he Good The RT2600 has long range, fast Wi-Fi speed and plenty of features. The router can host more than one broadband connection, and also works as a robust network storage server More »
Our Early Verdict To build a VPN service with a customisable router appears to be a no-brainer as they both target the same audience and in this particular case, the WRT 1200AC More »
As anyone with cable internet knows companies charge a rental fee on cable modems, which most pay since they often think it is too hard to replace it with their own.
Replacing a cable modem is a easy task that most anyone one can do and save on the monthly rental fee.
The fees can range from $5-$10 dollars a month which when added up over a year or more and can add up quickly.
I recently replaced my cable modem with my ISP and the steps were simple. I had my new modem installed and running in less than 10 minutes.
Steps to Replacing Your Cable Modem
The first step is to buy a new cable modem.
DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) is the standard used by cable companies to talk to a modem.
The newest standard is DOCSIS 3.1 which was release in October 2013. Most all cable companies use DOCSIS 3.0.
DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1 are backward compatible with earlier versions.
So even if your cable company is still using the old DOCSIS 2.0 standard a new DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem will work.
I bought the ARRIS SURFboard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem.
Here it is on Amazon.
There are cheaper units if your on a budget and more expensive top-end units that come with more features such as a built-in router.
I had recently bought a new 802.11ac router so I decided on the ARRIS SURFboard since it is a good mid-range unit.
Next write down the phone number for your cable company tech support line to be able to activate the new unit.
They will need the MAC address labeled on the router to activate it once it is hooked up.
Some companies have a activation page to enter the router MAC address but calling their tech support line may be easier. Especially since you may not have a internet connection during setup.
Everything needs to be plugged in before calling in the new activation Mac address.
The cable line simply screws onto its port.
The Ethernet line goes to your router which transmits to all your devices.
After everything is plugged in call in your new Mac address to activate the new modem.
Once they have the new Mac address the new modem will be online.
The router will also need to be reset to get a new IP address.
Setting up a new cable modem is a easy task and a good way to save on cost long term.
Deciding on which modem to buy will be the hardest part since there are many available.
Depending on your internet service provider speeds a top end modem may not help with faster transfers.
For example if your speed is 50Mbps a new modem that can transfer at 500Mbps will never be maxed out and a cheaper one bought.
If you have a older router buying a combo modem/router is also a option which may help with a faster connection.
802.11ac is a WiFi protocol introduced in 2013 that has high speed data transfers.
Everyone one will have a different setup to fit their internet environment. Simply be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to see which modem is a good fit for you.
How ever your internet is setup replacing the rental fee from your provider is a good way to lower cost.
Looking for a funny or different WiFi password to mess with your neighbors, roommates, or friends we thought we would make a list of the best WiFi SSID names we have seen. Do You have a good WiFi name? Let us know in the comment below.
Long gone are the days when a wireless router was a luxury item and is now something everyone needs to keep themselves connected.
Unfortunately some routers are not good with range while other do a much better job.
Using a WiFi booster or extender is always a option and can be a good way to get the coverage you need.
Getting good range out of any router will always depend on the wireless environment it is in and barriers blocking the signal.
With that said some do a much better job than others with better technology and larger antennas. So lets take a look at two of our picks for routers that are good with distance.
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure a unit is the right fit for you.
Our Picks for Best Wireless Routers With Good Range
In most WiFi routers, the signal amplifiers are typically found on the actual motherboard of the unit. This has been the norm for quite a while, but NETGEAR decided to shake things up with the Nighthawk X8 by placing these amplifiers on top of the antennas (of which there are four for unprecedented range and coverage throughout your home).
NETGEAR calls this system “Active Antennas”, and it’s an exclusive industry first setup. By placing the WiFi amplifiers on top of the antennas, the X8 is capable of delivering a noticeably stronger and cleaner signal for all of your WiFi-connected devices.
All of this technology comes together to deliver unparalleled coverage throughout your home, no matter how big or how many stories it may have.
The Nighthawk X8 also packs in Tri-Band WiFi technology to help mitigate all of the connections your router is managing. With so many bands to take advantage of, the X8 automatically connects your device to the fastest band available at the time, which means that you get the fastest speeds possible.
Combine this with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor, makes the NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 one of our picks for the best routers with good range.
There is no doubt that the Nighthawk X8 is an extremely powerful router, but if you want to see what a high-end router will get you, look no further than the ASUS RT-AC5300.
The ASUS router doubles the amount of antennas that the NETGEAR model has for an antenna total of 8.
ASUSâ€™s 4T4R system thatâ€™s implemented into the router means that four antennas are receiving wireless signals from your devices while the other four antennas are transmitting the wireless Internet signals to your devices.
Thanks to this system, both WiFi range and signal stability are drastically improved which results in superb coverage throughout your home.
And if that wasn’t enough for you, ASUS has also bundled in their AiRadar beamforming. AiRadar helps to focus the WiFi signal from your router even more to ensure that your WiFi connection is as strong and clear as possible.
Just like the NETGEAR Nighthawk X8, the ASUS RT-AC5300 also features a Tri-Band setup. ASUS also uses a similar technology to manage which devices are connected to which bands via their Smart Connect feature.
Smart Connect scans your home network to see what kind of traffic is currently active. By analyzing your gadgets speed, load, and signal strength, Smart Connect is able to swap your connection to the AC-5300 2.4GHz, or one of the dual 5GHz bands on the fly to help deliver the best possible connection to your device.
Along with bringing you faster speeds, this system is also beneficial when working with multiple devices in a larger house.
Also present on both the NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 and the ASUS RT-AC5300 is MU-MIMO Ready technology. MU-MIMO-enabled routers are able to send compatible devices their own private full-speed WiFi connection.
Typically, when you have multiple devices connected to a router at one time, you are sharing one connection. When this happens your speeds slow down and the range of your connection decreases as more devices join your network. However, when each MU-MIMO compatible devices has its very own connection, it keeps all of your other connections fast and strong.
While it may be possible to cheap out with some tech gadgets, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to WiFi routers. It can be difficult to know exactly what to look for when it comes time to shop, and requiring one with excellent range when you have a large home can make the buying process even more difficult.
Hopefully this article will help give you have a better idea of whatâ€™s out there and what to look for when making your purchasing decision.
While there are hundreds upon hundreds of other competing routers out there, both the NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 and ASUS RT-AC5300 deliver blazing fast speeds and uncompromised range.
If youâ€™re looking to get excellent coverage throughout your house, want extremely fast speeds, but are still on a bit of a budget, I believe that the NETGEAR is one of your best options. However, if you budget allows for a bit of wiggle room and you want a router with speed, range, and some extra bells and whistles, than you may want to go with the ASUS.
At the end of the day, both of these are very comparable routers and are sure to bring excellent coverage and signal strength to your home WiFi network.
Portable travel routers where introduced a few years ago and quickly become very popular.
They can do many things depending on the scenario from sharing files to sharing a internet connection.
For example a travel router with built-in storage can stream movies or music to multiple devices in a vehicle while moving.
This helps keep passengers busy even when no cell signal can be received.
They also can be setup to quickly backup a smartphones files and stored away until you get home.
Managing wireless signals for many devices while on-the-go is also a feature most mobile routers have.
Here is Our Picks for Best Travel Routers
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure a unit is a good fit for you.
HooToo makes several nice travel routers that are very popular.
Some of the features include backing up data from a phone such as pictures wirelessly, streaming movies or music that has been copied to it, emergency charging for phones or other small electronics.
HoToo travel routers can broadcast a WiFi signal once plugged into a Ethernet cable, or be used in router mode and bridge mode.
With the many nice features HooToo offers there is no doubt many who can benefit from their low cost units.
TP-LINK also makes travel routers with the TL-WR810N being one of them.
The TL-WR810N is built mainly to connect to WiFi signals.
It has many modes it can operate in depending on the situation.
Even though it is mainly built for WiFi it has a USB port that a external drive can plug into and share files.
This means pictures can be shared or movies and music streamed from the device while moving in a car.
The is no built-in storage so a external flash drive or Hard drive will need to be used.
This small unit the Trek N300 is built by Netgear and is built to manage many different WiFi scenarios while travailing.
For example one feature is to use a single hotel/motel internet connection and allow many devices to share it at the same time.
Is can also be a WiFi bridge, extender, access point, hotspot, or basically any WiFi configuration you can think of.
There is no built-in storage with it built to manage the many WiFi scenarios a traveler can run into.
The Trek N300 is the most costly unit on our list but is built by Netgear which is a well known name in the router world.
Picking a good travel router, like any device, comes down to what is the best fit for you.
If your main goal is to stream videos to the kids than getting a unit with built in storage and expandable external storage is a good idea.
If you want to manage your WiFi signals than a unit with more wireless features the better.
How easy the device is to use should also be taken into consideration.
Prices on the units do vary along with their capability so reading the reviews and features of different units is the best way to decide on the right one.
There is a big variety of mobile WiFi hotspot devices that depends on the wireless setup being used.
Some devices use a cell phone service such a Verizon or T-mobile to create a connection to the internet.
Others use a existing wireless signal and can boost it, extend it, or even turn a wired connection into a wireless hotspot.
Lets take a look at a few of these WiFi devices.
Our Picks for Best Wireless Mobile WiFi Hotspot Devices
HooToo Wireless Travel Router, USB Port, High Performance- TripMate Nano (Not a Hotspot)
The HooToo is a portable router that has many functions.
First it can be used as a storage device to backup or share your files from your iPhone or Android. It does this by using a SD-Card or Flash drive that plugs into it. This is a plus for many iPhone users that have no way to expand storage on their phone.
It can also be used as a hotspot in two ways. A wired connection can be turned into a hotspot or a WiFi signal extended including a cell phone.
It basically boost a existing internet connection that is available and allows multiple connections.
The HooToo as many functions and is great mobile device from streaming movies to portable devices or boosting a WiFi signal.
TP-Link N150 Wireless Nano Travel Router with Range Extender/Access Point/Client/Bridge Modes (TL-WR702N)
The TP-LINK TL-WR702N is similar to the Hootoo devices and is a portable travel router.
It can create a secure WiFi hotspot from a cell phone or wired source.
It has many modes for WiFi including AP, Router, Bridge, Client and Repeater mode.
The TP-LINK TL-WR702N does many things to help with a WiFi signal depending on the need. From extending a signal to making a wired internet connection wireless.
Zte Verizon 890L 4G Lte Hotspot Modem Worldwide Use In Over 200 Countries Including Gsm Networks!
This Verizon WiFi modem can handle ten simultaneous connections.
It uses a SIM card, that must be bought in advance, the same a a Verizon cell phone.
This device may be good for those who have good Verizon cell service in their area and need a basic internet connection.
Their data plans are always changing so check their site for up-to-date information.
With the many different portable wireless setups there is not a one-size-fits all mobile hotspot device.
But with the many to choose from hopefully one will fit your setup.
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure the device is right for you.
Mobile hotspots are fantastic tools. These little gadgets grab onto networks, such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, and then send that signal out to all of our WiFi-enabled devices so we can have WiFi access virtually anywhere that those carriers have coverage.
The overall speed and performance you get out of a mobile hotspot will ultimately depend on the model and make of your hotspot, but also how strongly covered your area is from the company thatâ€™s providing the connection.
Verizon and AT&T are the two biggest players here, but Sprint and T-Mobile have also been hard at work extending the range of their own networks. However, no matter which hotspot or service provider you decide to go with, owning a mobile hotspot can be an extremely convenient little gadget to own. That is, when they work.
Just like WiFi routers, the connection and signal strength of our mobile hotspots can often been considerably slower and weaker than we would like.
We want absolutely blazing fast speeds all the time, but in reality, we frequently face slowdowns and signals that donâ€™t reach as far as weâ€™d expect.
When we run into a situation like this, what can we do?
One possible option is to use a portable router to extend the range of your mobile hotspot.
Whatâ€™s important to note here is that, when using a router to extend the range of your mobile hotspot connection, you want to make sure that itâ€™s one of the portable variants.
Portable routers are just like the routers you have connected in your home or office, except for the fact that theyâ€™re battery powered and can be used anywhere.
Keep in mind that some of the wording may be specific to the brand of portable router you purchase, but the process will essentially be the same no matter what.
Step 1 â€“ In your router menu, navigate over to the option thatâ€™s titled â€œWirelessâ€.
Step 2 â€“ Click on the option called â€œEnable WDS Bridgingâ€ (Something important to keep in mind here is that not every router supports WDS/Bridging functionality. If that happens to be the case with your current router, youâ€™ll need to purchase a different one.)
Step 3 â€“ To display all of the connections that are within your range, select â€œSurveyâ€.
Step 4 â€“ After discovering the connection of your mobile hotspot, choose it.
Step 5 â€“ Once chosen, enter the password for your mobile hotspot.
Step 6 â€“ After your password has been entered, click the â€œSaveâ€ button. From here, youâ€™ll see a messaging prompting you to select which channel you would like to use. At this point, click the option that says â€œYesâ€. This will automatically select the proper channel youâ€™ll want to use.
Step 7 â€“ Following that, disable DHCP and then restart your portable router.
Step 8 â€“ Boot up your portable router. Donâ€™t worry if it takes a while to get going or doesnâ€™t connect right away during this initial boot. You may need to restart it once more or possibly have to upgrade your routerâ€™s firmware to make sure everythingâ€™s working the way it should.
With all of these steps completed, you should now be able to further extend the range of your mobile hotspot. Keep in mind that, just like your hotspot, your portable router will also need to be charged every now and then. The TP-LINK model we mentioned in this article reported gets around 2 Â½ to 3 hours of battery life on a single charge, so if you plan to use this thing for hours on end, youâ€™ll want to make sure you keep a spare charger close by.
While thatâ€™s the primary way of extending the range of your mobile hotspot, there are a couple other ways to achieve this as well. While portable routers are great for extending the range of mobile hotspots that already have WiFi functionality built-in to them, they can also be great tools if you own a USB hotspot/modem. If you use one of these USB dongles for an Internet connection on your laptop or desktop, simply plug into the USB port of the portable hotspot and youâ€™ll have a portable WiFi router on your hands! This can be great if youâ€™ve been looking into upgrading your hotspot to one that supports WiFi, but you donâ€™t necessarily want to throw down a lot of dough that would be required for said upgrade.
As we talked about in the beginning of this article, mobile hotspots are phenomenal tools. The ability to carry around a little gadget that sends off high-speed LTE signals wherever we may be is simply wondrous. However, we also get that it can be quite frustrating when these gadgets donâ€™t work the way we expect them to. Thanks to the tips we talked about in todayâ€™s article, you now have ways to solve these problems when they arise. Portable routers are incredibly powerful, yet very underrated tools. And in the scenario we talked about today, they can be your best friend when you want to get some extra strength out of your mobile hotspot.
Going on long car trips can cause issues when there is no internet especially when one person has a movie/song file another wants to hear or watch.
Mass storing all your media files and then having your own traveling portable WiFi that shares all the data to any device is possible on the cheap.
These devices have different names such as portable router, traveling router, mobile router and so on.
Whatever name they go by the main thing to look for of any router that can share files in a vehicle, is its compatibility with multiple devices, storage capacity, and charge time.
Some of these mobile routers have many other features such as connecting to your home files when a internet connection is available, or even a VPN that secures your connection.
Everyone will have a different needs from a portable router such as someone traveling with children, streaming their own movies to their own devices can easily be done.
Someone who travels a lot for business may want more storage for data, access to home data, and security such as a VPN while doing so.
One size mobile router doesn’t fit all so lets look at our picks for best portable routers.
As always be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure a unit is a good fit for you.
Our Picks for Best Portable WiFi Routers
TripMate makes many different styles of portable routers. The Titan is a follow up to their poplar Nano unit.
The Titan is a good router to add sharing data to a moving vehicle via mobile WiFi. It shares data by using a USB flash drive or Mirco Sdcard. It can also share WiFi in a hotel, secure communications, and connect to your home files.
TP-LINK also has a few different portable routers available each with different features.
The TL-WR802N is a wireless-N unit that has a transfer rate of up-to 300Mbps.
A USB drive can be plugged into it allowing for multiple streams of music or videos to anyone in the car. If you have all your media on a computer at home they can be easily transfer to a external hard drive or flash drive and after plugging into the TL-WR802N shared with any one with-in range. It also can support Router, AP, Client, Repeater and WISP.
It is a low cost unit that has many features that many will find useful.
This portable router has many features but its main feature is to share a 3G/4G mobile connection and boost the signal.
This small device from Netgear is built to boost a WiFi signal in a variety of ways. Router mode, which turns an Ethernet connection into a private WiFi hotspot network. Extender mode which extends a WiFi signal. It also has Hotspot mode and Bridge mode.
These days the internet is a must have for any households and having control over a router to manage WiFi is a nice option.
A router can be setup in many ways to control a internet connection, from shutting it off to setting time limits.
If your a tech savvy person then your router may already have some features built-in which can be setup to manage WiFi in a home.
If your router does not have many management options, then there are several options that can help setup a wireless network with parental controls.
Our Picks for Best Kids Safe WiFi Routers with Parental Controls
The HomeHalo router comes with an app for easy management and control.
Some features include, setting time limits, blocking adult sites, and homework mode.
From blocking sites to controlling when the internet is to be used the HomeHalo has many nice features.
It comes with two external antennas for better range and communicating with multiple devices.
The back has 4 Ethernet ports if needed along with a Wlan Ethernet port that plugs into your internet modem.
The app that is included comes with a lot of options to make changes on the fly.
KoalaSafe is a small device that works with a app to control internet web sites access and usage.
It is small and seems more like a wireless access point than a router.
While it could be used as the main router is is best to use the KoalaSafe as a second kid safe router.
Using the main router for adults with a set password the KoalaSafe can plug into it and than be controlled by a parent.
This unit is a Cloud based solution that allows control from anywhere.
Features include, advanced filtering, scheduling, and pause the internet.
These days having control over your home WiFi network can be important especially when it comes to children.
There are a few ways to help manage the content they see from software blockers on their devices to child safe routers.
Time limits can be set so home work gets done or depending on the router blocking entire websites.
One thing to watch for is if a unit has a monthly fee to get certain features. Sometimes fees are added to be able to do some things which varies from manufacture-to-manufacture.
What fits one home may not fit another, so be sure to read the reviews on Amazon or elsewhere to be sure a unit is a good fit for you.
Powerline is a simple-to-install digital home technology that gets you faster speeds than Wi-Fi for connecting devices to your network, regardless of whether or not they’re in the same room as your router. It uses your home’s power lines to create a network that’s faster than Wi-Fi, and can create new Wi-Fi hotspots to boost your home’s wireless speeds.
Powerline adapters are usually a better bet than mere Wi-Fi extenders or repeaters that merely push an already weak signal further around a house.
Simply plug one powerline adapter into a power socket near your router and attach it to the router with an ethernet cable (usually supplied with the adapter kit). Then go to the room where you want to hook up a device, plug the second adapter into a nearby power socket, and connect another ethernet cable from that to the device you want to get online.
That’s it. It really is plug and play.
Some powerline adapters also have wireless functionality so they create a new Wi-Fi hotspot in that second room, too – so you get much faster Wi-Fi for your laptop, smartphone or tablet.
You should also consider adapters that have an integrated “pass-through” power socket and therefore don’t take up a valuable wall socket.
The cheapest powerline adapters are usually rated at 200Mbps, the middle-performing are around 500Mbps, and the fastest can go as high as 2,000Mbps.
You won’t actually achieve these speeds as they’re theoretical maximums, but they’re an easy way to gauge which models are fastest.
PC Advisor actually speed tests powerline adapters in real-world environments so check out our list below for our group test results and recommendations, along with links to our full reviews for speed scores and feature explanations.
For more information on powerline speed myths, tips and recommendations read our powerline FAQ.
Powerline adapter reviews
TP-Link AV2000 2-Port Gigabit Passthrough Powerline
- Reviewed on: 14 July 16
- RRP: £99.99, US$119.99
We were impressed by the real-world performance of the TP-Link AV2000 (TL-PA9020P KIT), which scored as high as we’ve seen in our tests. The inclusion of pass-through sockets and two Gigabit Ethernet ports per adapter are also welcomed. There’s no extra Wi-Fi hotspot function but if your house Wi-Fi is acceptable this isn’t the worst omission. If you want a fast Powerline starter kit with more than one Ethernet port plus pass-through this is highly recommended.
TrendNet Powerline 500AV2 Adapter Kit
- Reviewed on: 5 July 15
- RRP: £48, US$59.99
The TrendNet Powerline 500 AV2 Adapter Kit features some of the fastest Powerline adapters we’ve tested so far, and the Wireless Access Point option adds super-fast Wi-Fi for good measure. Of course we like the speed, which is the whole point of Powerline, but we were also impressed that the standard adapter had Gigabit Ethernet – although more than one port per adapter would have been nice. It might be basic in its single port and lack of pass-through socket and it’s a shame that the Wireless adapter kit, which does have two ports, is limited by the use of 10/100 Ethernet but you simply can’t argue with the impressive speed scores and we’ve seen the Wireless Starter Kit sell for under £50 so is incredibly good value.
TP-LINK AV1200 Gigabit Powerline Adapter
- Reviewed on: 14 July 16
- RRP: £79.99, US$96.99
The TP-Link AV1200 Gigabit Powerline Adapter Starter Kits (TL-PA8010 KIT, TL-PA8010P KIT, TL-PA8030P KIT, or TL-WPA8630P KIT) match their rival Gigabit Powerline adapter sets in our real-world speed tests. We prefer the only slightly more expensive TL-PA8030P as it boasts three Gigabit Ethernet ports, compared to the TL-PA8010P’s single port adapters. If your house suffers from weak Wi-Fi consider the WPA8630P that includes functionality to add a new Wi-Fi hotspot in your house. If your Wi-Fi signal is acceptable you can live without a new hotspot, and the TL-PA8030P especially represents great Powerline value.
Solwise SmartLink 1200AV2 HomePlug Powerline Adapter
- Reviewed on: 10 January 15
- RRP: £40.49 per adapter; £80.98 for required two
The Solwise SmartLink PL1200AV2 Passthrough PIGGY (why PIGGY??) HomePlug Adapter might have an over-long name but it is one of the fastest Powerline adapters we’ve ever tested. In a straight fight with its nearest competitor, the better-looking but bigger Devolo 1200+, it aced the speed tests by a whisker. It features two Gigabit Ethernet ports and a Passthrough socket just like the Devolo, but is a third cheaper. There’s no Wi-Fi model but pound for pound it’s hard to fault this super-speedy Powerline adapter. Don’t forget that you need two to make a network, and can add extra if you want to network other rooms, too.
Devolo 1200+ Powerline Adapter
- Reviewed on: 12 December 14
- RRP: £119.99
The Devolo dLan 1200+ is one of the fastest Powerline adapters we’ve tested to date. It might not reach the dizzying speeds that it claims, but that’s true of all Powerline adapters out there. Its integrated electrical pass-through power socket is a real bonus, and the model with Wi-Fi and two Gigabit Ethernet ports on the second unit, if a little pricy, pretty much has it all.
Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender
- Reviewed on: 5 September 16
- RRP: £159.99
The Asus PL-AC56 AV2 1200 Wi-Fi Powerline Extender performed well in our real-world wired speed tests, but less so from a Wi-Fi point of view despite its unique external antennae that suggested it would be a wireless champ; Asus claims they will improve signal strength at greater distances than adapters with built-in antennae. This second adapter is also pretty large and therefore is less discreet than most adapters we’ve tested. At £156 the PL-AC56 is expensive (about the same as the Devolo 1200+ Wi-Fi but more than the TP-Link WPA8630P), but does boast all the bells and whistles (three Gigabit Ethernet ports, Wi-Fi, and a pass-through socket on the base adapter) of the latest 1200-rated Powerline starter kits, and so suits the top-end networking market well.
Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ Starter Kit
- Reviewed on: 21 November 13
- RRP: £129
This Devolo powerline/wireless system is simple to set up – real plug and play. The best-case speeds reached over powerline were far from the claimed 500Mbps, but this is true of all powerline adaptors as much as Wi-Fi underperformance. The speed of this device will in part be determined by the unique wiring of your house, but our tests prove that speeds will likely be at least three times what you’d expect of your standard Wi-Fi when a few rooms from your router. The Devolo dLAN 500AV Wireless+ will be of particular use if you want to hardwire more than one ethernet-enabled device such as TV or Sky+ box, as it boasts three ethernet ports. Its wireless function means we still prefer the 500AV to the newer and faster 650+ Powerlines from Devolo.
TP-Link AV500 Passthrough Powerline WiFi kit
- Reviewed on: 13 December 14
- RRP: £89.99
The TP-Link AV500 Passthrough Powerline WiFi kit is a nicely priced, and speedy set of fully featured Powerline adapters. We like the number of Ethernet ports, integrated power socket and Wi-Fi hotspot. Our only word of warning is that these aren’t best designed for houses with low to the floor power sockets because of the placement of the second adapter’s Ethernet ports. Otherwise it’s a good choice.
Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221)
- Reviewed on: 5 July 15
- RRP: £29.99
While it lacks certain handy functions, such as the ability to add a new Wi-Fi hotspot, as well as features (more than one Ethernet port per adapter, for instance, and a Passthrough socket) the Netgear Powerline 500 (XAVB5221) is inexpensive, simple to set up, and performs adequately for most home uses. If you want faster speeds and all the bells and whistles look elsewhere, but we rate this starter kit as great value.
D-Link AV2 1000 HD Powerline adapters
- Reviewed on: 20 August 15
- RRP: £45
Both the D-Link AV 500 HD Mini and D-Link AV2 1000 HD Powerline adapters are well built, and discreet – you’ll hardly notice them. The AV 500 adapters were a little slow in our tests but about acceptable for most needs – and they are super tiny! The AV2 1000 HD adapters are a bit larger but were blazingly fast when tested, even beating a 1,200Mbps set of Powerline adapters! You don’t get extra Wi-Fi or pass-through power sockets but at these prices the D-Link Powerline adapters are great value, and will certainly speed up your home network.
ZyXel HD Powerline Adapter 500Mbps
- Reviewed on: 22 November 13
- RRP: £35.33
The ZyXel HD Powerline Adapter 500Mbps is a great-value set of Powerline adapters that performed excellently in our real-world speed tests. It’s the smallest Powerline adapter we’ve seen, and will blend into any home environment. It lacks Wi-Fi and has only one ethernet port on each adapter but it’s a real bargain that performs well.
Netgear PowerLINE WiFi 1000
- Reviewed on: 15 November 16
- RRP: £99.99, US$99.99
The Netgear PowerLINE WiFi 1000 lacks multiple Ethernet ports on each adapter and doesn’t have handy pass-through power sockets. But it performed well in our real-world speed tests, especially with its second-room new WiFi hotspot. The base unit is nicely compact, and the second adapter looks the part with its two antennae. The price is reasonable for a Powerline with extra WiFi, but you can get cheaper (but not quite as fast) with a 500Mbps Powerline. If you don’t need more than one Ethernet port per adapter but do want to improve your house WiFi speeds the Netgear PowerLINE WiFi 1000 is certainly worth considering.
Trendnet Powerline 1200 AV2 Adapter Kit (TPL-420E2K, TPL-421E2K)
- Reviewed on: 7 November 15
- RRP: £79.99, From US$59.99
Powerlines create fast home networks with the minimum of fuss, and the Trendnet Powerline 1200 AV2 Adapter Kit is one of the fastest we’ve tested. It is rather limited by its no-frills features, though: one Ethernet port per adapter and lack of wireless, but if you want just the basics at top speeds you will surely love this Powerline kit. It is available in two model: the entry-level TPL-420E2K, and the slightly larger TPL-421E2K, which features the handy pass-through sockets on each adapter.
Netgear Powerline 1200 (PL1200 and PLP1200)
- Reviewed on: 5 July 15
- RRP: £69.99, From US$79.99
Powerline adapters are brilliant for making fast and simple home networks, and the Netgear Powerline 1200 models passed our speed and set up tests with ease. Of the two models we think paying extra for the PLP1200 with PassThrough sockets is worth the additional expense compared to the cheaper PL1200. Sadly both are rather limited by their no-frills features, though: one Ethernet port per adapter and lack of wireless mean these are relatively basic but will still make a huge difference to your home network and PC/entertainment download speeds.
BT Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 500 Kit
- Reviewed on: 15 April 15
- RRP: £59.99
The BT Wi-Fi Home Hotspot 500 Kit performs brilliantly, offering the some of the fastest Powerline speeds over ethernet and Wi-Fi in our tests. There are faster 1,200Mbps-rated Powerline kits out there, but this is near the top of the 500Mbps-rated Adapter charts. It’s simple to install, is up and running in minutes, and both models offer two (non-Gigabit) Ethernet ports. Our only problem with it is its bulk and obtrusive black design (bachelor pad, anyone?), which may not appeal in your living room. The dinkier BT Mini Home Hotspot 500 Kit is much smaller but still black.
TP-LINK 300Mbps AV500 WiFi Powerline Extender
- Reviewed on: 22 April 15
- RRP: £89.99
The TP-Link 300Mbps AV500 WiFi Powerline Extender is one of the fastest sets of Powerline adapters we tested. It’s not too big but offers both Wi-Fi and more than one Ethernet port, which is good for the prices we’ve seen it on sale for online.
Devolo dLAN 550 Wifi
- Reviewed on: 16 November 16
- RRP: £99.99, US$129.95
The £99 dLAN 550 WiFi and £109 550+ WiFi add speed and range, plus a pass-through socket, to the older dLAN 500. In real-world tests they proved to be fast, and not so far off the top-of-the-range 1200+ model (£159). Adding a second Wi-Fi hotspot in your home is a welcome addition to the much faster wired speeds you’ll enjoy when downloading HD movies or playing games over the Internet. It isn’t at the cheap end of Powerline, though. If you can find it cheaper online, then it becomes a more compelling purchase. Also consider the less expensive £69 dLAN 550 duo+ Starter kit, which omits the extra Wi-Fi but boasts dual Ethernet ports and pass-through sockets on both adapters.
Devolo dLAN 500 WiFi Network Kit
- Reviewed on: 21 November 13
- RRP: £79.99
The Devolo dLAN 500 WiFi Network Kit is marketed as user friendly, and it’s certainly that. Set up is simplicity itself, and you’ll be up and running in minutes. The adaptors are unobtrusive and fit in well with the look of most homes. The Wi-Fi function is a real boon – doubling the Wi-Fi signal in our test house. The app and parental controls are also worthwhile features. While we never expected 500Mbps speeds the Devolo dLAN 500 WiFi wasn’t the fastest Powerline system we tested but it should be fast enough for most purposes. You can buy one set with the base unit plus one adapter for £79.99 or another with the base unit plus two adaptors for £124.99.
NAS drives are like cloud storage: you can access all your files from anywhere, both inside and outside of your home or office. You can use them to store and play your music and video collections, as well as documents and other files.
NAS drive buyer’s guide
NAS stands for Network Attached Storage and as the name suggests it enables you to have a large amount of storage connected directly to your broadband router. This storage is therefore available to all your devices.
NAS drives are designed to be turned on permanently, which means you can have access to your music, movies, photos and documents at all times. Most have timers so you can set them to turn on and off during the hours you want.
One of the most popular reasons to buy an NAS drive is for media playback. Videos can be viewed on your TV, without having to connect a computer.
An NAS drive will use much less power than a regular PC, too, making it much cheaper to run. For ease of setup and ease of use, a dedicated NAS drive is hard to beat.
So what should you look for when choosing one to buy?
The first requirement is capacity. You’ll need one that has enough storage to meet your needs now and in the future. Plenty of NAS drives come with no disks at all – these are known as diskless or bare drives. The advantage is that you can choose the drives you want and how much capacity you need.
You can now get disks up to 10TB is size, though for you’ll be paying at least £400 or so for the privilege. 4TB disks are arguably the current sweet spot, at around £120.
Disks for NAS drives
When you choose your disks, look for ones that have been designed to work specifically with NAS boxes. NAS-optimised features include more secure construction providing more resistance to vibration, which makes a lot of sense for a drive that’s designed to be on the whole time. They also offer power management so they can adjust performance based on their temperature.
These drives also offer special features in firmware known by WD as TLER (Time-Limited Error Recovery) and by Samsung and Hitachi as command completion time limit (CCTL). This optimises the error correction for drives when they are installed in a RAID array (explained below) as is usually the case with NAS drives.
RAID stands for redundant array of inexpensive disks. RAID can be quite complex but at a basic level you’ll want to use it primarily to provide redundancy so if a disk fails your data is still safe. There are many variants but three of the most popular are known as RAID 1, RAID 5, and RAID 6.
Most NAS drives will offer at least two bays, which means that you can set them up as RAID 1. In this scenario the second drive is a mirror of the first, so if one drive fails completely all your data is safe on the other. You can then replace the faulty disk, and rebuild the RAID array (this will take many hours).
RAID 5 requires at least three drives and offers parity data. That means a RAID 5 array can withstand a single drive failure without losing data or access to data. As data is ‘striped’ across three drives, reads are fast, but at the expensive of slower writes because of having to also write the parity data.
RAID 6 meanwhile requires four drives but offers both striped and dual parity, so two drives could fail and the RAID could still recover.
Whichever you choose however, don’t consider RAID to be your only backup of your data. First, you’re relying on the RAID array rebuilding successfully, and while from experience we know that it does work, it is another point of failure.
If the box just dies, or if something catastrophic happens like a fire, you’ll still lose all your data. To mitigate this you’ll want another external backup, preferably to the cloud. Most NAS drives offer native applications for certain providers, but these will require subscription to the service and will not necessarily be from your preferred one.
Another feature to look out for is hot-swap capability, which enables you to take out or add a drive without having to power down first, which could be important if you’re running business applications off your NAS and want to maintain uptime when replacing or adding a drive.
You should also consider whether you’ll need remote access to the drive. Previously this required signing up to a third-party DNS service, but these days with most NAS drives you can just sign up for an account with the manufacturer as you set up the drive. Login to the account and they’ll handle the connectivity to your box at home. If privacy is a concern you many not wish to go down this route, but for ease of use it’s the way to go.
It’s also worth considering how powerful you need your NAS’s processor to be. The dedicated operating systems that NAS drives run are lightweight, but a faster processor and more memory will enable features such as transcoding.
This means that any media files will be converted on the fly into a playable format, so you don’t have to rely on your client device being able to play the files smoothly. For example, HEVC H.265 files are becoming popular due to the small file sizes, but devices (aside from the latest 4K TVs) that can play this back natively are still uncommon.
Transcoding will deal with this for you if your NAS is powerful enough. However, if you have 4K files and want to play these on all your devices you’ll need a fast NAS.
Finally, you might want to consider to what use you’ll be putting your NAS. As well as media a small business user will want to know what applications it has to offer, such as setting it up as an email server, a VPN server, or using it to host a website.
Best NAS drives to buy in 2017
Synology 216+II NAS
- Reviewed on: 29 December 16
- RRP: £231.99, US$334
All-in-all the 216+II NAS matched up to our expectations from Synology and will be a very good choice for home or small business use. If you aren’t confident about installing hard disks, then this is the box to get as it’s easy and doesn’t require tools. There’s a huge range of applications to choose from the processor SoC offers plenty of horsepower to run them on too and it all runs quietly. With its fantastically easy installation, setup, app support and general ease of use the Synology is a very solid choice. However, if you like the idea of direct hook up via HDMI you may be swayed by the slightly pricier QNAP TS-251A.
- Reviewed on: 27 December 16
- RRP: £239.99, US$250.99
We liked the Asustor AS1004T for its ease of installation, it’s relatively quiet operation in normal use and its decent performance. It isn’t fast enough for hardware transcoding though, so you’ll need native support for all your files on all your client devices. Where it trumps the completion is that if offer a four-bay chassis where others at a similar price offer only two. If storage rather than performance is the priority then, it’s a great choice and while the ADM interface isn’t as accomplished looking as some of its rivals it’s got the apps you’ll likely need.
QNAP TS 251A
- Reviewed on: 30 December 16
- RRP: £249.99
The QNAP is an undoubtedly impressive NAS drive. There’s plenty of power for virtually all tasks, and H.265 aside it will handle anything you throw at it. The range of apps is very comprehensive and the interface is excellent. The downside is the lack of support for MKV from its native app, which will mean having to pay for Plex to play files on mobile devices. The unit was also noisier than we would have liked in operation and while it’s good value – it’s not cheap. If you’re willing to stretch to paying this much for a diskless system, the QNAP TS-251A is the best featured NAS drive at the price.
WD My Cloud Mirror 4TB
- Reviewed on: 2 January 17
- RRP: £239.99
When it comes to ease of use the WE My Cloud Mirror is hard to beat. Initial setup is very easy and even sorting our remote access is simple too. For sharing music, movies, photos and documents it works a treat and performance is fine. The downside is that you don’t get the huge range of apps that are available for other brands. However, if you prioritise ease of set up and ease of use the WD is worth looking at and with 4 TB of storage included for the price, it’s a great value option.
- Reviewed on: 18 December 14
- RRP: £78
Synology has made headlines with its new cut-price DS115j, and its recommended retail price of just £78. The performance has also been cut, along with useful features like USB 3.0, but if you need these the DS114 is still in the range for around £140. And if you really would rather not spend that, the cheaper DS115j will take on basic storage tasks, and still perform faster than some more expensive competition.
Netgear ReadyNAS RN212
- Reviewed on: 28 December 16
- RRP: £250.98
The Netgear’s physical design and is very impressive, but we were troubled by issues that meant it lacked the appeal of drives we’ve tested from QNAP and Synology. Not all disks can be installed in a tool-less fashion and the interface for installing and using apps isn’t the best we’ve seen, not is the range of choices. Performance is good, but the ARM processor doesn’t quite have chops to handle 4K transcoding. It’s a good NAS, but it would need to be cheaper for us to recommend it over the competition.
Synology DiskStation DS216play
- Reviewed on: 16 December 15
- RRP: £190, US$299.99
The 216play will likely be a disappointment to 214play owners wondering about an upgrade. It makes sense only if you have – or will soon have – lots of 4K content that you need to transcode on the fly. Its performance is good, but if you don’t need real-time transcoding, you may want to opt for a different DiskStation (or indeed another NAS entirely) which has the extra ports and SD slot which the 216play lacks.
- Reviewed on: 20 October 14
- RRP: £267, US$289
The Synology DS414j may not be the most glamorous of NAS drives, if indeed there is a candidate leader, but it is well-made and packs just enough power to not embarrass itself in basic benchmark tests for its file-serving speed. That it runs the same carefully wrought and versatile operating system as its dearer brethren is a definite plus, making it suitable for small-scale business use as well as being turned to home entertainment duties.
Synology DS415play NAS
- Reviewed on: 15 July 14
- RRP: £372
Synology’s RRP for the DS415play is £372 and at that price or the inevitably lower real shop prices the company should have a winner on its hands. The competing QNAP TS-469L is faster and has better specifications but is over £100 more expensive. When you combine the performance, price and the siren-like draw of DSM 5.0 this could be a crowd pleaser for the multimedia NAS market.
WD My Cloud EX2
- Reviewed on: 20 June 14
- RRP: £479
The WD My Cloud EX2 has a few minor faults, but it’s easy to use and provides good performance and reliability at an attractive price. There are more sophisticated NAS drives available for larger businesses, but the EX2 provides all the features that home users and small businesses are likely to need, and presents them in a straightforward manner that will appeal to people who might not have used a NAS drive before.