Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Next review

The Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Next is an in-home powerline solution that expands both the wired and wireless networking capabilities without having to work with cables and/or repeaters. With ever-bigger download sizes for digital games and their updates, we were curious what this could do and which avenues it would open up. Here’s an in-depth look at this innovative new product.

Those who were around for PC gaming in the late 90s probably remember when multiplayer gaming didn’t happen over the internet but using LAN setup. In student housing, this would result in network cables hanging out of windows and going into the room below or next door, just so a multiplayer game of Command & Conquer could be played.

Things have changed dramatically over the past 25 years, but having to get creative with your networking options is – perhaps surprisingly – still a thing. A recent update for Call of Duty Black Ops III was about 80 GB worth of data, on top of an already huge base install of 100 GB – it prompted this reviewer to carry down his PlayStation to a space near the central router and hook it up to a wired connection there, just to make sure the download wouldn’t take days. Today’s download demands, especially with a new generation of games approaching, are only getting bigger, so German-based Devolo certainly looks great on paper, as I’m not looking to go outside and hang network cables from my window anytime soon.

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First impressions

Devolo’s Magic 2 WiFi Next solution is available with a number of different startup sets, though only one is actually called the “starter kit”. This one contains a LAN adapter that you install in a spot with access to your existing modem/router, with two additional adapters you can connect in rooms of your own choice as long as they’re in your house’s power network (more on this later). If you need wired access in more than two spots, there is also the multiroom kit with an additional adapter, which also increases the reach of your wireless mesh network – which seamlessly lets your devices connect to whatever adapter is closest to you.

Of the two adapter types, the LAN adapter is the smaller of the two, but it looks very similar to the receiver units you place elsewhere. Both are a neutral looking white and have integrated power sockets so you don’t give up a wall socket, which is very useful when installing the units in a corner where you already have a PC, television, videogame controls and surround sound system set up. But although smaller than your average modem/router, the Devolo adapters are rather bulky and depending on your outlet situation they could block your access to another outlet – the position and orientation of your outlets can be a factor here.

The receiver units feature two buttons that allow you to pair the unit to the LAN adapter after placing them in your desired room(s), so there’s a minimal amount of setup and the devices have a very clean look to them – especially if you don’t use the wired option to create cable clutter. Visually, this is a nice set that blends in fairly well despite their relatively bulky exterior – which is no doubt partly caused by the integrated power sockets that we wouldn’t want to give up either.

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Ease of use

Setting up Devolo’s Magic 2 WiFi Next solution couldn’t have been easier, although you also have access to advanced config options if you want to tweak things a little further. A basic setup requires you to first plug in the LAN adapter and connect it with a wired connection to your existing modem/router so it’s able to get online. Then, you plug in the receiver units and wait for them to pair – that’s it!

If you’ve already established a home network and want to add a second (or third, or fourth) adapter, the process is similar and just requires you to hit the power line (PLC) connector button on an existing adapter to let it pair with the additional unit, and it should set itself up for use within a few minutes.

A useful next step is to transfer the setup of your existing WiFi-network to the Devolo power line network, so that your house only has one Wi-Fi network to pick up rather than one network coming from your existing modem and another coming from your Devolo setup. It’s not required, but it’s an ease of use step that we definitely recommend taking, especially because it’s easy to do. In most cases, just using wps-pairing through the “WiFi clone” feature will do the job, though you can also manually set this up.

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For additional config options, Devolo offers a web interface and a dedicated app, which lets you set up advanced features like a guest network. Once paired with an existing home network the Devolo units will simply make use of the existing configuration inside your modem/router though, so unless you have specific requirements you won’t even need to delve into the advanced option. A reassuring thought for those not too technically inclined, yet also reassuring for those wanting more freedom in their config options.

Security is also taken care of right out of the box, as an AES-128 bit encryption is applied to every connection between a receiver unit and the LAN adapter, and the transmitted WiFi network supports both wpa2 and wpa3 standards.

Performance

This is the second generation of this particular powerline solution from Devolo, and it features improved multi-user multiple-input multiple-output (or mu-mimo) performance as well as access point steering, both built into a new chip they’re using. If the terminology isn’t familiar – this significantly improves the performance of your wireless network, especially if multiple devices are making use of it at once.

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How well the mesh feature works will also depend on your device of choice though – older smartphones might not support the WiFi standards that let you seamlessly switch between access points, instead just reconnecting when you move out of reach of your currently used adapter. While this is still rather seamless during streaming videos because of buffering, it might disconnect your video call – through no fault of the Devolo hardware, and this is something that will get less problematic as newer devices are introduced and older ones are replaced.

Of course, network stability and speed are what matters most in a setup like this. After all, it’s one of the bigger problems of using WiFi repeaters, which although reliable in extending the reach of your network always suffer from signal/speed loss between units. Devolo Magic 2 WiFi Next paints two pictures in this regard: wired and wireless, and they deserve to be looked at separately.

With a wired connection, you’re looking at a theoretical max speed of 2400mbps (or 2.4 gBit), but your actual results will vary depending on your setup. Most houses will have several electrical circuits and a switchboard, and while the Devolo Magic 2 solution will work regardless of where you place the receivers you’ll get the best results when both the LAN and receiver units are on the same circuit. Obviously, for many households, that kind of (partially) defeats the purpose of expending your network reach to the attic, basement, or back of the house.

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Luckily, to put things into perspective – the lowest speeds we measured were still 500mbps, which still equates to a whopping 60+ megabytes per second, something most older hard drives will struggle to keep up with and a download speed we’ve never seen from the likes of PlayStation or Steam. So while there’s a difference between the theoretical maximum and the actual performance, we found it to be more than sufficient for our needs.

Wi-Fi functionality is similar in that advertised speeds are 300 mbps on the 2.4 Ghz band and 867 mbps on the 5 Ghz band, but actual speeds are closer to 250 mbps. Worth noting, but still more than enough to stream videos and movies, even at 4K resolutions. One thing of note, however, is that the adapters themselves get pretty warm to the touch once plugged in – completely normal and within the specs, but something to be mindful of, for instance when you have kids running around or are plugging things into the adjacent socket.

Virtual reality

One particular use case scenario we tested was wireless VR, which is on the rise thanks to the popularity of the Quest headsets, their compatibility with PCs and apps like Virtual Desktop. In short, if you hook up your gaming PC to your modem/router and then let it send a wireless signal to your Oculus Quest, you can enjoy PC-based VR content wire-free. The practical issue with that is that, for many, this will require setting up the PC near your wired access point, which often won’t be where your regular PC workplace is – and your Quest should be close enough to the router for a good connection as well.

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With the Devolo Magic 2 Wifi Next kit we tested, this particular experience became much more accessible. The VR-enabled PC and the Quest could be in entirely different rooms, and it still worked. The only problem was increased latency, so games that rely on fast reaction times like Beat Saber might suffer as a consequence. For more casual experiences though, including the ability to watch 3D movies, it’s a brilliant solution that becomes much more user-friendly thanks to the Magic 2.

Conclusion

The Devolo Magic 2 Next WiFi, thanks to its incredibly easy setup, is a great solution for those looking for better networking capabilities without the need to install additional wiring. It’s especially useful for people looking to get online in some of the more remote corners of their house, and because pairing is so easy you can also get flexible with the solution. That access spot in the guest room can quickly change to offering dramatically improved network performance outside when the weather allows for it, if you reinstall it in a nearby socket. A versatile and flexible solution that may not always offer the speeds that are advertised, but provides ample bandwidth in both wired and wireless modes – with the added bonus of mesh functionality for WiFi users.

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