Category Archives: Network

Topop USB C to 3x USB A and LAN Adapter Review



The physical USB type A interface connector seems to have been around forever and to be fair, it’s had an impressive lifespan starting with USB 1.0 back in 1996. Since then, the communication standard has been updated several times and the connector is still very relevant with USB 3.1 which now sports transfer speeds of up to 10 Gb/s.

USB type C is the latest connector design providing high speed data comms in a neat reversible design. So neat that a couple of manufacturers have ultraportables with a single USB C port. No USB A, no ethernet, no video. Looks great but a pain in the port if there’s a pile of cables to plug in. Accessory makers have stepped in to address the problem and here we have the Topop USB C to three USB A 3.1 ports and RJ45 Gigabit LAN adapter.

As the unboxing video shows, the adapter arrives in plain packaging and it’s a fairly functional device: this isn’t brushed metal milled from a single block of aluminium to complement the MacBook. It’s a sturdy matte black plastic . In terms of ports, there are three USB 3.1 type A ports on the top and a Gigabit network port on the far end. A short cable terminates in a USB C plug.

Topop USB C Adapter Topop USB C Adapter

Having three USB A ports and a network port is very useful on these minimalist devices. Who has a USB C memory stick? And there are always wireless dead-spots. The Topop adapter gets out of these predicaments.

However, I discovered quite quickly that the presence of a USB C socket on a device does not guarantee functionality, so check compatibility on the website and assume that the adapter only works with phones, tablets and laptops mentioned. Believe me, it doesn’t work with the OnePlus 2, 3 or Google Pixel C, but find a device that is compatible (Apple Macbook, Google Pixel Chromebook) and the adapter will work fine.

Topop USB C Adapter Topop USB C Adapter

Priced just under GB£20, the adapter’s in the right price bracket for the features that it offers. There’s no doubt that the Topop is a handy gadget to throw in a bag for occasional use, though if I was looking for a dock-lite on my desk, I think I would pay more for a better match to my laptop. Of course, your aesthetic requirements may differ.

Thanks to GoldenSwing for providing the Topop USB C to USB A 3.1 and Gigabit LAN adapter.


Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit Review



Devolo LogoDevolo’s recent expansion into smart homes and home automation doesn’t mean that they’ve been neglecting their powerline network business. After upping their game with their top-of-the-line dLAN 1200 series, they’ve turned their attention to the mid-range, refreshing the design and boosting speeds. The new dLAN 550 series updates the dLAN 500s, offering greater in-house range and faster WiFi transmission rates. For those unaware of powerline networking, it’s a system that uses electrical wiring to carry network data, with ethernet-to-power adaptors where networking is required. Devolo kindly supplied me with a dLAN 550 WiFi Starter Kit to check out. Let’s take a look.

Devolo 550 Starter Kit Box

The box is Devolo’s usual fare, with a printed outer box and a plain cardboard inner box. In the box there are two powerline adaptors, one 550 Duo+ and one 550 WiFi. There’s also a white network cable, instructions and a couple of flimsies on “conformity”. The new style Duo+ is roughly twice the size of the WiFi unit, extending upwards from the UK-style power plug. The unit has twin network ports on the top and power pass through. There’s a small button on one side and a single white LED above the power socket. As for the more compact WiFi unit, it’s had a design refresh too, with a single ethernet port on the bottom, and two round buttons on the front which double up as indicator LEDs.

Devolo 550 Starter Kit

Getting going is easy. Plug the Duo+ into a power socket near a router and connect both of them with an ethernet cable. Plug the WiFi adaptor into a socket where additional wireless coverage is need. The two adaptors are paired out of the box and a few seconds after plugging in the units, the white LEDs will stop flashing and go solid. If the adaptors need to be paired (or added into an existing powerline network), it’s simply a case of pressing the pair button on both devices for a few seconds and they’ll sync up.

Devolo 550 Starter Kit Side View

To setup the WiFi, there’s a couple of options. Devolo have desktop app, Cockpit, for Microsoft Windows, Apple OS X and Ubuntu Linux which can be downloaded from Devolo. This provides a graphical representation of the dLAN network which clicks through to individual adaptors. The application finds everything automatically and can check that all the adaptors are running the latest versions of their respective firmware, upgrading as necessary. I take some of the data transmission speeds with a pinch of salt, and rely on “bigger is better”.

Devolo Cockpit

There’s a mobile version of Cockpit available from Apple’s App Store and Google Play, called “My Devolo”. It’s not as graphical as the full software but it’s still feature rich, allowing access to a wide range of device features. Here’s detail for the 550 WiFi.

Devolo dLAN 550 WiFi  Devolo dLAN 550 details  Devolo dLAN 550 features

Devolo 550 WiFi wirelessIn the app, the wifi network can be configured as preferred with SSID, passphrase, channel, mode and encryption standard. Everything expected of a wireless access point. Aside from the wireless settings, there are sections for parental controls, guest access and MAC address filtering and WPS features.

The 550 WiFi is an 11n device working in the 2.4 GHz frequencies. It’s not 11ac 5GHz, but the 550 boosts transmission rates to 300 Mb/s over the 500’s lower 150 Mb/s by using 2×2 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology. Obviously, the laptop or tablet has to support the faster wireless rate and while the base data rate may have doubled, actual data transfer won’t. A quick bit of testing suggests that a real-world increase of around 50%-60% is realistic under good conditions. YMMV.

Returning to the Duo+, the adaptor uses all three electrical cables (live, neutral and earth) for networking, which increases performance and range by a third from a notional maximum of 300m to 400m, though this will be affected by local circumstances. My house isn’t big enough to test this, so we’ll just have to trust Devolo on this one.

The dLAN 550 WiFi is now available online and in stores. The Starter Kit costs GB£99.99 and consists of a dLAN 550 WiFi and an additional dLAN 550 duo+ adapter. A Network Kit with three adapters (two 550 dLAN WiFi adapters and one dLAN 550 duo+) is available for £149.99, while single adapters for extending the WiFi network are available for £59.99.

Thanks to Devolo for the 550 WiFi Starter Kit for review.


Devolo dLAN 550 Doubles WiFi



Devolo LogoPowerline specialists Devolo have given their mid-range adaptors a makeover, boosting speeds and updating the styling in line with the top-end models. The new dLAN 550 series takes over from the 500s, offering greater in-house range and faster WiFi transmission rates.

dLAN 550 WiFiThere are two powerline adaptors in the 550 series, the Duo+ and the WiFi. As might be guessed, the Duo+ is the wired version and WiFi is the one with wireless. The wired range has been boosted by a third from a notional maximum of 300m to 400m, though this will be affected by local circumstances.

The most noticeable change is likely to be with the WiFi unit. The wireless speed has been doubled, going from 150 Mb/s in the old 500 to 300 Mb/s in the new 550, courtesy of 2×2 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology.

550 adaptors can easily be added into an existing dLAN powerline setup either using the Cockpit software or simply pressing buttons on the adaptors. Further, Devolo’s WiFi clone feature can reproduce an existing wireless network so that laptops and tablets see only one network and seamlessly switch to the strongest signal.

The dLAN 550 WiFi is now available online and in stores. The Starter Kit costs GB£99.99 and consists of a dLAN 550 WiFi and an additional dLAN 550 duo+ adapter. A Network Kit with three adapters (two 550 dLAN WiFi adapters and one dLAN 550 duo+) is available for £149.99, while single adapters for extending the WiFi network are available for £59.99.

GNC will be having a hands-on review of the dLAN 550 Starter Kit shortly.


Devolo Boosts Speed By 20% For dLAN 1200+



Devolo LogoGood news if you are a Devolo powerline user with dLAN 1200+ products in your home…Devolo have announced a new free firmware update which gives a 20% bandwidth boost. The firmware will be available shortly for installation and owners can either use Devolo’s Cockpit app, the web interface or firmware updater software from Devolo.

Cockpit App

I have a four adaptor setup at home, with a pair of dLAN 1200+ units and a couple of older 500 and 200 dLAN adaptors. I used the Windows Cockpit app and simply hit “Updates”. The Cockpit software detected that a couple of my adaptors needed firmware updates, which it kindly installed automatically.

Devolo Update             Devolo Updated

In addition to the speed boost, the dLAN 1200+ series adaptors display a red LED light to indicate where a poor connection is present. This light had previously been set to trigger at 8 Mb/s but will now trigger at the 20 Mb/s to reflect the increased speed requirements of a modern home. If you don’t like the LEDs, they can be turned off too.

I haven’t tried any LAN speed tests to confirm performance improvements, though Netflix streams as well as it ever did. Go get it.


Smart Home Help from Powerline Networking



Samsung SmartThings LogoNearly all smart home systems have a controlling hub which typically requires a cabled network connection as the hub itself has a number of wireless transmitters such as ZigBee, Z-wave or Bluetooth to control the smart devices round the home.

Given that the best location for the smart hub is in the centre of a house for maximum coverage, this presents difficulties as few properties will have a network point at just the right location. However, there’s a fairly good chance that there will be a power outlet near the location and this can be used for network connectivity using powerline networking aka HomePlug.

The video below shows how I connected up my Samsung SmartThings hub using powerline networking from Devolo.


Take Control with the Netduma R1 Router



British Inventors ProjectThese days it’s not unusual for a household to be consume considerable amounts of bandwidth. Someone can be gaming, someone can be streaming an HD movie and and someone else can be on a video call. Who’s hogging the broadband? Who takes priority? The Netduma R1 router answers these questions and takes control back with easy-to-use software for gamers and demanding families.

Netduma R1

On show at the Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project, the Netduma R1 sits between the cable modem and the rest of the network. It provides a raft of features for gamers including geo-filtering, anti-flood, player & server denial and ping stats. For bandwidth hogging households, there’s graphical network monitoring and device prioritisation. Everything can be done via web-based interface and no technical knowledge is needed; to prioritise one device over another, simply drag the device out.

Netduma Control Software

Speaking to the Netduma team after the interview, I was impressed at what they have managed to achieve. I’m not a gamer but some of their plans for family-friendly enhancements sounded really interesting. Priced at £149 / $199 it’s not cheap but for gamers it’s definitely worth having a look.


Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit Review



Devolo Logo

I’m a big fan of powerline networking and Devolo in particular because it helped me double the speed of my internet connection. It was simple; using one of their adaptors I was able to put my broadband router by my telephone master socket rather than at the end of a long extension lead. In one go, my download speed jumped from around 4 Mb/s to over 8 Mb/s. Result.

Obviously these speeds are trivial in comparison with data transfer rates achieved by gigabit networking and the limiting factor is the internet connection, but where a media enthusiast has set up a DLNA server in a house with multiple playback devices – smartphones, tablets, media streamers, smart TVs, games consoles – significantly higher data rates are needed and this is where the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter kit is likely to come in handy. Let’s take a look…

Devolo 1200+

For those who haven’t come across powerline networking before, it’s a way of using a home’s electricity sockets as a network infrastructure. A minimum of two network adaptors are required; plug one into a power socket near the router and connect with a network cable. Plug the other into a power socket near, say, your smart TV, and again connect via network cable. The two adaptors then communicate across the electrical network, connecting the smart TV to the router. It’s that easy.

Opening the box (courtesy of Devolo), there are two network adaptors, two network cables and a getting started guide. As can be seen from the picture, the adaptors aren’t small, but they do have power pass-thru, so there’s no loss of a power socket. Somewhat oddly the bulk of the adaptor points upwards, whereas the older adaptors tend to point downwards and were more discreet. These units are for the UK market, with different plug configurations available for other countries.

Devolo dLAN 1200

Devolo Hard to ReachBoth of the adaptors come with gigabit ethernet ports; there’s one on the smaller unit and two on the larger. The larger network adaptor takes the usefulness of powerline networking a step further with the incorporation of a wifi access point. It’s not just any old wifi either. It’s an 802.11ac implementation meaning that it broadcasts on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supporting data rates of up to 1200 Mb/s, which is broadly “state of the art” as it stands.

On the box, Devolo helpfully points out some of the areas where ordinary wifi coverage may be less than ideal, including the smallest room. It gave me a chuckle.

Devolo 1200+ Network Ports

Devolo Adaptor AddGetting going with the Devolo dLAN 1200+ is easy. As these adaptors come pre-paired out of the box, all that needs to be done is plug them in and connect up. The LED “house” light on the larger unit will flash red until connection is made and then go solid white – perhaps taking 20 seconds. Introducing the adaptors into an existing network is straightforward as Devolo has great software that helps with this too.

Devolo provides three ways of interacting with the dLAN adaptors. First, there’s a desktop version of their Cockpit software for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

Devolo Cockpit PC

Second, there’s an app for iOS and Android. There are currently two apps for Android, Cockpit and My Devolo, both of which do much the same in terms of the dLAN adaptors, but My Devolo appears to be the newer. The screen shots are from Cockpit.

Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit

Finally, there’s a web interface.

Devolo Cockpit Web

The impressive part about the dLAN1200+ WiFi adaptor is that it isn’t just a wifi extender: it’s effectively a fully featured router with DHCP, access control, parental control and guest setup, along with everything else needed to configure the wifi. If the non-wifi dLAN 1200+ adaptor was connected to a pure cable or broadband modem, there would be no need for any other equipment. Very neat.

Devolo Web

Performance-wise, the Devolo dLAN 1200+ seemed both fast and solid. For over a month, I used the dLAN 1200+ WiFi supplied network services for most of the devices in my house, including smartphones, tablets, ereaders, laptops, a Chromebook, Sky+ TV on-demand, and two Roku media streamers. No problems to report with connectivity or stability. In terms of speed, I was able to stream three different HD movies to three tablets at the same time without any glitching or stuttering.

In closing, there are two features of Devolo’s products that I think set it apart from the cheaper end of the market. First, there’s great backwards compatibility with older products; I was able to use three generations of Devolo products in the one network. Second, their comprehensive management software which is available as an app, application and web service.

Overall, the Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is excellent. The devices themselves are well-made, though perhaps on the large side but it’s a great setup for those where the the living room is far away from the main router. There are two gigabit sockets on the adaptor for any equipment that doesn’t have wireless, plus fast WiFi for those devices that do. With the option of using the 5 GHz frequency for congested areas or to spread the load, the wireless performance is great.

The Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is available online at around £160, which isn’t cheap but considering what comes in the box, plus the performance and the benefit of getting wifi where you need it, I think it’s value for money.

Thanks to Devolo for the review unit.


D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router



D-Link LogoWith wifi routers and access points, there’s a subtle game of one-upmanship based on the number of aerials sprouting from the device. If unit has only one aerial or it’s embedded in the unit, it probably comes free from the broadband or cable provider; two aerials is soooo 11g, three aerials and the router’s got some chops; six aerials….now you’re getting serious. Todd gets up to speed with the AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi router from Daniel Kelley, VP at D-Link.

The AC3200 is a serious piece of kit. To start with, it looks like something straight out of a sci-film, a red stealth fighter fully armed with six laser cannon. And while the laser cannon are really aerials, you get the point – it means business. The AC3200 is a tri-band router using one set of frequencies in the 2.4 GHz range and two sets in the 5 GHz. It intelligently assesses the bandwidth and QoS (Quality of Service) demands of the connecting devices and allocates them to the most appropriate channels, and if necessary, can aggregate all three bands giving a maximum theoretical transfer rate of 3.2 Gb/s. No matter that the actual data rate will be much lower, it’s still screaming fast.

Additionally, the AC3200 uses beam-forming technology to focus the wifi signal to where it’s needed, rather than transmitting uniformly everywhere. On the wired side, there are four gigabit ethernet ports and two USB ports (one USB3, one USB2) for connecting up storage (DLNA server built-in) or printers. The AC3200 can be the hub of a connected home.

The AC3200 Ultra Wi-Fi Router (aka DIR-890L/R) is available now on-line for around $300. It’s pricey, but you get what you pay for.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

Become a GNC Insider Today!

Support my Show Sponsor:
30% off on New GoDaddy Orders cjcgnc30
$.99 for a New or Transfered .com cjcgnc99 @ GoDaddy.com
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain. Promo Code: cjcgnc1hs
$1.00 / mo Managed WordPress Hosting with free Domain. Promo Code: cjcgncwp1

Devolo Launches Gigabit Powerline with 11ac WiFi



Devolo LogoPowerline networking is a great way to spread data connectivity around a home via electrical sockets instead of Ethernet, and today Devolo announced the UK availability of its first gigabit Powerline adaptor with built-in 11ac WiFi: the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac. The gigabit speeds make it perfect for households that stream 4K and 3D content to multiple wired and wireless devices.

At 1200 Mb/s, the dLAN 1200+ more than doubles the speed of the previous generation 500 Mb/s Devolo dLAN WiFi adapters. The new high speed adaptor features two gigabit Ethernet ports allowing users to hardwire multiple devices to one unit, from games consoles to NAS home servers, while the adaptor is also a wireless access point for laptops, tablets and smartphones.

Borrowing techniques from the wireless industry, the gigabit speeds are achieved using MIMO technology (Multiple Input Multiple Output) which simultaneously uses the live, neutral and earth connectors in the electrical cable. On the WiFi side, the dLAN adaptor uses both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies which is great if the lower frequency channels are busy. Transmission rates are 300 Mb/s on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mb/s on 5 GHz.

Devolo dLAN 1200 plus WiFi ac_productpicture_classic_sgl_uk_print_01

Heiko Harbers, CEO of devolo AG said:  “We have launched the dLAN 1200 WiFi ac to accommodate the multiple internet compatible devices people have in their homes today, and in response to the increasingly widespread availability of superfast broadband. All connected devices can now work to their full potential regardless of where they are located in the house. We placed particular emphasis on easy installation when designing the 1200 WiFi ac including the ability to establish a WiFi connection at the push of a button.

The dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac is fully compatible with previous Devolo products from the dLAN 200 onwards and all Powerline adapters that comply with the HomePlug AV(2) standard.

Available now, the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac is available to order online with a starter kit priced at GB£159.99. A single dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac adapter to expand an existing dLAN Powerline network costs GB£109.99 RRP.


Logstalgia Shows Server Traffic As Pong



Server traffic is a crucial element of the Internet but it’s pretty dull and hard to make interesting…unless you have Logstalgia (aka ApachePong) by Andrew Caudwell. It’s a “website traffic visualization that replays or streams web-server access logs as a pong-like battle between the web server and an never ending torrent of requests. Requests appear as colored balls (the same color as the host) which travel across the screen to arrive at the requested location. Successful requests are hit by the paddle while unsuccessful ones (eg 404 – File Not Found) are missed and pass through.

Here’s what boring web requests can look like….

Todd, you should get this setup for GNC. It would be awesome!