The Devolo Gigagate Starter Kit is a new piece of technology which claims to give you blazing fast speeds for your connected entertainment equipment. Does this niche device succeed at its job?
When I first heard about the Devolo Gigagate Starter Kit, I was intrigued.
Having reviewed their latest powerline technology recently, I was curious about what this new and unusual machine would bring to the party.
What would the Gigagate do, that a powerline option wouldn’t?
And why would I want to pay nearly twice the price of a powerline starter kit, for the privilege?
To explain where the Gigagate sits amongst the different technologies for your home, I think it’s best to start by looking at what it is not.
IMO, the Gigagate is not a machine for extending your home network – although that is definitely a part of its function.
Due to some potentially serious limitations, which I will go into later on in this review, I don’t think the Gigagate would perform adequately to get a Wifi signal into a far corner of your house.
The Devolo Gigagate Starter Kit does extend Wifi range, but not nearly far enough.
The Gigagate is also not a device for allowing you to connect your smartphones and tablets – despite the fact that it is certainly possible to do so!
So what is it for??
The Gigagate will enable extremely fast internet connection speeds to multiple home entertainment devices.
This could include a smart TV, games console (e.g. PlayStation or Xbox), and any set top streaming boxes you may have (Apple TV, Roku).
And for this purpose, I believe the Devolo Gigagate will do an excellent job.
That’s a very good question.
Why would you want to use the Devolo Gigagate when a powerline plug starter kit could do just as good a job?
I’d boil it down to 3 points:
For a start, unless you have the latest, greatest kit available, the speeds you are likely to get from a powerline may be much lower than the Gigagate.
Secondly, the Gigagate gives you more connections and more connectivity options.
You get twice the number of ethernet slots, compared to the one or two that you would normally find on a powerline plug.
You’ll also get a very fast, strong Wifi signal, operating on the 5GHz frequency, very near to the equipment that actually needs it.
Thirdly, the Gigagate is nice to look at.
For many tech enthusiasts, this may not matter. However, for those of us with wives or partners, or those who simply like their technology to disappear into the background, the Gigagate is another shiny black box which will look right at home next to your TV. – Much better than an ugly powerline plug with wires trailing around from it.
Again, in order to understand how the Devolo Gigagate works, it’s best to compare it to a powerline starter kit:
Both devices must of course, be plugged in to electrical sockets in order to draw power. The difference lies in how they connect and relay the internet and network data around your home.
As I explained in my review of the Devolo dLan 1200+ powerline kit, a powerline set works by sending your internet data through your standard electrical circuits, from one powerline plug to the other.
The Gigagate bypasses your power circuit entirely and instead sends a Wifi signal from the Gigagate “base” station direct to another “satellite” box. The satellite then relays that signal to your TV equipment via its ethernet ports and its own Wifi transmitter, much like the second plug in a powerline kit would do.
It should be noted that it is possible to purchase additional satellites to go with the two boxes included in the Starter Kit. This will extend your home entertainment network further and should allow you to get the same performance in another room, such as your bedroom.
Unlike a powerline kit, there is no pass-through option here. Each station will take up an additional power socket in your home – one next to the router, and the other by your home media centre.
On opening up the Starter Kit, you’ll find a Gigagate base station and a satellite box, both clearly labelled.
The base station has fewer ethernet sockets, as it only needs to connect to the router. The satellite looks very similar to the base station, and both boxes have a couple of lights and buttons on them.
You’ll also receive two ethernet cables, two power cables (one for each box) and the requisite quick start “installation” guide.
The installation guide is purely in pictures, with no text.
However, I was relieved to find that the setup was much easier than the dLan 1200+ powerline device from the same company, both in theory and in practice.
But initial setup was not without its wrinkles…
With no buttons to press when you first switch them on, it’s completely plug and play and therefore suitable for even the most technologically impaired.
I wanted to try a direct comparison with the aforementioned powerline kit, so I thought I would set up the satellite in our extension room.
The base station booted up quickly and displayed the expected combination of lights.
However, once the satellite station booted up, I could see a white light for the power, but a solid red light for the connection on both devices.
There was no real indication in the guide as to precisely what this meant. It seemed to say “no connection”, but the online manual told a different story: “data transmission rate not in optimum range”.
Since I have good results in the same room from my comparison powerline adaptors, I was somewhat taken aback by this turn of events.
The pictures on the box clearly communicate the idea of being able to connect the devices across some distance (see box shot, below), but here they had fallen at the first hurdle.
My house is a reasonable size, but a mansion it is not!
I moved the satellite box into the kitchen and plugged it in there. This represents only a very small change in range from the extension, although there is perhaps one fewer wall to get through.
This time, I got a white connection light. Now we were getting somewhere, but then began the all important speed tests.
Sticklers for detail, or the more cynical among us, may feel that Devolo’s marketing department are being a little misleading in titling this device “Gigagate”:
Despite its name, the Gigagate satellite unit only has 1 high speed gigabit ethernet port. The remaining ports are standard “fast ethernet”.
Time will only tell if this translates well into full 4K TV streaming from the internet. I imagine that gigabit bandwidth will expand to the remaining ethernet ports in future versions of the device.
The Gigagate Wifi signal operates on the ‘ac’ standard, which is output in the 5 GHz range. This should be very stable and plenty quick enough for the most demanding uses. This will of course be limited by what other equipment you have.
My router is on the ’n’ Wifi standard, so I’ll never get the best throughput, until I upgrade it. Similarly, if your connected devices operate on older Wifi standards, they will be limited by the lower transmission rates in the 2.4 GHz range.
Since my kitchen is never going to contain entertainment equipment, I placed the satellite at different points in the house and tested the speeds at each one.
I used the same speed test app on my iPhone as I used previously for my dLan 1200+ Wifi powerline review.
Since I was impressed enough with the powerline adaptors to keep them in place, I wanted to see how the Gigagate would hold up against these solid devices. I therefore ran some tests before and after installing the Gigagate Starter Kit.
I ran the tests in each of the following locations:
Each time I moved the satellite from one location to another, I re-tested the speeds in each area. This strategy allowed me to get an idea of how well the Wifi signal would cope with walls and floors, while also checking the effective Wifi range from either the satellite or base station.
Please note that:
1. I only had time and equipment to test the Wifi output, not ethernet performance.
2. My router in the ’n’ class and as such, provides a bottleneck to the highest potential speeds available.
Since you don’t know my house, giving you all the detailed results would perhaps only serve to confuse matters. Aside from one or two unusual readings, I found a marked improvement in download speeds, when compared to my powerline network.
Before the Gigagate was installed, the maximum download speed achieved anywhere in the house was 49.37 Mbps, while the minimum was 2.95 Mbps in the bedroom.
After installation, the maximum achieved was 57.07 Mbps. The lowest speed reading was 19.02 Mbps, but this was offset by consistent readings of around 35 Mbps in locations further from the satellite station.
Changes to upload speeds were more indifferent than anything else, but were at least a match for the powerline adaptors.
In the process of testing I uncovered some strange anomalies:
Differences in tests conducted from the same location could be explained by limitations of my router, the speed test tool I was using, or even my ISP. I would therefore be loath to place all the blame on the Gigagate.
As you might expect, tests performed with a red connection light in play were significantly below par.
If I may refer once more to my previous powerline review, there’s even less to be said about the ergonomics of this device.
Once you’ve plugged the Gigagate stations into your network you’ll have no reason to disconnect them again. Pressing the network button is all you’d need to do to reset them, so no physical effort is involved at all. Enough said.
My overall impressions of the Gigagate Starter Kit are very good in terms of its raw performance and ease of use.
But I still find myself feeling slightly puzzled.
I’m not sure how big a market there is for this type of product, but having tried it out for myself, I believe I have a better idea of their target audience.
It may be that Devolo are way ahead of their time and people will laugh at this post in a few years saying, “how quaint”.
However, as I said at the beginning of this review, the Gigagate is not quite the right device for extending your home network.
The range between the satellite and base stations is not nearly as impressive as I expected, and the connection doesn’t appear to cope well with multiple intervening walls – powerline models are much better for this.
The fact that Gigagate forms its own network, not a clone of the existing one, means it’s not ideal for mobile devices such as phones and tablets. You’ll use them all around the house and hence could move outside of the Gigagate Wifi range. This could prove confusing as your phone tries to switch between the two Wifi networks.
You might get around this by replacing an existing powerline network entirely with Gigagate extension boxes, but you’d be hard pressed to justify the price.
Similarly, the Wifi range from the satellite (or base) station to a connected device is not as good as one would hope.
If that’s what you were looking for, move along. The dLAN 1200+ Wi-Fi powerline would be much more suitable for your needs.
With all that said, there is still light at the end of the tunnel for the Gigagate.
When connected up at decent range (white light on both units), then the stars align and local wifi network speeds are fantastic, particularly when in the same room.
The positive side of having its own network, is that operating on the 5 GHz range means less interference from older networks. In turn, this will result in a much faster and more stable connection for the few devices you’ll have hooked up to it.
The question remains as to whether you need this device, or a cheaper powerline option: Gigagate still uses up a power socket, but without the pass-through ability of most powerline plugs.
However, if your overall home network is not at issue and you just want to get the fastest possible speeds to your entertainment equipment, with a minimum of fuss, then this is the niche product you’re looking for.
Who it’s for:
Non-techy consumers who are happy with their home network, but want plenty of entertainment streamed from the net.
Yes, as long as the Gigagate fits your use case – and your wallet.
I Didn’t like:
Within the correct operating range, the Devolo Gigagate Starter Kit is a niche product that performs admirably, providing a stable and very fast internet connection for all your entertainment needs.
I'm Tim Bader, founder of ErgonomicToolbox.com and the Ergonomic Toolbox training course. I am a writer, author, blogger and church leader, and I help people to overcome RSI and live comfortably with technology. When I'm not writing, helping or training people, I live at home with my wife, two teenage kids and Playstation.
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