Devolo 200 AV Starter Kit Review

Pictures – 1 2

Background

One of the major problems with wireless is it’s useless for streaming content at a constant rate. I have my Xbox 360 set up in the bedroom and quite often I want to watch programs I’ve recorded on Windows Media Center or I use Transcode360 to watch high quality DIVX or XVID videos over Media Center.

In the past I’ve had to drag my 10 meter long ethernet cable out the bedroom, across the landing in to my computer room and plug it in to the switch, this has led to me more than once tripping over it in the dark and doing myself an injury. Recently my boss at work introduced me to devices that allow you to pass LAN traffic across normal power lines. This sounded perfect as obviously there are dozens of power sockets all around the house all with the potential of offering reasonably high speed network access.

I had some trouble tracking down stock of the model I wanted but after wasting my time at PCWorld I finally ordered from a company called broadbandstuff.co.uk they delivered in less than 24 hours and it was slightly cheaper than either Dabs.com or PCWorld.

Hardware

The Starter Kit contains two plugs, two ethernet cables, Quick-start guide, and a CD with the configuration software on. There was also an insert to confirm the kit has a 3 year manufacturer warranty, which is always good to know. 

The device itself has three lights on it, from left to right:

  • The Power light – Indicates if there is power, when the connection has been idle for around 20 minutes the icon will change to green to indicate the unit is asleep.
  • dLAN Links activity light – Lit when the plug detects another dLAN unit, it flashes when traffic is active.
  • Ethernet Links activity light – Lit when there is a physical connection between the plug and an ethernet device, it flashes when there is physical activity.

The plugs are quoted as being able to achieve speeds of up to 200mb however from what I have read the ethernet ports on the plugs are only capable of 100mb, Devolo excuse this by suggesting that interference would mean they would never achieve 200mb anyway. This seems a little underhanded but they do achieve speeds higher than the previous models.

The CD included is not essential however it contains several useful utilities, these include:

  • dLAN configuration wizard – This software lets you configure encrypted adaptors to stop your neighbors buying another Devolo plug and logging on to your network
  • Devolo Informer – This app scans the network for plugs and reports their configuration and connection speed
  • Devolo EasyShare – Simple tool that provides file-sharing and chat functionality to users on the network
  • Devolo EasyClean – This tool helps wipe Internet Explorers Internet cache, however it does not seem to be available when installing on Microsoft Vista.

The quick-start guide couldn’t show it being any simpler, plug one unit in near your network switch or Internet router and connect the other next to the device you want to use. Switch on and your done! If you wanted to plug another switch in at the ‘remote’ location that can be done as well.

Usage

This will be pretty short section. I unboxed them plugged one in behind my TV and plugged in the 360 and the other I plugged in by the switch and connected it up. Fired up the 360 and it connected straight away. I did move the plugs around so that they weren’t on surge protectors (they did work but I wasn’t getting top speeds and it is recommended that they aren’t used on surge protectors or multi adapters). In fact the hardest part of the setup was crawling under my desk and leaning over my TV to plug it all in!

Currently I’ve left them unencrypted as the area in which I live is light on wireless access points let alone ethernet over power lines. I will probably look at enabling it an a later date

The units are designed to go in to Standby after 20mins idle, this seems to work when my Xbox 360 is connected and powered off, however the unit connected to the network switch registers the occasional network broadcast as traffic and never seems to sleep.

The units seem to get very hot, even in standby the remain quite warm.

Initial tests of the speed look to be impressive, the Xbox 360 downloads seemed to progress at speeds equal to that of the original cable. I tested downloading files from several different locations and was seeing speeds of up to 1MB/s. Attempts to stream video and TV from Media Center worked perfectly and the “Tune Network” option in Media Center Extender confirmed that the signal topped out at 100% on the graphs.

Conclusion

I’m pleased with the Devolo 200 AV Starter Kit, I was looking for something I could set and forget for my 360 and these look to be the answer. With the current Xbox 360 games drought I won’t be able to put them to a proper test until later in the year.

Pros

  • Speed – Getting consistently high speeds from the setup
  • Ease of use – Plug in and go – literally!
  • Convenience – If I move my 360 to the other side of the room or downstairs, I just unplug it and move it!

Cons

  • Price – Quite high when compared to a simple ethernet cable or wireless setup
  • Variance in speeds – If you live in an older house the wiring may not give the higher transfer speeds

Source

Devolo – Devolo 200 AV Starter Kit
broadbandstuff.co.uk

Cost: £134 inc. next day delivery

The ramblings of PR