Netgear's current power-line offering is based on the HomePlug AV spec with enhancements that bring theoretical speeds up to 500 Mbps (hence the product name). When I asked why the company hadn't introduced an AV2 product, the answer was that Netgear considered these adapters competitive with other vendors' first-generation AV2 gear.
Our tests showed this claim to be only slightly exaggerated in terms of performance: TCP throughput was in the low 60 Mbps range, or about 5 to 6 Mbps slower than the speeds of the first-generation AV2 products in this roundup. That's generally in line with what HomePlug Powerline Alliance officials told us to expect in terms of performance differences between enhanced HomePlug AV and basic AV2.
The adapters in the Netgear XAVB5201 starter kit are somewhat smaller than the others in this roundup, which makes it easier to use the second receptacle in the typical wall outlet. Netgear provides long (about 6.5 feet) ethernet cables, pushbutton and password security options, and the typical three LED lights to indicate power, power-line network, and ethernet connections.
While its $90 MSRP seemed a bit high for older-generation technology that falls slightly short of newer products in terms of performance, street prices are falling fast (no doubt helped by Netgear's CES product announcements.
Given that the performance difference may not matter for most people, the XAVB5201 could be an attractive buy if its price falls below that of the AV2 competition — and if you're not planning on adding additional adapters from other vendors that might not support the proprietary technology that makes this product so competitive.
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