Wireless Routers: The Truth About Superfast Draft-N

Belkin N1 Wireless Router (F5D8231-4)

Belkin N1: Great design, poor performance.
Belkin N1: Great design, poor performance.
In almost every measure besides performance, where it unfortunately hangs around the rear of the bunch, the Belkin N1 is the star of this review. It is head and shoulders above the rest of the products in design and usability, with Apple-like attention to detail in the packaging, manuals, interface, and help files. It also has top-notch features, a lifetime warranty, and excellent support.

On opening the Belkin box, the first thing you see is a large card completely illustrating all the possible physical connection possibilities and detailing the order in which they should be made. Cables are numbered to match the card. The setup CD worked flawlessly, detecting our DSL modem settings correctly and automatically connecting us to the Internet. It then directed us to the Web utility to set up wireless encryption.

The N1's 103-page PDF manual was the longest and most comprehensive in the bunch. Every setting option was clearly explained, along with its implications.

As for features, the N1 is one of only two routers in the group to support WPA/WPA2 Enterprise encryption and Radius server authentication for use in office and educational environments. It also has a full complement of router capabilities, including QoS support.

But while the N1's speed at close range is several times that of an 802.11g router, its overall performance simply wasn't as good as that of the other products in this group (especially the Airgo-based lines). Performance in our long-range tests was particularly erratic, even compared with that of the Broadcom-based draft-n lines.

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