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There may be a huge variety of wireless broadband routers on the market offering a wide range of features but the one thing all these slabs of plastic have in common is their boring, blocky design. Belkin's N1 Vision aims to remedy our design related blues as this super slick router cries out to be put on display and shown off at every opportunity.
The high-gloss black front panel has a smart backlit LCD display which works in tandem with the operator panel alongside to provide information about your broadband connection and connected computers without the need to load a web browser. It's not short on hardware features either, as the wireless access point is the 802.11n variety that's Draft 2.0 compliant and it teams this up with a quartet of switched Gigabit Ethernet ports. For the Internet connection you have a standard RJ-45 port so you'll need an appropriate ADSL or cable modem.
A quick start guide aids with physical installation and then the web browser interface kicks off with a wizard that runs through the configuration of Internet settings, wireless security and so on. The CD-ROM also includes a wizard routine but this isn't particularly clever as it only searches for the router using its factory default IP address so if you get hasty and change this first it won't find it. When the router is first powered up the LCD display shows a progress bar whilst it's booting and if it can't detect an Internet connection it'll offer some basic advice that you scroll through using the arrow keys.
The main display is similar to that used by Belkin's N1 Wireless Modem Router and offers icons showing the status of the Internet and modem connections, the wireless network status and whether any wired PCs are connected. Usefully, there's also an icon indicating that wireless security is active and another advising if wireless clients are connected. Scroll to the right and you get a single speedometer showing download speeds or use the next screen which includes upload speeds as well. Another button press takes you to a view of all connected clients and their current Internet usage whilst the next shows their bandwidth consumption for the past 24 hours. The novelty value of the display will undoubtedly wear off after a while but we still found them useful during testing.
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