25th Oct2017

‘Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Powerline kit’ Review

by Phil Wheat

powerline

As someone who has, for most of his adult life, lived in a flat, it’s hard to imagine what it’s like suffering from a poor wi-fi connection in a larger home. After all, the nearest I came to having a router in one room and my computer in another was living in a two-storey maisonette; and even then the wi-fi signal only had to come through the attic floor into the living room!

But a poor wi-fi connection in a larger property is actually a real issue – especially in older homes where the wall are constructed out of brick and plastered (literally) with years of paint, plaster and wallpaper. All of which combine to weaken the existing signal. Maybe not enough to prevent you going online, but enough to prevent you getting the most out of your connection – something I discovered when road testing the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit and the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac single adapter in various locations for this review.

What the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit does is two things: One is to extend the wireless signal around your home, and the other is to create a network through the powerlines around your house. This means that not only do you get faster wireless speeds but you can also connect devices to your LAN rather than relying solely on wi-fi – which is great for those of us that like to game online. In my case using the powerline kit also meant I could actually hook up many more of my devices at once without them fighting for wi-fi airspace: which is something we suffer from at Nerdly HQ given that all our entertainment – TV, movies, gaming, music, etc. – comes to us through the internet rather than traditional over the air or satellite means. Have an Apple TV, two computers AND a couple of phones hooked up wirelessly to one router and there’s always going to be a slowdown on a least one device, even moreso if you’re streaming high-def content…

But not with the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Powerline kit.

In the confined space of an apartment the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit worked wonders to boost wi-fi speeds, I thought I was happy with my Macbook Pro downloading at 8-10 Mbit/s, but the boost – a small but significant boost – meant that download times seemingly flew by and entire movies (purchased and played via iTunes and an Apple TV) buffered in record time. But that was inside one apartment on one floor. What about extending the signal? Extending it down SIX floors! You see, the lobby, and lift, of our apartment building is so shielded you get zero phone signal once you drop out of our existing routers signal area – but extending that downstairs with the provided dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac single adapter? That would be one hell of a test.

So… It just so happens that our apartment building has plug sockets in the corridors for the cleaning crew to use – which means, theoretically, that the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit and the accompanying dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac single adapter could be on the same electrical circuit. It wasn’t. But wait, these particular powerline devices don’t have to be on the same circuit if you just want to use wi-fi. Instead you can connect via Devolo’s ‘Wi-Fi Move’ technology, which enables you to clone your existing Wi-Fi SSID and password to the device. So, given that our existing wi-fi signal reaches down one floor, could a combination of our router, the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit and the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac single adapter work to give us wi-fi signal in the buildings black spot? In a word. Yes. It was a little fiddly getting the distances between devices right, but once we did the wi-fi worked (it also meant moving our router and using a rather long Ethernet cable to connect the router to the initial powerline device – neither of which I’d actually recommend). The signal was weak due to the distance but it worked!

We had better results when using the devices to connect long distances on the same floor – in our case to extend a VERY weak wi-fi signal in one end of a building, along a corridor, past six flats. Of course, like our other test, the signal degraded substantially the further the distance between the Powerline kit and the single adapter (again we experimented with cable distances and router positioning). But you have to remember that in this case the wi-fi signal from one end of the building to the other was non-existent, so ANY signal was an improvement.

But extending your wi-fi range is only half of the story.

Both the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit and the accompanying dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac single adapter are fitted with Gigabit LAN ports, meaning that if you’re on the same electrical mains circuit you can enjoy superfast LAN speeds, and improve connection and better access to your home network. A Gigabit LAN connection is perfect for gaming – and as many homes will have more than one console, with kids, etc., having consoles in their own rooms, being able to use a strong LAN connection rather than a weak wi-fi one is a godsend.

Setting up the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Powerline kit is easy. Just plug the Powerline kit into a socket near your router and the devices together via Ethernet. You can then plug as many adapters as you require into each mains socket anywhere around the house. As long as everything is on the same circuit you have yourself a powerline network. Connect your devices to the adapter using Ethernet (there are TWO ports on each adapter) and they [almost] instantly connect to your home network. Plus you can use the wi-fi hotspot capabilities of the adapters to connect even more devices. So we had the powerline network up and running but what about those connection speeds? Once up and running – which is essentially plug & play to be fair – on a 200mbps connection we got wi-fi speeds over 100 and near to 150 when wired! However, be aware, not all devices managed the same speeds – odd I know – yet in all cases there was a major improvement over using existing connections. The only connection that was faster the the Devolo kit was a direct Ethernet connection to our router’s Gigabit port (which is reserved in our case for the PS4).

Having used the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac starter kit and the dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac single adapter for a couple of months, even taking it on the road when paying long-term visits to wi-fi deprived friends and family, it’s safe to say this is an impressive piece of kit. Of course you get what you pay for – the starter kit costs £109.99 and the adapter a pricey £74.99 – but for those who really value a strong and stable connection Devolo’s products are indispensable and well worth the investment. Though if, like us, you live in an 1-bed apartment it might be a little overkill…

You can buy yours now, directly from Devolo, at http://www.devolo.co.uk/dlan-wifi-adapter/

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