Netgear Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501
At the street price of around $80 per unit (you'll need a kit of two units to make the first power-line connection) Netgear's Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501 is about the same price as others on the market. However, it's the first we've seen that offers speed faster than that of a traditional wired 10/100 Ethernet connection. On top of that the adapter comes with a pass-through power socket, allowing you to connect another device on top to share the same wall socket that it's plugged into.
The only complaint we have about the XAV5501 is its bulky physical size. The device is easily double the size of its processor, the XAV2001. If you can live with that, you'd definitely happy with what the adapter has to offer.
Design, setup and features
The Netgear Powerline AV+ 500 Adapter XAV5501 is huge, measuring 3.9 inches by 2.8 inches by 1.56 inches and weighs 6.4 ounces. If it were half its current size, it would still be rather bulky for a power-line adapter.
To make up for this, it's one of a few on the market that offers a pass-through power socket on top that allows for powering another device from the same wall socket that it's plugged in. Also on top, the device has three status lights that show the conditions of the power, the power-line connection and the Ethernet connection.
The XAV5501 comes with one Gigabit Ethernet port, which is located on one of its sides. We found that, due the physical size of the adapter, it would be for convenient to use if this port were on top instead. On another side, there's a reset button and a quick security button, similar to the case of the XAV2001. Press this button on two adapters within two minutes of each other will create a secure power-line connection between the two of them.
The XAV5501 is supposed to offer a speed of up to 240Mbps, which is more than twice than that of a traditional 10/100 network connection. Still, this is about half of what the new 500Mbps power-line standard has to offer.
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.
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.