Belkin N1

  • Editors' rating
    7.3 Very good

Pros

  • Attractive design
  • Clear web management interface
  • Optional access point mode
  • Good interoperability with other Atheros-based products

Cons

  • No WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise security
  • No external RADIUS authentication

With its bright blue illuminated symbols at the front and three sprouting antennas at the rear, Belkin’s shiny black N1 router is certainly attractive. It also features a built-in 4-port switch for wired LAN connectivity, with a separate network port to attach an ADSL or cable broadband modem.

We used the matching N1 wireless PC Card in our tests, but a desktop PCI adapter and a USB version are both due for release shortly. There will also be a version of the router with a built-in ADSL modem, especially for the UK market.

Attention to detail is everything and Belkin has gone out of its way to make sure you install the N1 properly, with peel-off identification labels on everything from the ports on the router to the accompanying CD-ROM and power supply. These are all referenced on the large Getting Started guide to make sure everything is cabled right. A wizard-driven setup routine then looks after the basics of both internet and wireless configuration.

Naturally you also get a web-based management interface, which we found particularly clear and easy to use -- especially when it came to the wireless setup. Here, for example, we were able to select any combination of 802.11b, 802.11g and Draft N wireless networking and either 20MHz or 40MHz channels. We could also turn on either WEP or WPA/WPA-2 security, although only with pre-shared keys with no WPA/WPA-2 Enterprise security or external RADIUS authentication options.

We liked the ability to switch the N1 between router and access point modes, which is useful if you already have a network router/firewall and just want to add wireless support. Otherwise an SPI firewall and network address translation come as standard, albeit without the content filtering tools found on some other Draft-N products.

The Atheros chipset inside the Belkin N1 is also used by D-Link and Linksys. So it came as no surprise when the Belkin solution gave similar throughput rates to those products, peaking at just under 70Mbps. Range was much the same too, and we got similar figures when we used the Belkin N1 hardware in combination with the other Atheros-based kit.

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However, as with all the Draft N products, we didn’t get anywhere near the claims made by the manufacturer and we saw a huge fall when communicating with the Buffalo (Broadcom) and Netgear (Marvell Top Dog) solutions.

In its favour, the Belkin N1 router worked fine with legacy adapters, didn’t interfere with older networks and was by far the easiest to set up and manage.

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