Manufacturer: Netgear UK Price (as reviewed):£92.87 (inc VAT) US Price as reviewed):$129.99 (ex Tax)
Powerline network adapters are ten a penny these days but here with a new twist on the idea is Netgear with its Powerline Music Extender XAUB2511. As the name suggests, its key feature is an ability to add network audio support to your home AV system, which it does via a USB connection. But that's not the only trick up its sleeve: it can also turn a standard USB printer into a network printer and a USB storage device into a basic NAS. All this and it performs that core duty of using your home's mains cabling to make a network.
Before we get into the detail of those features, though, let's take a closer look at the adapters themselves. Out of the box these look like (m)any other Powerline products with a tough, white plastic shell adorned with the minimum of branding – they're simple and functional. However, straight away there's one peculiarity, which is that the two devices are different shapes and sizes. The extra height of the unit that contains the USB socket (the eponymous XAUB2511) is understandable but that it's less deep, uses different logos and is arranged with the connectivity above rather than below the mains plug (at least on this UK version) seems a bit odd. But, of course, once setup it's of little consequence.
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These are pass-through adapters that include a mains socket on the front, so they don't use up a power socket – an important point as we'll see later. This outlet is rated at a full 13A so can be used for all normal household appliances. It does, however, make both units quite large with the taller XAU2511 having dimensions of 112 x 74 x 45mm and the shorter, fatter XAV1601 being 105 x 58 x 41mm. Crucially, though, neither is so big as to cover neighbouring plug sockets (again, we're talking UK sockets here).
The smaller XAV1601 is simply a standard Powerline adapter included with the XAUB2511 to make up the other end of the mains-power-cable-traversing Powerline network connection. It has a single Fast (100Mbps) Ethernet socket, Factory Reset button and Security button on its bottom edge, and a trio of LEDs on its front. These indicate (from top to bottom) power, communication with your home network, and communication with the XUAB2511. The Security button is for setting up a secure network: press the buttons on each Powerline adapter within a set period to connect them using 128-bit AES encryption.
Meanwhile the XUAB2511, as mentioned, has its Ethernet port on the top edge, along with a USB port and “Device On/Off” switch. The latter is for disabling all but the power pass-through of the adapter in order to save a bit of power.
As for the USB socket, it can be used with the included USB audio cable that converts the digital audio output to analogue, ready to plug straight into a Hi-Fi or TV. The cable includes both RCA and 3.5mm jack sockets so should be ready to go with most typical AV setups. The USB socket also supports other standard USB audio adapters as well as USB speakers, which is both convenient and allows you to upgrade the audio quality.
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This USB port can also be used in conjunction with standard USB printers to make them network ready and likewise can share the data on any USB storage device that's plugged in. There is one glaring issue with this multi-talented approach though, which is that you can only do one of these things at once. You could conceivably swap what is plugged in depending on demand (certainly when it comes to the occasional use most printers get this makes sense) but it seems a tad too inconvenient to consider this device a true multi-tasker.
Finishing off looking at the XUAB2511's connectivity, it has the same Security and Reset buttons as the XAV1601 but here they run down its left side. On the front there is no network activity indicator, which is a little odd, but there is one for the Powerline connection and power.
XUA2511 Dimensions (mm) 112 x 74 x 45 (W x D x H)
XAV1601 Dimensions (mm) 105 x 58 x 41 (W x D x H)
Powerline standard 200Mbps Powerline AV
Ports 1 x 10/100 Ethernet
Warranty 2 years
Extras USB audio, USB printer, USB storage sharing