dLAN 550+ WiFi Starter Kit
While WiFi is often the chosen option of many when setting up a home network with the minimum of disruption, this method is not always totally suitable for certain dwellings with walls getting in the way and blocking the passage of the wireless signal. In such instances you might prefer going with a solution that helps circumvent the problem caused by blocking walls while still retaining some of the benefits of WiFi. Devolo, from its base in Aachen, Germany, offers a combination of Powerline and WiFi technology with its dLAN 550+ WiFi Starter Kit which I have been looking at recently.
This Devolo kit integrates cable and wireless-free technology. It does this by combining the functionality of Powerline, which makes use of the built-in cabling system used by the home’s electrical set up, with the addition of WiFi functionality bringing Internet access to the equation.
This latest version of the dLAN product consists of two dLAN 550 duo+ adapters, Ethernet lead, multi-lingual User Manual and various safety and warranty documents. The two adaptors and Ethernet lead are all decked out in Apple White. To help distinguish between the two adaptors, I will refer to them as the base station unit and WiFi provider.
The two adaptors, each with dimensions of 130 x 48 x 67mm (H x D x W), resemble 3-pin plug units that look as if they have been forced fed on a diet of steroids. Although generally similar in appearance there are some difference between the base station unit and WiFi provider which help identify the different roles each adaptor performs.
The most obvious difference is the number of Ethernet sockets on the units. The base station unit, which provides the direct link to the router, has a pair of Ethernet sockets. The WiFi provider only has a single Ethernet socket. In both cases these Ethernet sockets are positioned on the top of the adaptor where they are easy to access no matter where the mains sockets, in which they are seated, is mounted either on a skirting board or half-way up a wall. As always with such kit, the adaptors should be plugged direct into a wall socket rather than using a gang unit hanging off a mains socket. Fortunately each adaptor features a pass-through facility to help ensure you do not run out of available wall mains sockets.
Another difference concerns the arrangement of the controls found on each adaptor. The base station unit features a front-mounted pin-prick power indicator light and a side-mounted data encryption panel. Arranged on the WiFi provider are data encryption and WiFi on / off buttons.
A final difference is the information supplied on the inner or back face of the adaptors. Both units contain a security ID and a dLAN Mac address which are different. The WiFi provider adaptor also displays a WiFi key which is identical to the security ID used by that adaptor. You will need to make a note of this WiFi key prior to inserting the adaptor into a power socket, otherwise access to it will be blocked and you will not be able to see it. This key will be required at some point during the set up.
Setting up this kit is covered by illustrated instructions in the User Manual booklet. While this does cover the salient points, I found it a little confusing and needed to read through the instructions several times before I felt confident enough to proceed. I feel the instructions would have benefitted if a conscious effort had been made to clearly define the difference between the illustrations used for the adaptors during each stage of the operation.
The base station unit will need to be positioned within easy reach of the host router with the distance being defined by the length of the supplied Ethernet lead. Initially for the set-up, the WiFi provider adaptor should be positioned near the base station unit / router arrangement until a connection has been established. The WiFi provider adaptor can then be moved to a location where it will be the most useful when delivering its WiFi signal to appropriate devices. The Ethernet socket of the WiFi provider adaptor can be used to add a wired device to the network.
As well as performing a duty as a network with its known name and password, this dLAN kit has a CLONE option. In this mode, which requires its own set-up procedure, the Devolo dLAN kit can add its power to an existing network by sharing the network name and password. The built-in WiFi Move technology allows for automatic switching between the router and adaptor for the strongest WiFi signal.
The downloadable Cockpit app can be used for fine tuning and measuring of transfer rates. Although Devolo has rated this dLAN network kit at providing 500MBps, I struggled to achieve rates at between 130 and 170MBps is my home environment. This dLAN 550+ WiFi Starter Kit has a price tag of £109.99 and is capable of providing a combination of Powerline and WiFi functionality. The product has a three-year warranty.
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