Belkin picked Atheros’ XSPAN Draft 802.11n chipset for the N1, which we tested with the company’s matching N1 Wireless Notebook card. Although the N1’s formfactor is very similar to Belkin’s earlier “Pre-N” MIMO router, the resemblance ends as soon as you power it up: Six blue diagnostic LEDs light up in sequence to help you through the installation process.
The lacquer-black enclosure is attractive, but we can’t decide if the LEDs make the device look too newbie-friendly, or just plain gaudy. Either way, the diagnostic LEDs show you exactly where the problems with your connection lie—making this router a nice fit for wireless-networking neophytes.
Belkin advertises a staggering 300Mb/s transmission rate for the N1, with this disclaimer: “300Mb/s is a physical data rate. Actual data throughput will be lower.” We achieved an impressive unencrypted TCP throughput of 129.7Mb/s with our notebook PC in the same room as the router (see Environment 1 in the benchmark chart), but speeds dropped quickly as we introduced distance and interior walls.
In Environment 2 (25 feet from the access point, with four gypsum walls in between), TCP throughput dropped to 72.7Mb/s. And in Environment 3 (75 feet from the access point on an outdoor patio), TCP throughput dropped to 62.3MB/s.
If you absolutely can’t wait another year for the interoperability that the real 802.11n standard will bring—and you can’t get enough of blue LEDs—Belkin’s N1 is a good choice.
Month Reviewed: September 2006
+ IMPLANTS: Super-easy setup and troubleshooting; very good range and speed.
- DENTURES: Puts on an unwelcome light show; might be incompatible with real 802.11n gear.