is as easy and effortless as we have come to expect. It's a simple as plugging in the first adaptor and connecting it to your router, then plugging in the other two wireless adaptors in a room of your choice. Press the security button to enable the network encryption and then press the home button on the two WIFI adaptors and once the lights have stopped flashing, which takes 30 seconds or so, the network is fully secure and all setup with wireless available. These adaptors are fully Homeplug compliant so adding additional ones will present no problems and the kit comes with just one 2mtr Ethernet cable, quick setup guide and a CD.

Performance and Testing

Unfortunately, with the Devolo, we have come up against the same troubling 500Mbps claims that we have with every other 500Mbps Powerline adaptor we have reviewed to date. Due to the use of only Fast Ethernet ports (max of 100Mbps), you won't ever get 500Mbps. The devices themselves may well be capable of 500Mbps in theory, although this includes both the uplink and downlink speed anyway so immediately halve that to 250Mbps, but due to the limitations of the Fast Ethernet ports the maximum you will ever see is 100Mbps. A few years ago the Internet Service Providers were brought to task over their speed claims which weren't explained properly to consumers. These were 'up to' speeds and in reality would very likely be significantly less and we feel that perhaps with the increase in popularity and availability of these powerline adaptors it is getting to the point where the powerline adaptor manufacturers need to be brought to task as well. At the very least to properly explain their speed claims.

Firstly with the testing on the wired connection the full speed of our internet connection was achieved without any issues or interruptions. For streaming from a service such as Netflix in HD, again we had no problems and as you can see from the DUMeter software screenshot below we saw speeds peak over 34Mbps and then decrease to 3-4Mbps during playback. The playback started immediately with no freezing for additional buffering or any other issues suffered.
Devolo dLAN 500

With the file transfer testing across the network we would hope to get close to the 100Mbps maximum speeds possible and with the download speeds we were not disappointed and saw one of the fastest speeds to date on any powerline adaptors at 98.6Mbps and a slightly lower 79.2 Mbps on the upload. It's just a shame we are restricted to Fast Ethernet ports as we wonder what speeds we might have achieved with these adaptors if they had Gigabit ethernet ports for example. This issue is clearly seen with the simultaneous file transfer test where we achieved just 52.9Mbps download and 55.9Mbps upload. Despite our gripes with the limitations, the speeds seen here should be more than fast enough to transfer files quickly across your network or stream HD content to your media centre for example.
The speeds should be more than fast enough to stream HD content
Moving on to the testing using the wireless connection and here the speeds dropped considerably. We were expecting much better, especially considering the excellent wireless speeds received with the TP-LINK wireless adaptors.
Devolo dLAN 500
Devolo dLAN 500


However whilst the wired network maxed out at 100Mbps, we didn't even get close to our internet connection speed let alone the 100Mbps network speed. Both the test with Netflix in HD and the download and upload file transfer tests we saw speeds hovering around the 20/21Mbps mark and with the simultaneous file upload and download these were halved to around 11Mbps each way.
Devolo dLAN 500
We would have hoped the wireless performance would have matched Devolo's reputation as the No.1 company in this field but in this regard we were disappointed, although the wireless signal strength is excellent and not an issue here. We should also mention for completeness that our iPhone5 received very similar wireless speeds as above but our iPad3 struggled with just 2-4Mbps. Perhaps an incompatibility issue with the iPad3 here.

The wired network maxed out at 100Mbps

Devolo dLAN 500
Devolo dLAN 500

Devolo dLAN 500
Devolo dLAN 500

Verdict

The Good

  • Excellent wired speeds
  • Simple setup and installation
  • Good value set

The Bad

  • You won't ever see 500Mbps
  • Average wireless performance

Devolo dLAN 500 Wi-Fi Powerline Network Kit Review

We continue to be impressed by all the Powerline adaptors we have reviewed to date. Our previous experience with Netgear and TP-LINK have found products that literally anyone could install and use. No difficult setup and no messing about with configurations, just devices that work. The same goes with our first review from the highly regarded German manufacturer Devolo. The dLAN 500 WiFi Network Kit offers three powerline adaptors, one wired and two with WiFi access points and the setup is as effortless and simple as we have come to expect. Literally within 30 seconds of plugging all three devices in the powerline network is fully up and running and the two WiFi access points are available. It really is that easy.

What we are less impressed with is the continued claims of 'up to 500Mbps' being made by all the manufacturers. Devolo is not alone here as it seems to be an industry wide issue. Due to the use of Fast Ethernet ports (up to 100Mbps) you won't ever see 500Mbps. It can be argued that in a standard home a powerline network may not reach the dizzy heights of 500Mbps anyway, but it would at least be good to give it a try. The adaptors themselves may be able to reach 500Mbps as an optimal link rate and therefore comply with the HomePlug 500AV standard (which presumably allows manufacturers to claim up to 500Mbps on their packaging and marketing materials) but with just a Fast Ethernet port fitted that claim immediately goes out the window. To get anywhere close to 500Mpbs you need to be looking for Powerline adaptors with Gigabit ethernet ports. Sadly we are yet to receive any such samples for review, but if we do it would be very interesting to see just how well they perform.

Misleading claims aside, during our speed tests we saw very impressive results on the wired connection with file transfer speeds that maxed out at the 100Mbps top speed we could achieve. In fact the test results were some of the fastest we have seen on any powerline adaptors reviewed to date. Slightly less impressive though were the wireless test results where we only managed just above 20Mbps for all the tests. That's still not a snail's pace and would be fine for watching HD Netflix and the ping tests pointed that it would even be reasonable for online gaming, but after our experience with TP-LINK's WPA4220KIT powerline adaptor set, which gave wireless results above 90Mbps we were rather disappointed. As a result of the wireless performance, the dLAN 500 WiFi Network Kit just misses out on a coveted AVForums badge.

Scores

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
9

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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