There's nothing to setting up a power-line connection using two XAV550 units. This process is typical for most, if not all, power-line kits. First you hook up one of the adapters to the network via the router (or the hub), using a network cable. The second adapter is connected to an Ethernet-ready device, say, at the far corner of the house. After that, you just plug both adapters into the power sockets. If the two locations share the same electrical wiring, which they do in most cases, a power-line network connection is now established. This whole process takes just a minute or two, and you can't make a mistake.
The XAV5501 adapter also comes with a Windows-based desktop configuration application, called Netgear Powerline utility, that allows for viewing the connection and performing other tasks on the adapters, such as changing its password, naming it, setting up the Quality of Service feature, and so on.
The XAV5501 blew us away with its performance. In testing with two units, we were able to archive sustained real-world throughput speeds of 160.8Mbps, more than double than that of the TrendNet TPL-401E2K, which scored 79.2Mbps. Before the XAV5501, the TrendNet used to be the top performer and was indeed much faster than the rest of the power-line products we've reviewed.
It's worth noting that 160.8Mbps is about 60 percent faster than traditional Ethernet connections. This is the first time we've seen a power-line connection that's actually faster than a connection that uses regular network cable. Of course, the XAV5501 would only be able to outperform a traditional connection if you use it with a Gigabit router and a client that also supports Gigabit Ethernet. In this case a regular connection via network cable, at 1,000Mbps, would still be much faster than the power-line connection by the XAV5501. Still, by far, the XAV5501 is the most impressive power-line adapter we've seen in terms of throughput performance.
Similar to wireless networking, power-line networking's performance varies based on the environment. This means that you may or may not get numbers like ours depending on the condition of your home's electrical wiring. However, we believe that the XAV5501 will offer the optical speeds.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Service and support
Netgear backs the XAV5501 with a one-year warranty, which is rather short, though standard. On the company's Web site, you'll find lots of support information, including troubleshooting, a knowledge base, and firmware, driver, and manual downloads. The company also has free 24-7 phone tech support.
The XAV5501 is by far the fastest power-line adapter we've reviewed and also the bulkiest. If you can live with its physical size, you'd definitely be happy with what it has to offer.