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LAN & WAN Reviews

Powerline Nano500 Set
At a glance
ProductNETGEAR XAVB5101 Powerline Nano500 Set   [Website]
SummaryHomePlug AV compatible 500 Mbps powerline adapter kit based on QCA AR1500/AR7400 chipset.
Pros• Capable of > 200 Mbps maximum aggregate throughput
• Won't block adjacent duplex outlet
Cons• Runs hot
• Seems to prioritize uplink vs. downlink
• Large throughput change between locations

Typical Price: $50  Shop Amazon

Introduction

Small(er) seems to be the latest attempt to differentiate powerline adapters that are largely cut from the same cloth (or chipset). TRENDnet recently announced its TPL-406E 500 Mbps Compact Powerline AV Adapter that has a footprint smaller than 3" x 2". Actiontec has also added a similarly-sized and featured PWR500. But this review will look at NETGEAR's version of a compact 500 Mbps powerline adapter.

As its name implies, the XAVB5101 Powerline Nano 500 set includes two XAV5101 adapters, which don't appear to also be available as individual adapters. The HomePlug Certified Products database shows the individual adapter as Homeplug AV Certified and the product box displays the HomePlug AV Certification logo.

Unlike the Actiontec and TRENDnet adapters mentioned above, the XAV5101 has a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, like the larger adapters in last fall's Home AV 500 Roundup. The label on the adapter shows a 100 - 240 VAC rating, something that is not found in its website description or data sheet.

The diagram below shows the usual Power, Ethernet and Powerline lights. The "Pick-a-Plug" LED called out below means that the powerline indicator changes color to indicate link quality.

XAV5101 lights, buttons, ports

XAV5101 lights, buttons, ports

The adapter really is smaller than the now-discontinued XAV5001 that it replaces, as shown in the photo below. Both adapters are designed so that they don't block the other outlet in a duplex socket. The XAV5001 on the top measures 3.4" x 2.6" x 1.6"; the XAV5101 on the bottom is 2.6" x 2.2" x 1.7".

XAV5001 (top) and XAV5101 (bottom)

XAV5001 (top) and XAV5101 (bottom)

The small size seems to have one downside—the adapters run fairly hot. Not fry-an-egg-on-em hot. But toasty enough that you would notice.

Inside

I was able to open the adapter to take the shot below. The two halves are joined via the connectors seen at the lower left and right of each section. The half on the left holds the AC prongs, power supply and powerline interface circuitry, while the half on the right is where the powerline magic happens.

Inside the XAV5101

Inside the XAV5101

The boards are nailed down pretty tightly. But I figured I could get a chipset ID by firing up the powerline utility that came with the XAV5001 (none is available for the XAV5101). Although the NETGEAR utility detected the adapter, it identified it as "unknown".

So I tried D-Link's simpler utility that confirmed the Qualcomm/Atheros (QCA) AR1500/AR7400 powerline chipset that I suspected. While the utility didn't call it out, I suspect that a QCA AR8021 Gigabit Ethernet PHY and 16 MB of RAM are also in there somewhere, as they were in the XAV5001 and all other 500 Mbps "AV" adapters I've seen.

Because there is no utility provided, there are no settings that you can adjust. If you want to privately pair two or more adapters, you use the Security button and follow the instructions in the printed Installation Guide that comes with the set.

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