Powerline devices – gadgets that let you use existing household power circuits as network cabling – are popping out of the woodwork at a rate of knots.

The latest, such as Devolo's dLAN 200 AVdesk starter kit of two devices plus cables and software, support Homeplug AV, a fast, encrypted standard designed for streaming HD (high-definition) TV around your house. The standard boasts of potential bandwidths of 200Mbps (megabits per second), but you'll struggle to get this in practice.

Setting the kit up is so simple it barely needs instructions: plug in the devices, hook up a couple of cables and bingo, you're networked. There's only one ethernet socket, which is a pity; it could have directly serviced a roomful of computers. As it is, plugging in a cheap switch instead won't break the bank.

To give a wired benchmark, we first tested a normal 100Mbps network with QCheck and got a peak reading of 93Mbps. We ran the same test using plain 54G Wi-Fi – here we got no more than 21Mbps. Plugging in the Devolo dLAN 200 resulted in throughput jumping to 30Mbps. This level of performance meant our 720p HD demo clip played very well. Increasing range slightly reduced speed, but the effect was significantly reduced with dLAN 200.

One note of caution: if you own Netgear HDX101 adaptors, unplug them. dLAN barely worked when the Netgears were connected.

Devolo dLAN 200 AVdesk Starter Kit: Specs

  • Potential speed 200Mbps
  • TDMA, CSMA/CA protocols
  • 128bit AES encryption over household power supply grid
  • ethernet RJ45
  • 153x105x35mm
  • 230g
  • Potential speed 200Mbps
  • TDMA, CSMA/CA protocols
  • 128bit AES encryption over household power supply grid
  • ethernet RJ45
  • 153x105x35mm
  • 230g

OUR VERDICT

The dLAN 200's performance may seem uninspiring, but it's still good enough to stream HD movies flawlessly. However, for the money you could install a wired network between two rooms.

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