Wireless security comprises 64/128-bit WEP plus WPA/WPA2 with a pre-shared key or via a RADIUS server and we would recommend activating one of these immediately although you can disable the access point if you wish. Usefully, you get one status indicator that lights up to show if clients are connected to the access point and another alongside that only illuminates if a security scheme is operational. Further basic security is provided with SSID masking and a MAC address list where you can allow or deny listed clients to connect wirelessly.
You can opt to allow the access point to support 802.11n, g and b operations and for the former select a single 20MHz channel or allow a pair to be bonded for the full 40MHz experience. As we’ve seen with a number of draft 802.11n wireless products it’s important to have the latest firmware loaded and the router can check Belkin’s web site to see if any new versions are available.
For wireless performance testing we installed Belkin’s N1 Wireless Notebook Card in a 1.6GHz Fujitsu Siemens notebook running Windows XP SP2. The bundled utility provides a tidy status screen from where you can view available networks and set up different profiles. Unlike Netgear and Buffalo, you don’t get a lot of help when setting up a connection but the profiles are easy enough to create.
Wireless speeds aren’t overly impressive as the open source Iometer reported a raw read rate of 68Mbps over a close range open link with a Supermicro Pentium D 3.2GHz PC on the LAN. We also noticed during this test that the laptop’s CPU utilisation was hovering around the 60 per cent mark. Real world test results weren’t too good either with our 690MB video file copied from the laptop to the PC in 108 seconds for an average of 51Mbps.
When compared with Netgear’s Gigabit equipped RangeMax WNR854T the Belkin router is around 25 per cent slower for draft 802.11n operations. Moving the laptop to the floor below and placing a couple of brick walls in the way also saw signal strength drop by over fifty per cent and raw performance slump to around 38Mbps over an open link.
Pricewise, the N1 Wireless Modem Router is in the same ball-park as similar products from the main competitors such as D-Link, Linksys and Netgear. However, although it is particularly easy to use and the new display panel will prove extremely handy it doesn’t stack up with the rest in terms of features or general wireless performance. If you want the best draft 802.11n speeds and range plus an integral ADSL modem then check out Netgear’s DG834N.
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