Netgear XAV5101 Powerline Networking Adapter Review

Today, we're looking at the Netgear XAV5101 Powerline Adapter, an earlier entry in the AV500 device class, to see how it fares against some of the newer powerline models.


With the powerline adapters we've reviewed up to this point, we have noticed a trend that individual adapters have a slight model number variance compared to the powerline adapter kits, which include a pair of adapters. Netgear continues that trend with its XAVB5101 Powerline adapter kit. On the company's website, the adapters are listed in the home networking department under the powerline link.

Specifications

MORE: Powerline Networking 101
MORE: How We Test Powerline Adapters
MORE: All Powerline Content

MORE: All Networking Content

The technical specifications state that the nano-class (more on that later) XAV5101 employs the HomePlug AV standard, rather than HomePlug AV2 like some of the other adapters we've reviewed, but is modeled for use with a GbE adapter for connectivity purposes. The operating range of these adapters is from 2MHz to 80MHz, with data rate claims topping out at 240 Mb/s. When compared to other adapters that we previously tested in our powerline round-up, Netgear's XAV5101 operates with the highest MHz range cap. Power usage while actively transmitting appears to meet the average of its peers, coming in at a reported 4.5W.

On the HomePlug Alliance Certified Products List, Netgear's XAV5101 is easy to find; just apply the HomePlug AV search filter. The product packaging specifies that the kit is HomePlug AV-compliant, and the HomePlug Certification Mark is clearly visible near the package contents list.

While there's a "Push-and-Secure" button on one side to factory-reset the XAV5101, you have to insert a paperclip into the designated hole on the opposite side of each unit.

Features

Netgear's XAV5101 includes an energy savings mode, a Pick-A-Plug feature as well as a number of security options. Through its gigabit Ethernet port, the Netgear XAV5101 enables interoperability with other devices that adhere to the IEEE 802.3 standards.

On the side panel, there's a "Push-and-Secure button" that sets the powerline network password. Communications over the powerline network are then protected via 128-bit AES encryption, which includes key management. Pressing the button on one of the adapters starts a syncing process, during which you have to press the button on the kit's other adapter so it will sync appropriately within five minutes. If you want more granular control over the powerline network membership, you can download Netgear's Powerline Configuration Utility.

Netgear also includes a power-saving mode that cuts the XAV5101's consumption to less than half of one watt. When the Power LED shines amber, it is in power-saving mode. It takes 10 minutes of idle time before the mode is triggered, so you don't have to worry about flip-flopping between active transmitting and standby.

Pick-A-Plug is touted as a way to plug the adapters into different ports for the purpose of determining the best transmission rate. The Powerline LED indicator shines green for link rates above 80 Mb/s, amber for rates in excess of 50 Mb/s but less than 80 Mb/s, and red if the link rate drops below 50 Mb/s.

According to a 2011 press release, Netgear began manufacturing nano-class adapters after recognizing other powerline adapters at the time were large to the point of blocking two outlets. Nano-class adapters are made to avoid this.

Accessories

Inside the box, you will find two Netgear XAV5101 powerline adapters in a cardboard cutout, two 6.5-foot cables with RJ-45 ends and a quick-start guide. The kit is protected by a one-year hardware warranty.

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17 comments
    Your comment
  • rmse17
    What about latency vs direct CAT6 connection?
    0
  • Gigahertz20
    Powerline networking is too inconsistent, I bought a bunch to network a friends house and they were terrible for speeds so they got returned. We bought a couple MoCA adapters and networked his house using the existing coax cable outlets, works great. I wish MoCA would have caught on more, they are a little expensive but totally work it. Just search for MoCA 2.0 on Amazon, you can get two bonded MoCA 2.0 adapters for around $190. The 2.0 version is suppose to be very fast.
    -1
  • rantoc
    Doing only bandwidth measurements don't paint the entire picture, latency is in many cases are even more important than the pure bandwidth (when speaking about faster connections)
    1
  • malhussaini
    re:rmse17

    Latency in my experience for powerline networks is 3-4 ms compared to less than 1 ms for ethernet.
    2
  • az_fred
    I bought a pair of Netgear AV500 powerline adapters about a year ago. To my surprise they are working out wonderfully. One unit actually has built in WiFi to cover a dead spot in my house. I can consistently get over 30 Mbps over WiFi which is great for browsing and movies on my tablet. It works nearly all the time, with an occasional reset. The pair only cost about $70 at my local Fry's. It was much better than I thought it was going to be!
    3
  • InvalidError
    Same room, floor or whatever else is of little importance. What matters is wiring distance and tidiness between the two adapters.

    If both adapters are on the same breaker run (often but not always the case within a given room) and there are no dirty loads putting noise on it or EMI filters attenuating the signal, you get good performance. If the two adapters are on different breakers on the same phase at the breaker box, you get lower performance due to additional attenuation and wiring in-between. If the other adapter is on the other phase, you get worse attenuation still since only the signal traveling on the neutral reaches the other branches and further reduced performance.
    1
  • truerock
    Is Matthew Matchen mentally unstable. How could he write an entire article about Powerline and not explain how home electrical wiring is done. Somehow he thinks that the distance between 2 electrical outlets is somehow relevant. Is Matchen completely braindead?
    0
  • dragget
    We've now had two successive Powerline reviews. Both kits reviewed have been based on HomePlug equipment that is 3-4 years from the current state of the art. I have a set of HomePlug AV2 adapters that I've been using for 4 years now which are based on the same chipset as the units in the review. Personally, I'd prefer information on how the new MIMO stuff stacks up. Wouldn't it be more helpful to most of your readers to test and review newer products?
    0
  • truerock
    The AV2-MIMO adapters typically run around 100Mbps in a worst case scenario (e.g. long run through a circuit breaker). The newer G.hn adapters (e.g. using Marvel chipsets) increase that to about 140Mbps.

    I have no idea why anyone would waste their time testing obsolete Home AV adapters.
    0
  • truerock
    http://www.homeplug.org/explore-homeplug/faq-consumers/#AV2a

    I’ve read about AV2 for a while, how is AV2 MIMO better than existing HomePlug AV and AV2 products?
    The short answer is improved quality of service (QOS) and coverage to all areas of the home. The existing HomePlug AV and AV2 products use 2 wires (hot and neutral) and can be referred to as “SISO” (for single-input / single output). AV2 MIMO with beam forming uses those 2 wires plus the ground to greatly increase the reliability of high-bandwidth service to all areas of the home by a factor 2 to 4 times as compared to earlier technology (MIMO stands for multiple-in / multiple out).
    0
  • hassuna
    Quote:
    What about latency vs direct CAT6 connection?

    I agree, some light gaming tests would be great also
    0
  • matchenm
    Quote:
    Same room, floor or whatever else is of little importance. What matters is wiring distance and tidiness between the two adapters.

    If both adapters are on the same breaker run (often but not always the case within a given room) and there are no dirty loads putting noise on it or EMI filters attenuating the signal, you get good performance. If the two adapters are on different breakers on the same phase at the breaker box, you get lower performance due to additional attenuation and wiring in-between. If the other adapter is on the other phase, you get worse attenuation still since only the signal traveling on the neutral reaches the other branches and further reduced performance.


    Hi InvalidError,

    Great points! Check out the "How We Test" article where we describe those test factors, and let us know if we missed the ones you mentioned!

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/how-we-test-powerline-networking-adapters,4217.html

    Regards,

    Matt
    0
  • matchenm
    Quote:
    Is Matthew Matchen mentally unstable. How could he write an entire article about Powerline and not explain how home electrical wiring is done. Somehow he thinks that the distance between 2 electrical outlets is somehow relevant. Is Matchen completely braindead?


    Hi truerock!

    Check out the How We Test article (http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/how-we-test-powerline-networking-adapters,4217.html) where we provide more detail on the wiring layout and breaker considerations.

    Hope that helps.

    Regards,

    Matt
    0
  • InvalidError
    Anonymous said:
    Hi InvalidError,

    Great points! Check out the "How We Test" article where we describe those test factors, and let us know if we missed the ones you mentioned!

    It isn't so much a matter of "not covered" as it is a matter of "not quantified" since you are using whatever your home wiring is. Ideally, you would use a rack with three or four separate 60' runs of 3x14, outlets every 10' on each to plug adapters into to create best-case scenarios (ex.: same room could be from 40' on L1 to 30' also on L1, longest distance through the breaker box between circuits on opposite phases would be 60' on L1 to 60' on L2), then add additional household loads at various taps (ex.: lamps with a few CFLs and LED lamps, surge suppression bars with EMI filters, PC supplies, etc.) into those two (or more) runs to replicate real-world conditions between two (or more) adapters.
    0
  • matchenm
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    Hi InvalidError,

    Great points! Check out the "How We Test" article where we describe those test factors, and let us know if we missed the ones you mentioned!

    It isn't so much a matter of "not covered" as it is a matter of "not quantified" since you are using whatever your home wiring is. Ideally, you would use a rack with three or four separate 60' runs of 3x14, outlets every 10' on each to plug adapters into to create best-case scenarios (ex.: same room could be from 40' on L1 to 30' also on L1, longest distance through the breaker box between circuits on opposite phases would be 60' on L1 to 60' on L2), then add additional household loads at various taps (ex.: lamps with a few CFLs and LED lamps, surge suppression bars with EMI filters, PC supplies, etc.) into those two (or more) runs to replicate real-world conditions between two (or more) adapters.


    Thanks for clarifying!

    I agree that quantifying the runs would provide additional info on the limits of my applied testing. In this town home, the breaker is in the garage from which all wiring is run throughout the house. I did want to provide more detail for the linear length of each outlet-to-base run when writing the How We Test article, but I don't have the electrical plans. I suppose I could contact the builder and request a copy, so I'll see how difficult/time-intensive that will be to pursue and see if that info can be retconned.

    I also thought about testing beyond just distance, to include load and vary using the adapters for gaming/streaming etc during heavy and light loads, but in the interest of time with respect to publication the initial focus was on (as you rightly said) unquantified distance.

    I'll pass along your awesomely constructive feedback for future reviewing, and thank you for opining!

    Regards,

    Matt
    0
  • matchenm
    Anonymous said:
    We've now had two successive Powerline reviews. Both kits reviewed have been based on HomePlug equipment that is 3-4 years from the current state of the art. I have a set of HomePlug AV2 adapters that I've been using for 4 years now which are based on the same chipset as the units in the review. Personally, I'd prefer information on how the new MIMO stuff stacks up. Wouldn't it be more helpful to most of your readers to test and review newer products?

    Hi dragget,

    We did review some HomePlug AV2 Powerline Adapters in our prior Round-Up: http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/homeplug-av2-powerline-networking-adapters,4218.html, but they're from 2014. I recently tested some AV1200-class adapters (2016) where I saw between approximately 100 to 200 Mbps while testing. Not sure if/when that piece will make publication, but I agree that publishing testing on newer equipment is best!

    Regards,

    Matt
    1
  • InvalidError
    Anonymous said:
    Not sure if/when that piece will make publication, but I agree that publishing testing on newer equipment is best!

    If the older models are substantially discounted, there is still merit in covering it for those cases where you need to bring connectivity to a remote location and care more about low cost than performance. Ex.: my workbench's laptop would be fine with a 5Mbps connection if WiFi didn't reach or I didn't have Ethernet nearby since all I use it for is loading PDFs and other simple stuff like that, same goes with my living room PC which is mainly used for light web browsing and would be fine with anything over 5Mbps too.
    -1