Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Powerline and Mesh Wi-Fi review

Devolo’s latest range of home-network systems offers next-generation Powerline and advanced Mesh WiFi features, especially powerful for larger data-hungry homes. Most homes today, whether in a modern penthouse or a rural cottage, require a fast home network. The demands of streaming TV services such as Netflix, Amazon and Sky, online gaming through multiplayer consoles, online video calls, social-media, home office, Alexa, and other data guzzlers, get ever greater.

Broadband is trying to keep up with super-fast services of over 350 megabits per second (Mbps). But as we move to 4K TVs (with 8K on the horizon), and with a set in more than one room, with everyone in the house always on their phones, pushing that data around the home is not easy. One room might be fine, but today we expect every room to be up to speed with our demands.

Our main recommendation to improve your home network is installing a Powerline network. Powerline is an extremely easy-to-setup solution that uses the power cables in your home to carry data around the building. See What is Powerline?

With Powerline, you can add wired Ethernet ports in different rooms and also – with some specially equipped Powerline adapters – add powerful new Wi-Fi hotspots. Another solution is to install a Mesh Wi-Fi network, which lets you place wireless extenders around your home to boost wireless signals. In a Mesh system there’s a main router connected directly to the modem, and then extra modules (known as nodes) placed through the home (as many as your space requires).

Mesh satellites communicate with each other and create a single wireless network, sharing the same SSID and password so your devices seamlessly connect and disconnect from individual nodes in the background as you move around. Mesh Wi-Fi systems work well, but can be held back by Wi-Fi’s innate failings when it comes to distance from your router. See Best Mesh Wi-Fi Networks.

German manufacturer Devolo has been one of the pioneers of the Powerline industry for the past 15 years, and is a benchmark for speedy and stylishly designed adapters. Its new product, Magic, takes Mesh Wi-Fi and adds Powerline as the backbone, therefore making the signals much stronger than from a traditional Mesh system.

The technical stuff (skip if you feel queasy)

The weakness of Mesh is that the data backbone remains Wi-Fi, which, as we all know, gets weaker the further it is away from the original source (usually the router) and is further blocked by floors, ceilings, walls and even furniture. By using the physically wired Powerline to carry the signal around the home, Devolo claims that there is significantly less weakening of the signal, and therefore the faster downloads in each room.

In addition, Magic 2 uses the second generation of G.hn Powerline-chips (Gigabit Home Networking), which boasts data rates up to 2.4Gbps (gigabits per second). In comparison, most other Powerline adapters are based on the HomePlug AV2 standard that has a maximum data rate of 1.2Gbps. G.hn also has greater range: 500 metres compared to AV2’s 400 metres.

With more homes being supplied with super-fast gigabit fibre, such advances are welcome – especially as the speeds quoted are maximum theoretical data rates rather than the real-world speeds you’ll actually get in your house. G.hn might never reach its 2.4Gbps maximum, but it should be significantly faster in real-world environments than the older HomePlug AV2. (G.hn adapters are incompatible with HomePlug, but two different networks can co-exist in the same electrical circuit.)

Set-up is much easier than it sounds

That was the technical explanation. Don’t panic! Setting up a Powerline network is simple.

A typical starter kit comes with two Powerline adapters. One is the base unit that connects directly to your router via a supplied Ethernet cable, and is plugged into a power socket nearby. The other Powerline adapter is plugged into a wall socket in the second room you need the fast access in – most likely a living room with smart TV, games console, etc.

You can connect these devices to the second adapter via Ethernet cable and/or create a new Wi-Fi hotspot there (if the Powerline adapter boasts this function). If you have multiple devices that require the wired connection, look for a Powerline adapter with more than one Ethernet port. With Devolo Magic, once you’ve plugged in the first adapter, all other adapters that are plugged in within the next two minutes are automatically connected to each other – without you having to push a single button.

During this pairing process, a unique security ID is exchanged between the devices, making the installation extra secure. You don’t have to change the settings of your router – it’s plug & play and easier then installing most Mesh-WiFi systems, where you have to change the settings of your router. Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Powerline and Mesh Wi-Fi review

Devolo Magic systems and pricing

There are four types of Magic (magic 1 LAN, Magic 1 WiFi, Magic 2 LAN, and Magic 2 WiFi), each with different configurations.

The entry-level Magic 1 LAN offers fast Powerline connections around the home, but lack the ability to create new Wi-Fi hotspots or a wireless Mesh network. A Magic 1 LAN Starter Kit (with one base unit and one second-room adapter) costs GBP99.99. You can add extra single adapters for GBP54.99 each.

Each adapter has one Gigabit Ethernet adapter for wired device connections. Magic 1 WiFi, as its name suggests, adds wireless and Mesh functionality. The Magic 1 WiFi Starter Kit costs GBP129.99; a three-pack Multiroom set with two secondary Wi-Fi adapters costs GBP199.99.

The Wi-Fi adapters feature two Gigabit Ethernet ports, so you can connect more than one data-hungry device in the second or third room. You can buy extra single Wi-Fi adapters for GBP84.99 each. Magic 1’s maximum (theoretical) speed is 1,200Mbps.

Devolo believes this is more than capable of providing a network fast enough for everyday home-office and browsing applications, plus HD streaming. Magic 2 has a max (again theoretical) speed of 2,400Mbps. This extra speed is recommended for UltraHD streaming and particularly busy data-download homes.

There’s a Magic 2 LAN model (Starter Kit costs GBP129.99) but this lacks the extra Wi-Fi hotspot and has just the one Gigabit Ethernet port. Extra adapters cost GBP69.99. The Top-of-the-range Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit costs from GBP169.99 for the Starter Kit with one base unit and one second-room Wi-Fi Powerline adapter (with two Gigabit Ethernet ports); to get the full benefit of Mesh (and if you have a larger home) then the Multiroom Kit is a three pack (with base unit and two Wi-Fi adapters) priced at GBP269.99.

Extra Magic 2 WiFi adapters cost GBP109.99 each. This might seem expensive but if it noticeably speeds up your home network then it’s a one-off payment worth making. While it seems pricey compared to other Powerline kits, it’s not so far off other Mesh systems.

The closest comparison is TP-Link’s GBP249 Deco P7, which also uses Powerline (based on the older HomePlug standard) as the Mesh backbone, but is a two- rather than three-pack like the Multiroom Magic 2. One of our favourite Mesh systems (the Linksys Velop Dual Band) costs GBP219 for the three pack but doesn’t have the benefit of the Powerline backbone. The Google WiFi Mesh system costs GBP329 for the three-pack, so the Devolo Magic 2 Multiroom isn’t the most expensive.

All the Magic adapters boast a pass-through power socket, which means you don’t lose a plug point when it’s installed. Check our price-comparison widgets for the best online prices today. Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Powerline and Mesh Wi-Fi review

Devolo Magic WiFi features

Magic WiFi systems feature “Fast Roaming” that works so that all wireless clients, such as smartphones and tablets, are always connected to the strongest Wi-Fi hotspot.

When you move from room to room with your mobile device, it will discover and connect with the fastest hotspot. Integrated “Band Steering” further ensures that all Wi-Fi clients are automatically assigned to the best wireless channel and the optimum frequency. “Config Sync” allows the router’s WiFi configuration data to be transferred with ease to all WiFi access points (using a single SSID).

An “Airtime Fairness” feature processes the requests of faster wireless clients at a higher priority, preventing older devices – which may require more time for a download – from creating WiFi bottlenecks. Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Powerline and Mesh Wi-Fi review

Devolo Magic speed tests

As with all our Powerline and Mesh reviews, we test in a real-world environment – in this case a three-story Victorian townhouse. Remember that no one home is identical to another, so you may get faster or slower results than we do.

But rest assured that in comparing different system we should have a decent idea of which comes out as the top performer. We tested the top-of-the-range Magic 2 system. With its maximum speed of 2,400Mbps we expected great things, although in the knowledge that such theoretical speed claims (by all networking manufacturers, not just Devolo) won’t be reached in our imperfect homes, with their troublesome walls, ceilings and other electrical devices causing noise and data barriers.

First, we tested the Powerline connection at its fastest, by placing one adapter in the same room as the base Powerline adapter that is connected to the router. In our real-world test environment, we achieved an impressive speed of 456Mbps – our fastest in all Powerline tests we’ve performed so far. Next, when tested in a more realistic setup with the second adapter in a room two floors away, speed predictably dropped – here to 119Mbps. (Remember that you might well get faster than this in your own home, and we have seen reports that switching off Sonos speakers greatly improved speed, which we will check on soon.)

This was actually a little slower than previous tests we had run using TP-Link’s AV1000 Powerline Adapter Starter Kit (TL-WPA7510), where we nudged closer to 130Mbps, but the difference is minimal really and could easily be explained by the time of day when we ran the tests. That said, the Magic’s G.hn Powerline-chips didn’t blast past the older HomePlug standard as much as we had expected and that makes us wonder whether the 2,400Mbps potential is really going to make much difference in the wild. Our third test was on the Wi-Fi performance in the second room (far from the original wireless router).

In a non-Mesh trial, we achieved 104Mbps, which isn’t so far off the wired speed and noticeably faster than our previous fastest Powerline Wi-Fi (90Mbps from Devolo’s own 1200+ Starter Kit). So, the Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit performed about as well as our previous fastest Powerline winner and a little faster using its new Wi-Fi hotspot. We’ll update this review when we have our Mesh Wi-Fi test results in, compared to other such systems.

Devolo Magic vs TP-Link Powerline

The Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit costs from GBP169 for the Starter Kit with one base unit and one second-room Wi-Fi Powerline adapter with Wi-Fi.

For GBP85 the non-Mesh TP-Link TL-WPA7510KIT (two adapters, each with one Gigabit Ethernet port, one with Wi-Fi) offers comparable speeds (in our tests). It’s probably better compared to the Magic 1 WiFi at GBP129, but there’s still a price premium for the more sophisticated Mesh features. Smaller homes could probably do with just the one Wi-Fi hotspot; check for your Wi-Fi weak areas and where you need better wireless connections.

Where the Magic 1 and 2 win doesn’t appear to be straight-line Powerline performance but will succeed in homes that require more than one extra Wi-Fi hotspot, where the more advanced Mesh features should shine.

Verdict

The Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Kit is best suited for larger homes that require more than one extra Wi-Fi hotspot. Here, the top-end Mesh features (Fast Roaming, Band Steering, Config Sync, and Airtime Fairness) should ensure you get the fastest WiFi possible wherever you are in the house. Considering its top-of-the-range Powerline and Mesh features it compares well with similar Mesh systems on price.

Smaller houses can probably make do with just the one extra Wi-Fi hotspot, and there are cheaper Powerline Wi-Fi kits available that will do much the same job – see our roundup of the best Powerline starter kits.

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