What is the Devolo WiFi ac Repeater?
The Devolo WiFi ac Repeater (£49/$74) is a fairly inexpensive device for removing those nasty WiFi black spots that most homes seem to be plagued with. It offers speeds up to 1200Mbps with dual band 802.11ac, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a range of easy setup options including WPS. If you’ve already tried Powerline Adapters and find you just can’t get on with them due to old house wiring or interference, then a WiFi Repeater is probably the next easiest device to try and solve those network issues.
There is nothing worse than trying to stream a film, only for it to start buffering at the crucial moment. If you happen to live in a house that appears to have been purposely built to defeat even the strongest of WiFi connections or just want to increase coverage to another room, then the Devolo WiFi ac Repeater could be for you. We’ve reviewed several WiFi repeaters in the past and found whilst they do extend coverage, the speed is not really anything to write home about. So read on to see how this new device with its claimed increase to 1200Mbps speeds gets on in our tests…
Design and Connections
If you’ve seen any of Devolo’s Powerline Adapters that we have reviewed in the past, then the overall design will not be unfamiliar to you. It’s an all-white design with a hard plastic shell and rounded corners. It’s basic yet functional, but it isn’t designed to be looked at, it’s designed to be plugged in and left to do its magic. It features a single Gigabit Ethernet port to the bottom and the WPS button is to the front. It’s very compact in size too measuring just 91 x 59 x 38mm and won’t obscure a neighbouring socket in a double wall outlet.
Also to the front of the device are an array of 5 LED lights. Rather than going for the usual easy to follow layout such as one LED for indicating the WiFi is working, one for Ethernet etc, Devolo appear to have devised a fairly confusing layout which, until you’ve carefully consulted the manual, does make it hard work.
The bottom LED will light up steady or flash depending on whether the device is starting up, being configured or has no connection, then it will also flash quickly if being configured by WPS. The instructions state that ‘Depending on the signal strength, up to 5 LED indicators of the WiFi wave symbol light up. Three illuminated LED indicators are indicative of an optimal location for the devolo WiFi Repeater ac’. Which is confusing in itself as it appears to say that if you have 5 LEDs lit up then you have the best connection, but then says that just three indicate optimal. Then finally if you have it set up as an access point rather than a repeater, all 5 of the LEDs should be lit. As you can hopefully gather from the above, not the easiest of layouts to understand.
There is no reset button either, that is activated by holding the WPS button for more than 10 seconds. Holding it for 3-9 seconds is to connect it to your router and 1-3 seconds for connecting to a mobile device, so again not the easiest of systems.
Is it easy to setup?
As with the Powerline Adapters that offer a setup that couldn’t be made any easier, this WiFi repeater does offer a fairly easy installation, although it does require some configuring if you choose not to use WPS. To install using WPS you simply plug it in near to your router, press the WPS button for 3-9 seconds (but not 10 as that will reset the repeater!), then press the WPS button on your router. Within 2 minutes, once the LEDs have stopped going bananas and remained steady, the repeater is ready for use. You can then unplug it and position it in your ideal location to improve the WiFi coverage.
If WPS is a mystery to you, then you can configure it via a web browser by firstly connecting to the WiFi access point of the repeater and follow the very easy setup guide which basically involves finding your main WiFi signal and connecting to it. The web browser setup does appear slightly temperamental as it would not work via our iPad at all and took some persuading on our Android phone before the connection was made to the repeater.
If you don’t care for your main WiFi signal to be repeated, then you can via the same setup guide configure it as an access point, although bizarrely there seems to be no way to actually connect that access point to your existing network. This is not mentioned in the instructions, nor does the setup guide give any indication as to how you would do that. You simply choose access point mode, it reboots, you then choose the access point name and password and that’s it. No actual way of connecting the new access point to your router. Very strange.
Once it’s all setup there are several settings available via the web browser based system (http://devolo.wifi) such as changing the WiFi channel, setting up a DNS address, static IP, updating Firmware and even an option to turn off the array of confusing LED lights. When choosing the best location for the repeater, remember that it needs a strong connection to start with to then repeat to a different location, if the WiFi signal is poor in a particular area where you place the repeater, then you may have a 5 bar connection to that repeater but the actual internet connection won’t be any faster.
How do we test?
The testing is carried out in a standard 4 bed detached house. The router is a BT HomeHub5 (located on the ground floor), connected via Gigabit Ethernet to a PC at one end, then with a laptop using 802.11ac WiFi to the Devolo WiFi ac Repeater at the other end. We use a program called LANSpeedTest by Totusoft which is a simple but powerful tool for measuring Local Area Network (LAN) speeds. It does this by building a file in memory, then transfers it both ways (without the effects of Windows file caching) while keeping track of the time, and then does the calculations for you. This gives us the results of transferring files from our main PC to the Laptop via the WiFi repeater.
For a baseline we carried out three tests shown below using LANSpeedTest in two locations with our laptop connected to our existing wireless network. Then we carried out further tests with the laptop placed 9 metres from the router on the same floor and also 6 meters away on a different floor with the repeater positioned roughly halfway between the router and our laptop. We also then tested using a wired connection to the repeater’s Gigabit Ethernet port.
Whilst this Devolo WiFi ac repeater was not too much trouble to setup, the speed test results we received were very disappointing. In location 1 via the repeater’s WiFi the speeds were slower than our router’s WiFi, although connecting via the Ethernet port did see much improved speeds. In location 1 the repeater did at least give us a connection where before none was found, albeit a very slow one, with increased speeds again seen via the Ethernet port. The wired tests show that the repeater is receiving a reasonable speed, it just isn’t repeating that speed very well via WiFi. It all makes the claims of ‘speeds up to 1200Mbps’ on the box rather amusing.
- Small and compact design
- Simple one touch WPS setup
- Confusing LED lights
- Slow speeds
- Access point mode doesn’t connect to router
With a RRP of £49.99/$75 and features such as the 802.11ac dual band WiFi and compact design, it does offer a very simple way of increasing WiFi coverage in your home. It does also look reasonably cost effective when compared to the likes of Powerline Adapters that include WiFi access points. Unfortunately, the overall performance was disappointing. Back in Nov 2014 we reviewed Netgear’s £35/$52 WN3000RP which was a basic 300Mbps WiFi repeater and the speeds received then were in some cases better than we received here with the Devolo repeater. The Netgear repeater is now available for just £24/$36.
Whilst 802.11ac WiFi and claims of up to 1200Mbps are all well and good, WiFi repeaters by their very nature are never going to offer fantastic speeds, especially if your house likes to eat WiFi signals anyway. Granted, it did give us a connection in an area where none had been possible previously but it was extremely slow. The Wired speeds did show some promise, so if your aim is to add a wired connection for a games console for example with the bonus of increased WiFi coverage, then this Devolo WiFi ac Repeater does do that.
What is the competition?
As we’ve stated, based on our tests Netgear’s now £24/$36 WN3000RP is as good as any competition for the Devolo repeater. The repeater market is very crowded and there are many alternatives starting at just £20/$30 for a basic device. The closest example of a repeater with similar specifications to Devolo’s repeater is the TP-LINK RE355 which offers the same 1200Mbps speed claims and comes in at £43/$64, although this is a device we have not reviewed. We had high hopes for the Devolo WiFi ac Repeater but unfortunately the speeds we received were frankly just not very good.