If like me, you have an older house, you will no doubt know the pain of mixing Wi-Fi and solid walls. Couple that with limited phone access points on the ground floor only and you are really up a creek. Devolo has a handy dandy solution for you with their dLan 1200+ WI-Fi AC. Using your home’s electrical system, these neat little units will provide a Wi-Fi signal in places your standard router just can’t reach.
The devices themselves aren’t exactly small, but they are nicely featureless white boxes with minimal amounts of buttons and lights – perfect – who wants their living room to look like a set from Star Trek (now Star Wars…that’s a different matter!). I particularly liked the fact that they also have a pass through plug socket in them so you aren’t taking up valuable power outlets. Nice touch. The Ethernet ports are on the top of the unit, and this is both a benefit and a drawback. Given the size of the units, if you have one plugged into a low power outlet and the ports are on the bottom, you may be pushed for space getting the cables plugged in with enough clearance. Having the ports on the top not only gives any amount of clearance, it also allows for easier access. On the downside, there is an aesthetic penalty involved with having the ports much more visible and being on the top, they can now become little dust catchers. A simple removable cap/cover would provide an obvious solution. I used a little white electrical tape and it looks fine.
Setup appears simple thanks to some rather basic Ikea style instructions provided by Devolo. It has lots of big pictures, so even the technically inept like myself should be able to have it up and running quickly and easily. There are two setup options, one for providing a Wi-Fi signal for a standard router, and another to clone the signal from an existing wireless network. In my case, it was the latter. Plug in the main unit and connect it to the router with the provided Ethernet cable, wait for a few seconds for the light to appear. Plug in the additional unit(s) nearby, press the home buttons, hit the WPS button on your router and Badda Bing, you are up and running about a minute later. Once all the lights have turned white, you can unplug the adapters, position them anywhere in your house and they will provide you with gloriously speedy Wi-Fi (rated to speeds of up to 1,200Mbit/s). It is as simple as that.
Or at least it should be. I will hold my hands up and admit that I am most definitely a lay person when it comes to these things and maybe it was just me, but when I initially set up the adaptors to clone my Wi-Fi and went in the settings on my phone, I found that the activated adaptors showed up as new separate networks on my list. It was easy to simply log on to each one and enter the password that is printed on the back of each device, but that would mean manually changing from one network to the other depending on where I was in the house. The adaptors are capable of replicating the SSID and password for your existing network so I tried again. The downside with the picture orientated instructions is that whilst simple is good, there is such a thing as too simple. I followed the instructions carefully again and got largely the same result, but this time one adaptor showed up as a separate network and the other was replicating my original. Eureka! What the instructions don’t make very clear is that if you are adding multiple adaptors, you need to activate them individually, one at a time. Trying to do them together does not work. Problem solved. Once you have everything in place, you can basically just leave it all alone and there is no need to ever go near them again. That’s the kind of tech I like!
One little hiccup I noticed was that when setting up the Devolo, it did knock some off my devices off the network. My iPhone, for example, would no longer auto-connect to it, nor would my sky box or Xbox, whereas my computers, iPad etc were all fine. Simply resetting the network connection on the affected devices and logging back in solved the problem though and it has not reoccurred. Now I have a single Wi-Fi network that operates in every corner of my house and out into the garden too. My phone automatically locks on to the strongest signal available completely seamlessly. You can even tinker with the network from your phone or tablet by using the Devolo Cockpit app if you feel so inclined.
Splendid, I can now watch Netflix in the bath and play Contest of Champions in my back garden – life is good.
Of course, all this convenience comes at a price and quite a hefty one at that. The master unit comes in a pack with one adaptor for £159.99, although shopping around, I managed to find it for £139.99. Each additional unit will cost around £109.99, so it’s not exactly cheap, but it does work very well. I actually really like these units. They are quick and easy to set up (even if you have to redo it), unobtrusive and they just work. You can’t ask much more than that. The adaptors do seem to get quite warm when they are plugged in. Definitely not enough to become alarming, but it would probably be wise to try to keep them as dust free as possible and ensure there is plenty of free space around them for air flow.
So if you have dead zones around your house and have a few quid to spare, the Devolo dLan 1200+ WI-Fi AC Powerline kit is just the ticket.