NetGear Powerline Av 200 Wireless-N Extender Kit XAVNB2001
Netgear's Powerline Av 200 Wireless-N Extender Kit XAVNB2001 is similar to the company's other powerline kit, the Netgear XAV2001 with added functionality: it can extend the network via the home's electrical wiring and can also create another wireless network at the far end of the powerline connection. This kit contains the XAV2001 and the XAVN2001.
The kit performed well in our testing and proved itself worth the $160 price tag. It's not perfect, however; it's bulky and has a snap-on design and therefore can obstruct adjacent sockets. The included setup leaflet isn't clear, and one of the included steps didn't work in our trials.
If you are comfortable with setting up home networking, the XAVNB2001 is definitely a good buy for a large home. It's the first product that offers a well-designed combined solution of powerline and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Design, setup, and features
The new XAVNB2001 kit comes with two adapters that look just like a two-pronged power adapter of a small electronic device. These two adapters are of different sizes, however. The one used at the far corner, model XAVN2001, is much larger, about twice the size of the other, model XAV2001, which is to be connected to the network's router. This is because, apart from being the other end of the powerline connection, the larger XAVN2001 adapter can also work as an access point.
Each of these two adapters has only one Ethernet port; you will need a hub (or switch) if you want to connect more than one Ethernet-ready devices at the far end of the connection. If you use wireless clients, however, this won't be necessary. The XAVN2001 adapter can support as many wireless clients as your existing router does.
Neither of the adapters, unfortunately, features a power pass-through socket; since they are rather bulky, they might also obstruct adjacent sockets. We found this to be a rather bad design, especially considering that they, like all HomePlug AV powerline adapters, don't work with power strips or surge protectors. Make sure you have more than one wall socket at the far end, if you want to plug in other devices. Other powerline kits, such as the WD LiveWire and the Linksys PLK300, come with a power cord for each adapter and help keep the wall socket area clear.
Setting up the XAVNB2001 kit to create a powerline connection is supereasy and is like that of any typical powerline connection. First you plug the smaller XAV2001 adapter to your network's router (or hub), then you plug the larger XAVN2001 adapter to a computer at the far end, using two network cables. Now, when you plug the two of them into their wall sockets, a powerline network connection will be created. By default, if you don't change anything, a new wireless network called "Netgear" will also be created by the large XAVN2001 adapter and allows wireless clients to connect to it. You should, however, further configure this, as this network is not encrypted.
Depending on your existing router, there are three ways to configure the XAVN2001 adapter.
The easiest way is to use the Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) feature, which most newer routers support; you just need to press on the "on/off" switch of the XAVN2001 adapter until the light turns blue once, then press the WPS button on the router. The adapter will then be added to the existing wireless network and it will configure itself to be the extender of that network; wireless clients connected to the existing wireless network will find the same network at the far end, where the XAVN2001 adapter is plugged in, that the signal couldn't reach to before.
The second way is to use the adapter's Web interface, which gives you control to many more of the adapter's settings, such as the ability to change the network SSID, encryption method, upgrade the firmware, and so on. You can open the Web interface by pointing a browser on a connected computer to the adapter's IP address. However, it's a little tricky to figure out the IP address. You'll either have to find it from the list of connected clients from the router's Web interface or use the included software.
The included desktop software, called Netgear Powerline Utility, is the third way you can configure the router. Unfortunately, it doesn't work according to the instructions. It says you need to run the software on a computer directly connected to the XAVN2001 adapter using a network cable. In reality, we found that the software won't work in this case. Instead, the computer should be connected to the network without using the powerline connection for you to successfully change the settings. The software itself is also really slow and doesn't allow for changing many of the adapter's settings.
Other than the little misinformation, we had no problem setting up the XAVNB2001 kit. The two adapters worked very well together in our trials. As a wireless access point, the adapter works only in the 2.4Ghz frequency band and supports all variations of wireless encryption, including WEP, WPA, and WPA2.
The XAVNB2001 kit is the fastest powerline kit we've tested, scoring 56.2Mbps. This is the sustained throughput speed, and at this rate, it can transfer 500MB of data in slightly more than 70 seconds.
The kit also impressed us with its wireless performance. In the close range throughput test, it scored 41Mbps, right about the average when compared with regular Wireless-N routers. It scored 27.3Mbps in the 100 feet range test; in the mixed mode test, where it was set to work with clients of different wireless standards at the same time, it registered 37.6Mbps. These numbers were about average.
The most impressive thing about the XAVNB2001 kit, however, is its range. Its wireless signal could reach as far as 280 feet in our testing facility, which is among the longest of wireless routers. The device also passed our 48-hour stress test easily without disconnecting once.
Note, however, that the kit's throughput speed, though comparatively fast, isn't ideal for multiple high-def content streaming. In our anecdotal tests, the kit worked fine with a single streaming task, both with its powerline and wireless signal. When we wanted to stream the same movies to different players at a time, however, we experienced intermittent rebuffering.
Service and support
Netgear backs the Powerline Av 200 Wireless-N Extender Kit XAVNB2001 with a one-year warranty. Other than that, we believe you won't need much support for the adapter. 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 24-7 free phone tech support.