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Devolo dLAN 550 Powerline WiFi Starter Kit Review

Good performer, but too pricey!

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

8

Devolo dLAN 550 Powerline WiFi Starter Kit Review
SRP: £99.99

What is the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit?

If your house is a jumbled mess of ethernet cables, messy holes in walls to route said cables and several mysterious dark areas that no outside signal can penetrate, then look no further than the Powerline Adapter. They offer the easiest and cheapest method of getting all parts of your home that all important network and internet access. Basic 500Mbps sets retail from under £23 and those with Wireless access start at just £31. It has never been easier to banish those unconnected areas!

From one of our popular Powerline Adaptor manufacturers, Devolo, we have here for review their dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit. This includes a pair of adapters, both rated at 500Mbps. The main adapter includes AC pass-through and the second adapter features up to 300Mbps WiFi. With a retail price of £99.99, this will have some way to go to beat TP-LINK’s significantly cheaper and slightly better specified £69.99 TL-WPA4530 that we reviewed in March. Read on to see it how it gets on in our tests….

Design and Connections

The dLAN 550 Kit includes two adapters, both rated at 500Mbps. The first adapter includes AC pass-through and 2 x Fast Ethernet ports. Whilst the second adapter loses the AC pass-through feature and only has 1 Fast Ethernet port it does include up to 300Mbps WiFi. This is on the 2.4Ghz band only, 802.11 b/g/n. The design keeps to the standard theme with all these adapters of a hard white plastic shell and slightly rounded corners to give it a more modern look but, other than that, it’s not anything to get too excited about.

Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit

As with our review of TP-LINK’s WPA4530, we find it disappointing that Devolo have also only used Fast Ethernet (up to 100Mbps) ports. They claim they have used Fast Ethernet ports as this product is focused on Wi-Fi speed and if they had used Gigabit Ethernet ports it would have not allowed them to use particular energy saving components that they have employed in these adapters. Whilst the main adapter with AC pass-through still, annoyingly, has top mounted ports, the WiFi adapter surprisingly has a bottom mounted port which makes for far easier and tidier cable routing. So it can be done!

Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit

The LED arrangement is very basic here with the main adapter offering a single green LED light to indicate connection to the Powerline Network and on the Wi-Fi enabled adapter we get two buttons with LED lights to signify connection to the network and signal quality. The encryption button is used for initial connection to the network and the Wi-Fi button is for simply turning the Wi-Fi on and off.

Is it easy to install and setup?

As usual, with Powerline Adapters, the setup and installation is quick and effortless. This class of product is one of the easiest to just turn on and use that we have come across. You simply plug the main adapter into a socket near your router and connect via the supplied Ethernet cable, then plug the second, WiFi enabled, adapter into a socket of your choosing. Press the pairing button on the first, then do the same on the second and within about 10 seconds, or so, the lights will have stopped flashing and your powerline network will be up and running. The WiFi is also very easy to connect to and unlike a range extender there are no settings to be configured, just plug in and go!

All these Powerline Adapters are HomePlug compliant, which means additional adapters can be added very easily and you aren’t restricted to one manufacturer either. So far we have tested Netgear, Devolo and TP-LINK all on the same network and all work without issue together, although you will occasionally find the pairing takes slightly longer than normal. It is also worth remembering that a Powerline network will only perform as fast as the slowest adapter. If you have a network full of 1200Mbps adapters apart from one old 200Mbps adapter, your network will be restricted to the speeds that 200Mbps adapter can supply.

Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit

How do we test?

Powerline Adapters are open to huge variances in performance due to many factors such as your house wiring, other equipment plugged in (Microwaves seem to be a particular offender) and distances between adapters. Our testing process has been designed to create repeatable real world tests in the same location to compare different adapters against each other.

The testing is carried out in a standard 4 bed detached house. The router is a BT HomeHub5 (located on the ground floor), connected via Gigabit Ethernet to both a PC and the non WiFi enabled Adapter at one end, then with a laptop via Gigabit Ethernet to the dLAN 550 WiFi Adapter at the other end, bearing in mind the limitations of the Fast Ethernet ports in both adapters. We use a program called LANSpeedTest by Totusoft which is a simple but powerful tool for measuring Local Area Network (LAN) speeds. It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without the effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you. This gives us the results of transferring files from our main PC to the Laptop via the Powerline Adapters.

We test in four different locations of the home (the distances are straight line estimated, not wiring lengths).

1. 2mtrs between adapters, ground floor, same ring main.
2. 9mtrs between adapters, ground floor, same ring main.
3. 5mtrs between adapters, 1st floor, same ring main.
4. 15mtrs from the main adapter in the garage, not the same ring main, a single spur from the main consumer unit.

Our tests are as follows:
1. 2 x 1GB files simultaneously transferred.
2. 2 x 100MB files simultaneously transferred.
3. 2 x 1GB files successively transferred.
4. 10 x 100MB files successively transferred.
5. 100 x 5MB files successively transferred.
6. 1000 x 10KB files successively transferred.
7. 1000 x 1MB files successively transferred.

The simultaneous test results shown are the maximum throughput speed, whilst the successive tests results are shown as an average speed.

Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi performance

Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit
The results above show that whilst these speeds are significantly lower than we have seen on some of the top end 1200Mbps adapters, we did manage to get very close to the maximum speed of 100Mbps maximum (due to only having Fast Ethernet ports) in several of our tests. The results across the board were decent enough for this class with our Location 4 again performing very well considering the distance and wiring setup.

We continue to bang home about this in our reviews, but it is worth being aware of the speeds (or link rate) quoted by the manufacturers and how that will relate to the performance you will see in real world use. The quoted link rates are the maximum speeds the chips in the adapters could achieve in laboratory conditions, but even then that includes both the up and down streams, so is immediately halved. Take the 500Mbps speeds quoted by Devolo here, that immediately becomes 250Mbps as the very best you will receive but don't expect to get anywhere near that as Fast Ethernet ports again restrict this to 100Mbps.

As a general rule of thumb we have found 200Mbps adapters to achieve around 50Mbps, 500-600Mbps adapters to reach around 150-200Mbps (providing they have Gigabit Ethernet ports of course) and then the latest 1000-1200Mbps adapters to reach speeds above 400Mbps.

We also carried out the same suite of tests using the wireless access point in Location 3 and found the results to be excellent with only a slight drop off from our wired test. This set from Devolo and TP-LINK’s WPA4530 have really improved upon the wireless performance compared to similar products that we have reviewed in the past. The performance drop off is nowhere near as bad as it used to be, which is encouraging.
Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit

Software Utility

No additional software or configuration of any settings is required with Powerline Adapters, but if you do want to mess around then the free ‘Devolo Cockpit’ software should scratch that itch. The simple software allows you to update the firmware, rename adapters and gives a quick indication of the link rate. Devolo Cockpit is also available on Android and iOS devices.
Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit

Verdict

Pros

  • Effortless installation and setup
  • Good performance
  • Decent Wireless speeds
  • AC pass-through

Cons

  • Too expensive
  • Simply not as good as TP-LINK's WPA4530
  • Fast Ethernet Ports
  • Don't expect 500Mbps

Devolo dLAN 550 Powerline WiFi Starter Kit Review

Is the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit worth buying?


If we had reviewed this prior to TP-LINK’s WPA4530 set, then the answer would have been a resounding yes. For £99.99 you get a very easy to install and use pair of adapters, one with AC pass-through and the other with 300Mbps Wi-Fi. Whilst limited to 100Mbps thanks to the Fast Ethernet ports, the speeds received were excellent across our tests indicating this starter kit is more than a match for HD and even 4K streaming. Multiple users all demanding HD streaming could be an issue though for this set.

What are the alternatives?


A clear alternative to this set is the significantly cheaper TP-LINK WPA4530. We reviewed this set recently and it outperformed this Devolo set across the board. £30 cheaper at £69.99 you get a better performing pair of adapters and dual band AC750 WiFi compared to single band with this Devolo set. Whilst we are happy with the overall performance of the Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi starter kit and the WiFi adapter is very small and compact, it unfortunately is at least £30 too expensive when compared to the competition. Side by side, there simply is no reason to pay £30 more than the TP-LINK set to get the Devolo kit.

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of Use

10

Connection Speed

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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