Belkin N1 Wireless Router review
Belkin was the first to launch an 802.11n-based router – before the draft specification was even agreed – known as Pre-N. The N1 is the company’s new Draft-N offering, arriving slightly later than the competition.
Versions are available with and without an integrated ADSL modem. At £127 and £110 respectively, they’re more expensive than much of the competition, and the matching PC Cards and USB adapters are also pricey at £60 and £68 respectively.
And you’ll need these matching adapters to get the best performance and range from the N1. Using a standard 802.11g Intel mini-PCI card in our test notebook, we saw 17Mb/sec from 10m away, but with the N1 PC Card installed this jumped up to 31Mb/sec.
At long range (20m and two rooms away), the N1 managed 18Mb/sec with Belkin’s PC Card – just enough for high-definition video. With the integrated 802.11g adapter, this dropped to under 13Mb/sec. The usable range with the N1 PC Card installed is around 30m before throughput drops to unusable levels.
The N1’s design is based on the older Pre-N, but with a new glossy black finish. This is so you can have the N1 on show to see the new backlit icons, which reveal at a glance whether everything is working as it should.
Not a great deal has changed in the interface, but a new setup wizard on CD allows novices to quickly connect to the N1 and enter ISP and wireless settings. Oddly, it didn’t prompt us to set a wireless password, leaving the system open to others. Fortunately, the N1 supports WPA2 as well as WPA and WEP.
Basic options include MAC address filtering, cloning and client IP control, but no URL filtering. It’s made up for by QoS options and UPnP support. You can even turn off NAT functions and use the N1 purely as an access point. Dynamic DNS is supported through www.dyndns.com, allowing you to tie a domain name even if you don’t have a static IP address.
The N1 offers better speeds and marginally better coverage than the majority of Draft-N routers – including all those we tested in last month’s group test – as well as being more user-friendly. At this price, though, it’s ultimately only for those who really need the fastest possible wireless throughput regardless of cost.