The NAT/SPI firewall can no longer be disabled although why you’d want to do this is anyone’s guess. Virtual servers are used to route inbound traffic to specific servers based on port ranges and you have 20 entries available. A single DMZ (demilitarised zone) entry allows one LAN system to step away from the firewall whilst access controls are used to specify selected systems and limit their access to services such as web browsing and email. You can also apply lists of 12 URLs and keyword blocks and use schedules to define when they are active.
For wireless access the N+ supports two SSIDs with one for normal use where clients have access to systems on the LAN and the Internet. The second is for guests where they can only access the Internet and not other systems on the LAN. Two access options are provided as you can implement WPA/WPA2 encryption or use the Hotel-Style feature which redirects the wireless client to a web page where they need to enter a password. Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) is also available with support for PIN and Push Button Setup (PBS) methods.
The shared storage feature isn’t anywhere near as good as that offered by Linksys’ WRT610N although this dual-band router does cost twice as much as the N+. Belkin doesn’t provide any configuration options in the web interface so you can’t apply your own workgroup name, set up access restrictions or provide FTP services.
All you do is install the Storage Manager utility on each PC and when a USB device is plugged in to the router it automatically maps it to a drive letter for you and offers the option to dismount it as well. The router also appears in the Windows Network Places under the ‘Belkin’ workgroup so you can select your own drive letter for mapping if you wish.
Storage performance is pedestrian at best as we found copying a 690MB video clip between a LAN client and a 300GB Maxtor USB desktop drive yielded a very modest 2.5-3MB/sec. Wireless speeds are in the same ball park as much of the competition and to test these we used a Belkin N+ USB adapter connected to our test laptop. Copying the same file over a close range WPA2 encrypted link returned average speeds of 56Mbps and moving the laptop to the floor below the router saw speeds drop by around 35 per cent so there’s nothing radical here.
The Belkin N+ Wireless Modem Router (F5D8635UK4A) is offering a reasonable level of features for the price which includes support for dual wireless SSIDs and a good range of access controls for client systems. However, it could do with Gigabit ports and although the shared storage feature is quite useful it has its limitations and performance is poor.