For a long time this reviewer was sceptical about powerline networking, it seemed very much like a concept which would be filled with issues whether they be stability (due to varied quality of wiring) or performance. Over a number of reviews though I have been won over with various kits working great. Today we get to see a product designed to offer a nice simple way to expand our network through a powerline, in our Netgear Powerline 500 Review. We’ll also take this opportunity to look at an interesting little device in the form of their Aircard 785 mobile hotspot.
Netgear Powerline 500 Review – Packaging and Bundle
The Powerline 500 kit arrives in a box which follows the standard Netgear styling, giving us a good view of the product and outlines its key features. Inside the box the main components are suspended in cardboard with various protective layers applied. Bundled with the main items we get some documentation and two 6.5foot RJ-45 network cables.
Netgear Powerline 500 Review – The Kit – XAVB5421
The Powerline 500 kit we are testing is the 500Mbps rated XAVB5421 and Netgear offer alternate versions without the plug passthrough or with wifi. This particular version gives us one 10/100 port and measures 100x56x41mm with a weight of 144g. On the top we find the network port as well as factory reset button. On one side, a quick setup button to sync our plugs and then on the front as well as a filtered power outlet is a set of LEDs which let us know about the status of the kit.
Netgear Powerline 500 Review – Setup
Setting up the Powerline 500 kit couldn’t be easier.
Step 2: Plug in.
Step 3: Connect one plug to existing router via RJ45.
Step 4: Connect other plug to device (console, PC, Smart TV etc) via RJ45 cable.
Step 5: Power on.
If we want to add extra Powerline plugs in the future we can factory reset and then use the security/sync button on the side to connect again but the two here connected and sync’d without any user input out of the box which was great.
We can also install the Netgear Genie app to view data rates, etc.
Netgear Powerline 500 Review – A quick look at the Aircard 785 Mobile Hotspot (4G)
As a little aside for today we decided to take a look at something else that Netgear offer, their latest Mobile Hotspot. This little device which is 109.9×68.9×14.6mm and weighs 127g. What does it do? It allows us to insert a 3G or 4G LTE micro sim and share the data connection from that to 10 main devices and 5 guest devices via 2.4GHz or 5GHz network. The 2000mAh battery is rated for 10 hours use and we control the main functions of the unit via the two buttons on top and 1.77inch colour LED display. Also worthy of note are the two sliding panels on the base which allow us to connect external antennas via TS-9 connectors for enhanced performance.
Netgear also offer a web browser based control panel for the 785 mobile hotspot which allows us to configure the settings in detail (just like a normal router) and perform extra tasks such as firmware updates.
Netgear Powerline 500 Review – Conclusion
Starting with the build quality and design of the Powerline 500 kit we have a set of plugs which feel solid. The plastic casing is well manufactured and has no noticeable flex with the glossy finish adding some extra style. Having the port on the top always makes sense to use as plugs are often low down and the LEDs can clearly be seen from a distance. We also appreciate the presence of power pass through as few people want to lose a plug socket to a device such as this.
Setup couldn’t be easier. Essentially we plug in, connect the RJ45 cable and then turn on. The devices then sync automatically and extend our network. Should anything go wrong, or if we want to add additional powerline plugs in the future we just hit the reset button and then the security button to get going again but we had no issues with stability during our testing. Those who want a little more info on the network status can of course install Netgear Genie to access that.
As far as performance goes, we had no complaints. The network was responsive and transferring files to our network storage device (single mechanical drive) saw speeds in excess of 100mb/s which is ideal (most HD peak at a little over 110-120mb/s). HD movies also streamed without issue and when playing games on our consoles there was no noticeable lag or quality issues.
Summary: Super easy to set up, stable and well made. Priced competitively too.
Available from Amazon.