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.

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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.

Devolo Develops for 4K

Devolo LogoDevolo today announced their new dLAN 1200+, the fastest Powerline networking adaptor in their range with Gigabit-class data transmission. The latest adaptors double the speed of the dLAN 650 by using a combination of Devolo range+ technology, the newest generation of Powerline chips and MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) technology, offering a maximum of 1200 Mb/s. This is ideal for anyone wanting to stream 4K video but doesn’t have a network point close to their UltraHD TV.

Devolo dLAN 1200+ Powerline Adaptors

With the Powerline adaptors on all the time, Devolo has kept the power consumption low. When in use, the dLAN 1200+ uses a maximum of 4.2 W, and if the connected device, e.g. TV, is switched off, the adapter automatically goes into standby mode, using just 0.7 W. If security is a concern, users can also activate 128-bit AES encryption to avoid any unauthorised access to the network.

As can be seen from the pictures, the dLAN 1200+ is equipped with a gigabit Ethernet connection and an integrated electrical socket with mains filter.  It’s fully compatible with all previous dLAN models, though the maximum speed will be limited by the slowest adaptor.

The adapters can be purchased as a starter kit for setting up a home network or as individual adapters to extend an existing network. The starter kit is priced at GB£119.99, while the single adapter costs GB£64.99. Devolo will be officially unveiling this new range of products at the IFA Conference in Berlin from 5th-10th September.

Hmm, these might be my next upgrade – hopefully they’ll be available before Christmas.

Devolo Entering Smart Home Market

Devolo LogoPowerline networking experts devolo have announced their intention to enter the smarthome market with a comprehensive array of products including movement and smoke detectors, radiator thermostats and switchable power outlets, taking on the likes of Nest and Belkin. Branded as “Home Control”, the products will be debuted at this year’s IFA show in Berlin in September.

Focused on providing customers with greater convenience, security and energy efficiency through innovative smart home products, devolo Home Control is the first smart home system that you can build yourself. Whether it’s a coffee machine that automatically starts ten minutes before breakfast, a switch that sets the entire house to night mode, or a motion detector that can tell people from pets, the possibilities for creating a smart home are endless.”

Devolo Powerline Data Rates“Simplicity is the promise of devolo Home Control with an easy installation process removing the need for tools or cables, and a range of components that can be combined as desired. Taking example from their successful Powerline ranges, Home Control products will be available in helpful starter kits, with the ability to expand and tailor the smart home through individual products.

I run devolo Powerline at home and while their gear is more expensive than the equivalent from Belkin or TP-Link, it’s very reliable and I’ve never had to reset any of the adaptors. In addition, the complementary “Cockpit” software and app is much easier to use and runs on both my PC and my tablet. Amongst other features, the app shows the data transfer rates between the paired adaptors and makes adding in new adaptors very simple. Going back to the new Home Control, the press release mentions that the Home Control products will have a “My Devolo” and if they can keep it simple with a cool app, I think devolo will have a winner on their hands.

Interestingly, what isn’t mentioned is whether the Home Control devices will use Powerline, ZigBee (or Wi-Fi) for the controlling signals. I have problems with ZigBee and the solid walls of my house, so a Powerline-based system could be a huge advantage. I’ll be very interested to see what comes out of devolo at IFA.

TP-Link Powerline Competition (UK Only)

TP-LInk Logo

Reminder – the TP-Link Powerline Competition closes tonight – get your entries in!

Up for grabs are two TP-Link Powerline kits both of which I reviewed recently – the AV500 WiFi Powerline Extender Starter Kit and the AV600 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit. The winner can choose which kit he or she wants, with the runner-up getting the other. The prizes are the review units, so they’re not brand new, but as they’ve only been used for testing, they’re in extremely good condition.

Powerline AV600 UnitsTo enter, simply email [email protected] with your answer to the question below, include your postal address and which prize you’d like. Title the email “TP-Link Competition”.

Powerline products are sometimes given a different name or moniker. What is it?

A) SmartPlug
B) HomePlug
C) PowerPlug

This competition is open to United Kingdom residents ONLY and closes at midnight UK time on Sunday 25 May 2014. The full competition rules are here.

Good luck!

TP-Link Powerline Competition (UK Only)

TP-LInk Logo

Time for another UK-only competition. Up for grabs are two TP-Link Powerline kits both of which I reviewed recently – the AV500 WiFi Powerline Extender Starter Kit and the AV600 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit. The winner can choose which kit he or she wants, with the runner-up getting the other. The prizes are the review units, so they’re not brand new, but as they’ve only been used for testing, they’re in extremely good condition.

Powerline AV600 UnitsTo enter, simply email [email protected] with your answer to the question below, include your postal address and which prize you’d like. Title the email “TP-Link Competition”.

Powerline products are sometimes given a different name or moniker. What is it?

A) SmartPlug
B) HomePlug
C) PowerPlug

This competition is open to United Kingdom residents ONLY and closes at midnight UK time on Sunday 25 May 2014. The full competition rules are here.

Good luck!

TP-Link AV600 Powerline Review

TP-LInk LogoTP-Link have been releasing steadily HomePlug Powerline products based on the AV600 standard which offers increased capacity for multiple HD streams. TP-Link have kindly sent through some of their new AV600 Powerline gear for a bit of hands-on testing. Regular readers will recall that I’d previously looked at the WiFi Powerline Extender back in December so it will be interesting to compare the faster gear. Let’s take a look.

TP-Link AV600 Box

First, for those who aren’t familiar with HomePlug Powerline, it’s a technology that uses the mains electricity circuits to transmit network signals and as most homes have power sockets in every room, it’s ideal for spreading the network round the house. This AV600 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit (TL-PA6010KIT) has two adaptors, one of which usually connects up to the broadband router or data switch and the other goes into the otherwise network-free room. The box also has two ethernet cables, software CD and a Getting Started guide.

Powerline AV600 Units

As you’ll see from the plugs, these are UK spec units but variants for other countries will be available. The cases are plastic but the seem well-built enough and should resist the normal bumps and knocks that can be encountered round the home. A couple of LEDs indicate the status of the network and transfer activity.

As the adaptors come pre-paired, no configuration is required and getting started is simply a case of plugging them in and attaching network cables. If the adaptors are to be introduced into an existing HomePlug network, there is a small pairing button on the bottom of each unit. Alternatively, a bundled software application can be used to manage the network and add additional adaptors.

These newer 300 and 600 Mbps adaptors use techniques borrowed from wi-fi standards to increase the throughput and to cope with noise and errors but the real-world data transfer rate will never be anywhere close to the rated speed. The overhead of encryption takes its toll on the transfer rate too, but as with wireless it’s very much a necessity to keep data away from prying eyes.

The adaptors in this starter kit come with a single gigabit ethernet port which can either connect to one device or connect into a switch or hub to share the connection. Alternatively, TP-Link have a newer 3 port AV600 version (TL-PA6030) which will keep the back of the entertainment unit a little bit tidier where there’s a smart TV, a game console and a media streamer.

Performance-wise, I did some testing using Totusoft‘s Lan Speed Test. Bear in mind that no two homes will be configured the same, so while the Mbit/s figures are of interest, it’s the relative performance that matters. With that in mind, I tested the data transfer speeds between a Buffalo NAS and a Toshiba laptop using 10 GB files.

  • Wired connection via TP-Link AV600 Powerline – 91 Mb/s
  • Wired connection via TP-Link AV500 Powerline – 72 Mb/s
  • Wired connection via ethernet – 298 Mb/s

These figures tell us two things. First, there’s a measurable performance boost between the older AV500 and the newer AV600 of around 25%. Second, there’s capacity for multiple HD data streams. A 1080p mp4 video stream needs somewhere around 22 Mb/s so at a true 91 Mb/s transfer rate, there’s plenty of capacity for several HD streams. For comparison, a Blu-ray video can output up to 48 Mb/s.

(Again for those people who get all concerned as to why I didn’t get speed “X” Mb/s, it’s the wiring in the building, combined with the features or restrictions of my laptop, data switch and NAS.)

The network management software on the enclosed CD didn’t like my Windows 8.1 and refused to install but an updated version was available from TP-Link’s website. The software lets you monitor the actual speed of the network, add additional adaptors, carry out firmware upgrades and set basic QoS. Some of it was beyond me too!

Local adaptor

TP-Link QoS

The software is nowhere near as good as Devolo’s Cockpit but it does the job most of the time. On a few occasions I found that the app wouldn’t start properly, putting an icon into the System Tray but failing to display a window: usually a reboot resolved the problem. Many people will never need the software as they’ll only plug the Powerline adaptors in and leave them alone. However, for those who want to tinker or setup a larger network, it’s there…if you can get it to work.

Out of interest, I tried moving the receiving end around my house and there were variations in the data transfer rate – broadly, the further apart the adaptors were, the slower the rate. However the drop-off was far less than would be expected on wi-fi with very acceptable data rates throughout the building. If you are tempted to upgrade your HomePlug Powerline network, don’t forget that all the adaptors need to be of the same class (AV600) to boost the network speed.

In summary, the TP-Link AV600 Gigabit Powerline Adaptor Starter Kit improves on the previous product generations and provides fast networking via power outlets. The supporting software needs improvement but with on-line prices a little under £60, the kit is still good value.

Thanks to TP-Link for supplying the review units.

TP-Link ACes Wi-Fi at The Gadget Show

Like many families now, it’s not unusual for everyone to be using the wi-fi network at home at the same time. Game consoles, tablets, media players and smart TVs all take their share of the data stream, and with the potential for multiple HD streams, the wireless takes a real hammering. In response to this demand, 11ac wireless uses dual frequencies and multiple antennae to get gigabit class data speeds, while still being backwards compatible with the older standards.

TP-Link Stand at GSL14

Under the Archer brand, TP-Link have a range of 11ac routers and modems, starting with twin antennae 750 Mb/s Archer C2 up to the three antennae 1750 Mb/s Archer C7. TP-Link has kindly sent one of the latter to GNC for review, so I’ll be taking a look at that later.

At The Gadget Show, I caught up with Simon from TP-Link who told me a little about their design philosophy and what they’re aiming for with the new 11ac routers.

Gigabit Powerline from Trendnet at CES

TRENDnet LogoNetworking over electrical power lines has come a long way since the first HomePlug specification back in 2008 which was was rated at 14 Mb/s. Today network specialists Trendnet have announced a gigabit class, Powerline 1000, with the launch of the TPL-420E2K adaptors.

Trendnet Powerline 1000Based on the HomePlug AV2 standard and using MIMO techniques originally used in wireless data transmission, Powerline 1000 doubles the speed of the previous implementation.

Zak Wood, director of global marketing of Trendnet said, “Trendnet’s TPL-420E2K is designed to easily handle multi-HD streams in a busy connected home.

For the first time, Powerline products use all three electrical wires: the live, neutral, and ground (earth) wires. MIMO technology sends information over the fastest two out of the three available electrical wires. If a user lives in an old home which is not cabled with ground wires, the maximum throughput is reduced from 1,000 to 600 Mb/s.

The TPL-420E2K connects over electrical lines for distances of up to 300 m (a little less than 1000 ft), which is roughly the size of 5,000 square foot home. Powerline 1000 is compatible with existing Powerline 500, 200 and HomePlug AV rated products but when connected to a lower speed adapter, speeds are reduced to the lower rated adapter.

As you’d expected, the communication between the adapters is encrypted and to reduce energy consumption, the TPL-420E2K units go into standby mode when not in use.

The MSRP is US$169 but the Powerline 1000 units are not expected until June 2014. I’m looking forward to testing these already, especially if Trendnet produces an adaptor which incorporates a fast wireless access point.