Belkin N1 (F5D8231-4)

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Belkin N1 (F5D8231-4)

Note: This review was originally published in the November 2007 issue. Belkin has since released the N1 Vision, which we reviewed in January 2008.

Belkin’s N1 router looks gorgeous, and the company has put a lot of thought into making it easy for greenhorns to build a home network, but the N1 was the slowest in this field and it delivered very poor range.

This is the router to buy for your technophobe friends or relatives if you can’t be there to set it up. Belkin’s instructions start on the outside of the box: There’s a big “Open Here” label right on top. The first thing you see when you follow that command is an oversized, illustrated quick installation guide. A series of large LED-backlit icons on the router light up in sequence, providing comforting visual reassurance that each step in the process has been successfully completed.

Despite all this hand-holding, however, the installation routine doesn’t prompt the user to establish any type of wireless security. Perhaps Belkin figured that the user will become curious as to why the router’s “security” LED isn’t lit up and then delve into the digital user manual to find out. One thing’s for sure: The router’s built-in help is absolutely useless in this regard, referring to features that aren’t built into the device.

We’re also disappointed with the N1’s paltry selection of operating modes: You can run the router in mixed mode (802.11b/g/n) only. You can set 20MHz/40MHz channel bonding to auto, on (40MHz only), or off (20MHz only)—and that’s it. There are no QoS provisions, either.

At close range, the Belkin N1 was significantly slower than three of the five routers we reviewed. What’s worse, we couldn’t connect to it at all in our longer-range tests. We suspect that the N1 would perform better in a more typical residential environment, but then so would the rest of the field.

The competition would do well to follow Belkin’s lead in making wireless networks easier to set up and monitor, but Belkin needs to make this router more robust. And how about upgrading that chintzy Fast Ethernet switch to Gigabit while you’re at it?

Belle & Sebastian

Good-looking.

Bellatrix LeStrange

Slow; poor-range; manual refers to non-existent features

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