The Netgear Powerline 500 adapters (XAVB5201) are small, unobtrusive units that plug into your power sockets to create a fast home network.
Powerline technology uses your home's power lines to link your Internet router to other rooms without having to trail metres of ugly Ethernet cable around the house. It uses your existing power cables instead.
It's incredibly easy to set up – really just a matter of plugging each in a power socket: one next to your router, which you attach to the adapter with Ethernet; the other in another room, which you can connect to smart TVs, games consoles, Sky+, Tivo, Apple TV and other set-top boxes that today demand fast Internet access.
Without Powerline adapters or miles of Ethernet cables these devices have to rely on patchy Wi-Fi, which loses strength the further away from your wireless router.
Powerline testing procedure
We tested the Netgear 500 Powerline Adapter in a Victorian house with fairly old wiring and the usual array of electronic devices (TV, Sky+, Hi-Fi, lamps, microwave, computers, etc) plugged into the power lines. The Internet router was situated in the office on the second floor, and we used Powerline to test data speed on the ground floor.
If your house was built more recently you may well achieve faster speeds than we did, but we use this house to get consistent speeds for a proper Powerline comparison.
First we must emphasise that despite all the Powerline manufacturers claiming 500Mbps speeds these are theoretical maximums, and you will never see such speeds via Powerline. Indeed the 10/100 ethernet port limits the maximum speed to 100Mbps. You'll be lucky to get 100Mbps from a 500Mbps Powerline, but don't fret as this is well fast enough for most needs, such as watching catch-up TV or downloading fairly large files. And rest assured it's much, much faster than standard home Wi-Fi.
We got speeds up to 90Mbps but the house average was 59Mbps using Powerline and ethernet, which is about average for the technology. It should be sufficinet for most users, and we downloaded HD TV with few pauses.
This product doesn't have extra Wi-Fi functionality, which is not surpriising at this price point. Boosting wireless speeds at the same time is a boon for laptop, smartphone and tablet users, and Netgear does have a solution that includes Wi-Fi. The Netgear Powerline 500 WiFi Access Point is a similar product that offers the same speeds plus the ability to create a new Wi-Fi hotspot in a room away from your router.
We liked the Netgear 500 Powerline's dinky proportions and clean white looks. Set up is a breeze.
Each adapter has just the one Ethernet port, which might limit you if you have more than one device that needs to be plugged in at the same time. You can, of course, swap out the Ethernet cable for the device you need at the time. This starter kit comes with two 10/100 Ethernet cables.
We've seen it on sale online for as little as £25, which is great value.
Check out all our Powerline adapter reviews and also our group test of the best Powerline adapters we've tested. You can get more information on Powerline including explanations of Powerline speed myths and lots of tips and trick in our feature What Is Powerline.