At a Glance
- Guest Wi-Fi access
- USB hard-drive sharing
- Poor short-range performance; vertical mount only
- No WPA-Enterprise or RADIUS server support
This capable router is easy to set up and has handy features like a guest Wi-Fi network and USB drive sharing. But it’s dragged down by subpar short-range performance.
Belkin’s attractive N+ Wireless Router F5D8235-4 router ($100 as of April 20, 2009) stands out from the pack in design, features, usability, and long-range wireless throughput. Though its 2×3 antenna design lagged in short-range testing, the N+ Wireless Router F5D8235-4’s throughput performance improved by a dramatic 62 percent–more than any other router in our roundup–when we tested it along with the higher-end 3×3 Intel 5300 adapter. So if you buy this router, try to pair it with a 3×3 antenna card.
The setup assistant is excellent, guiding users through such tasks as establishing connections, enabling wireless security, and choosing a Wi-Fi SSID (that is, a network name). The router manages more-advanced settings through a standard Web utility. I especially appreciated being able to set up a special Wi-Fi guest network with its own passphrase, obviating the need to give out a private password to visitors. The router also keeps guests isolated from other devices on the network. On the downside, the N+ and the Netgear RangeMax Next Wireless-N Gigabit Router WNR3500 were the only two wireless routers of the six we examined for our roundup that lacked WPA-Enterprise encryption and RADIUS server support–omissions that will convince many businesses to buy elsewhere.
The Belkin must be positioned vertically. It has a (not very functional) download-speed indicator bar. More useful are the wireless security and Internet connection lights.
The F5D8235-4 was also one of only two wireless routers to support USB drive sharing (the other was the D-Link DIR-655 Xtreme N Gigabit Router). To use this feature, you plug in a USB flash or hard drive in FAT32 or NTFS format; instantly it is accessible through a special Storage Manager application, or directly via the router’s IP address. You can access the drive with either a PC or Mac. As often happens with shared USB drives, though, performance was poor. It’s mainly useful for light file sharing, rather than for everyday network backup. You’ll get far better throughput from a gigabit NAS drive.