Netgear - Powerline AV 500 kit (XAVB5001) review

Powerline networking is an easy and convenient way to extend a network to places in a home or office where wireless won't reach - without resorting to long runs of Ethernet cabling.

Sadly, the technology has been bedevilled by competing and incompatible standards - although things have improved a little with the demise of one of the chip makers (DS2), and the ratification of the IEEE 1901 global powerline standard in 2010. Netgear's new XAVB5001 kit uses an AR7400 chip from Atheros that promises to more than double the speed of existing 200Mbit/s Homeplug AV products to a claimed 500Mbit/s.

New technology

Homeplug AV products operate in the 2-28MHz radio band, but the XAVB5001 extends this up to 68MHz in order to achieve the speed increase. The adapters can coexist on the same cables with older Homeplug 1.0 adapters, but can only establish data connections with Homeplug AV devices.

The adapters are chunky but well made, and have a single Gigabit Ethernet port. Three small LEDs show the status and speed of the connection, and there's a button on the side to regenerate the security encryption key.

An excellent software utility is provided that shows the link speed and status of all adapters on the network, and also lets you turn off the LEDs and configure the quality of service parameters (very handy if you want to use them for streaming multimedia).

Performance matters

In our Passmark 7.0 tests the adapters managed a sustained data throughput of 96Mbit/s when plugged into the same extension lead. Performance will be affected by the length and quality of mains cabling and any electrical items plugged in, but in our typical domestic setup we easily managed around 70-80Mbit/s. An AV+ 500 version (£144 inc. VAT) is available with piggyback mains passthrough sockets.

Netgear - Powerline AV 500 kit (XAVB5001) features - Verdict

Not surprisingly, these adapters don't reach the headline speeds for real data throughput, but they come close to equalling the 100Mbit/s speed of standard Ethernet connections. They are very well put together, affordable - and the useful software is the icing on the cake.


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