Devolo Gigagate

Getting better signal strength and improving network speed is an intricate and sometimes difficult art. Wi-Fi black spots affect just about every home, often in the most inconvenient places – and since cable placement is usually at the whim of our internet providers, moving a router to a central point in the home often isn't an option.

Mesh Wi-Fi is here to save us all, of course. Google Wifi, Netgear Orbi, Eero, the list goes on, and will only keep getting longer. 

Mesh consists of a bunch of modules beaming signal between each other, smothering your home with delicious signal – but mesh isn't the only option. Devolo's Gigagate is a more traditional bridge network adapter – indeed, it shows up on your network as a HomePlug device. Plug its base unit into your router, pop another one somewhere in your home, and the second (or third, fourth or even eighth) unit acts as a router in its own right.

Price and availability

US and Australian readers, look away now: there's no way of picking up the German-engineered Gigagate in your part of the world unless you bring it in from overseas.

In the UK it's available from a host of reputable retailers at an MSRP of £219.99, potentially a lot less if you shop around, but that's a hefty outlay not even considering import fees.

That's not to say it won't hit further reaches in time, as other Devolo products have, but you'll need to pay in excess of $290 / AU$375 to get hold of the two-unit base set internationally for now. Since it's extendable, an extra satellite unit or two might be attractive; these go for a similarly steep £129 ($173 / AU$220).

Compared to a powerline solution that's big money, but next to a two-unit Google Wifi setup (£229) it's not so bad – although you'll still want a Wifi router next to the base unit, as it doesn't broadcast on its own.

Design and setup

Like the powerline network adapters the Gigagate is angled to replace, setting up the Gigagate is absolute simplicity. Plug each unit in, with the base wired to your router, and they find each other automatically. 

The satellite units have WPS for simplified connectivity, although it's not quite as simple as a mesh setup – you'll need your individual devices to jump between access points as your location demands. Either that, or you can simply plug an Ethernet cable into one of its five points, four of which cover 10/100, the other a full gigabit.

The Gigagate isn't as convenient as a mesh network and it's not, objectively, quite as inconspicuous. Its shiny black quadrilaterals aren't offensive, but they definitely scream 'network hardware' in a way that, say, Google Wifi's mysterious white cylinders don't. This might not be a problem for you, and they're thin enough as to easily be tucked away, but the aesthetically sensitive may be turned off.

Performance

We tested in a couple of key areas in the house. One was at the furthest possible distance from the router, in an opposite corner one floor away, and got great results from the Gigagate's theoretical 2Gbps-max Quantenna setup. 

The other key test was in one of the house's worst black spots, through a nest of walls, one floor, and the reflections from a tiled bathroom – here, through some strange science, the Gigagate performed even more strongly than in its original position.

There are a huge number of variables that could affect your network speed, so we're really only able to talk the results of our tests, conducted in a slightly wonky 1960s three-floor house with wiring that doesn't play too nicely with powerline kit.

In practice the Gigagate performs very well. We occasionally suffered a bit of a bump in ping when connecting to it via Wi-Fi, which was possibly due to the very busy network airspace in our locale, but wired performance, even far from the base unit, was generally on a par with what we'd expect.

We liked

Make no bones about it – the Gigagate is a great way to extend your network beyond its usual bounds, and it performs exceptionally well even in difficult physical circumstances. 

It's clean, easy to set up, and will work with just about any network.

We disliked

The simplicity of mesh networking just isn't there; taking a wireless Gigagate setup beyond a single node could mean a massive mess of wireless access points. 

It's also a very pricey solution to a problem already answered by powerline networking – if you're able to try that before investing in this, you should.

Final verdict

That Quantenna tech is very impressive, and the Gigagate is a real performer. We're not sure we'd choose this over a similarly-priced mesh solution unless high speeds and pings over Ethernet were a true concern, but it does that well, and offers a viable solution for piping 4K video to network black spots.

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