PowerLine kits are ten a penny these days, and it can be hard for manufacturers to think of something different to do.
The people at D-Link seem to be switched on though, producing this dual adapter kit with each device featuring not one, but two network ports.
In the box
Inside the packaging you’ll find:
2 x DHP-328AV PowerLine adapters
2 x Ethernet cables
A quick start pamphlet
A declaration of conformity
A warrenty booklet
The getting started CD
These are among the best looking of PowerLine devices that I’ve seen. Granted, most people probably won’t care what the device looks like as it’ll be hidden out the way, but if you are stuck having the adapter in plain view then at least it won’t look too horrible.
What most people will care about is that the actual unit is pretty slim. In truth it’s not much thicker than a standard 3-pin plug, which is excellent news if you have furniture butted up against your wall. The status LEDs are also pretty unobtrusive, though I’m still waiting for a major manufacturer to give me the option to switch off LEDs on a PowerLine adapter for when it’s out in the open.
Two network ports?
While not the first to do so, D-Link have elected to put more than one network port on their PowerLine adapters. Each of the two adapters in this kit comes furnished with a pair of network ports so that multiple devices can be connected at either end.
I’d suspect that this is achieved by integrating a 2-port switch into each of the adapters, though there’s no information in the user guide to indicate the data transfer between these two ports. Seeing as the devices are rated to transfer over the mains at 500Mbps, I’d assume that the data transfer between two devices on the same adapter would be about the same, but more on that later.
The feature itself is a useful one. Historically, if you’ve wanted to connect more than one device to a PowerLine adapter then you’d have to invest in a network switch, which means more gadgets, more cables and more power. With two ports on each device, you might just get away with not having to put another networking device in.
The DHP-328AV is rated at 500mbps under optimum conditions. However, in reality you’re never going to get that kind of performance out of PowerLine adapters. I tested these adapters on my home wiring and got consistent speeds of around 130mbps, well below the rated speed.
When you consider my wiring, though, that’s actually pretty good performance: the 200mbps adapters that I used for a year or so rarely get over 40mbps, and other 500mbps models that I’ve tested only ever achieved about 90-110mbps.
The problem is, it’s very difficult to get an accurate and consistent measurement of performance with these kinds of adapters. Network speed will differ depending on a number of factors, with things like washing machines and kettles often causing huge drops in speed when used during data transfers on the same ring.
What’s interesting is that performance between two devices connected to the same PowerLine adapter was not much better than two devices connected to independent adapters. I’d have expected performance to be higher as there’s no reason for the network packets to go over the mains if the two ports are connected to a switch inside the adapter. This could indicate that the two ports are actually independant, and both have to transfer data over the mains when talking to one another. I’m not convinced though, as this seems like a very messy solution and one that D-Link would have avoided like the plague.
There are certainly other PowerLine starter kits available, but few look as good as the DHP-329AV. The slim design of the adapters means that most people should be able to squeeze them in to tight spaces without a problem, and if you’re stuck with them out in the open then they won’t offend the eyes too much.
The inclusion of two network ports on each device is a novel one, and could be worth looking at if you have more than one device in each location. Even if you don’t, it might be worth your while to shell out the extra money for these adapters, just in case you end up with additional networkable devices in the future. With more and more consumer products requiring an Internet connection to function properly, it’s not hard to perceive of a situation where you need that extra port.
When it comes to performance, the two DHP-328AV adapters are among the best that I’ve used. But the vulnerability of the technology to outside factors may mean that you experience different results on your particular wiring. That’s always the gamble that you take with PowerLine adapters, though, so if you’re looking for a starter kit with a little extra functionality, you should definitely consider this kit.