The browser interface is very simple to navigate with easy access to all settings. General firewall protection is provided by NAT and stateful packet inspection while client IP filters control what services specific LAN users are allowed to access such as sending or receiving email, FTP or web browsing. A smart feature is rule scheduling as this determines what times and days each restriction comes into effect. One computer in the LAN can be placed in a DMZ (demilitarized zone) allowing unrestricted incoming access to any services it may be running - this is ideal for gaming consoles. For wireless security both WEP and WPA are supported and MAC address filters can be used to restrict or allow access for wireless clients. The QoS (quality of service) option could prove useful as it automatically prioritises traffic such as VoIP (voice over IP) and multimedia streams.
Belkin claims that its parental controls are unique but it’s a hosted service that’s the same in principal to that provided by the Billion myGuard 7500GL. When a user attempts to access a website, the request is passed to an external web filter database and checked. If it’s classed in a category that is blocked the user is advised of this and access will be denied. When you sign up for the trial you supply an email address and use a password different to that used by the router’s management interface so the job of access control can be passed to another manager or home user. You have a list of 59 categories to play with and each can be blocked or allowed individually. Belkin also offers an optional hosted reporting facility that can provide a complete history of sites being accessed and those that were blocked.
To test performance we employed a 1.6GHz Pentium M Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook running Windows XP SP2 and used a Belkin Pre-N PC Card. We encountered a problem as we could only use the notebook’s lower slot as the PC Card’s chunky MIMO aerial fouled the edge of the notebook stopping it from being placed in the top slot. Even so, we saw some stunning results with the open source Iometer reporting an impressive raw throughput of 45.6Mbit/sec over an unsecured wireless link. With WPA-PSK selected this dropped noticeably to 32.8Mbit/sec. However, MIMO delivers on range - when we moved the notebook to a floor below and with three brick walls in the way we found performance dropped by a mere four per cent. Even with the notebook removed from the building and placed in a car boot fifty feet away, performance only fell by seven per cent. Real world results were also impressive as copying a 459MB mixture of graphics files from the notebook to a PC on the LAN took a mere 132 seconds for an average rate of nearly 28Mbit/sec.
There’s no denying that MIMO delivers on performance as this is one of the fastest access points we’ve ever tested. Wireless range is also far superior to standard 802.11g products although you will need Belkin’s own MIMO compliant PC Cards and PCI adapters to achieve this. If these two requirements are your top priorities then the Pre-N products certainly won’t disappoint and the access point also offers a solid range of wired and wireless security features for a very reasonable price.