Belkin Powerline AV Starter Kit review

Price when reviewed

Our current favourite HomePlug AV adapters hail from little known networking firm Billion. Not only are its BiPAC 2071 adapters among the swiftest powerline products we’ve tested, but they also have detachable plug attachments, so the bulky body of the adapter can point up or down.

With plug sockets in the UK often positioned close to thick skirting boards or the floor, this allows you to plug the adapters straight into a wall socket without having to resort to messy extension cables, which could affect performance.

It’s this sort of flexibility that Belkin has successfully reproduced with its Powerline AV Starter Kit. Each of the two adapters in the pack has detachable plug attachments, just like the Billions do: one allows you to plug them straight into a socket, wall-wart style; the other has a cable leading from it, allowing connection in trickier situations. Both attachments clip to the bottom of the adapters neatly and securely.

Not only are they practical, but these Belkins also look pretty good – the glossy black finish and smooth, curved corners make a perfect match for modern lifestyle computing and AV equipment. They’re certainly a far cry from most powerline adapters we’ve tested.

And setup, as you’d expect, is a doddle out of the box. The plugs come with encryption turned on by default and you don’t have to change the encryption password. Adding the plug units to an existing HomePlug AV network is also straightforward, requiring a quick button press on existing and new units. As usual, however, if you want to set up a new password entirely it’s a pain – why HomePlug manufacturers don’t simply print the procedure on a label on the units themselves, we’ll never know.

Initial setup should be a one-shot deal, though, and with everything ready to go performance proved excellent. As with all domestic networking products we timed the transfer of 128 1MB files and one 128MB file between two laptops. One laptop attached to our test router (which was in turn attached to one of the Belkin adapters), and the other we plugged in to sockets in a variety of locations around a Victorian terraced house.

Speed in the same room reached an overall average of 37.6Mbit/sec and this impressive throughput was maintained in the hallway next door (37.2Mbit/sec), the kitchen two rooms away (34.12Mbit/sec), and in a bedroom on the upstairs ring main (33Mbit/sec). The Belkins couldn’t quite keep up with the BiPAC adapters in a long-distance race, dropping to an average of 19.6Mbit/sec compared to 29.4Mbit/sec on a mains spur some 40m from the main house.

Overall, though, an average rate of 32.27Mbit/sec is not to be sniffed at, and that turn of speed, coupled with the stylish design and practical features makes these Belkin adapters a solid all round purchase. The fact that they’re a little cheaper than the Billions is just the icing on the cake.

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