Powerline networking (or running your broadband internet through your mains power supply) is becoming increasingly common, and Devolo is one of the bigger makers on the market with such products. And here, the dLAN 200 AVsmart + Starter Kit, at around £110 for the dual adapter outfit looks, and is, quite pricey, but it does have some advantages for the money. For example, we can kick off one with the fact it comes with a pass-through socket, so you can continue to use the mains socket taken up by the adapter with it in place.
The AVsmart+ has a neat display showing the status of the connection which is designed to make networking easier, displaying of the connection strength to other HomePlug adapters or a connected PC. This proves very useful during network set up but is hamstrung in a very big way by the fact the display is at the bottom of a rather long adapter body.
“So what?” I hear you ask. Well for one, if the socket in your wall is low down you need to lie flat on the floor, on your tummy to read the darned display. Then the 10/100Mbps Ethernet port, located at the bottom of the adapter makes it a very snug (near impossible) fit if you have heavier pile carpet. Add to these issues the fact any device plugged into the pass-through socket on the adapter has its wiring obscuring the display! The display would have been much better on the top, for example, above the built-in pass-though socket instead of where it is. Use of the adapters in the “real” world has not been properly thought through.
Luckily, the information displayed on the screen is of limited use anyway, so perhaps it’s a moot point? For example, the indication of a weak signal does not help much because while it might be possible to move the adapter (and so all the kit connected to it as a result) to another socket, it’s just not a practical solution for a home office location, say, or a wall-mounted flat panel TV that you want to connect to the Internet via an adapter.
Once you’re past the display foibles, the dLAN 200 AVsmart+ is very similar to the rest of the Devolo HomePlug adapters with a pass-through socket. There’s a network encryption button on the bottom that’s a cinch to use as you simply, well, push the button to encrypt your network. Additional software is supplied to help you manually set encryption if you have older, button-less encryption Devolo adapters within your network, which you have set-up previously.
Firmware updates may also be required for any older adapters, but helpfully, these updates are supplied on the install software CD, which is nice. Interestingly, if you have adapters for the competing “standard” for powerline networking (there’s HomePlug and DS2) make sure they are compatible with the HomePlug standard as the AVsmart+ won’t work with DS2 adapters.
There’s a claimed maximum network bandwidth of 200Mbps for the AVsmart+ HomePlug Starter Kit, but on our tests we achieved around 70Mbps, so around the usual for a 10/100Mbps Ethernet network. And at almost £110 for the dual adapter starter kit they are pricey too.
And so, the value of the display you get here is reduced by the position on the device and particularly so if the socket it is connected to is low on your wall. If that’s not the case, and you move your kit around regularly then the extra outlay for the screen might be worth it, but only just.