- Review Price: £102.74
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.
There’s more as the Vision supports two wireless SSID’s – a feature you’ll be hard pushed to find in other consumer products. The second SSID facilitates guest Internet access where clients are routed through to the WAN port and are not allowed to access the LAN. This can be set up from the web interface or with a few button presses on the router where it’ll automatically generate a WPA key for that SSID only. We tested this using a Windows XP SP2 notebook equipped with a Belkin N1 Wireless Notebook Card (pictured, but not included) and found that we could, indeed, only access LAN systems by logging into the primary SSID. Wireless security for this extends to WEP or WPA/WPA2 encryption, SSID masking and a MAC address filter where you can allow or deny access to listed clients. Note that the wireless client icon on the router doesn’t come on if only guest users are logged in.
WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) is also on the menu and the router supports both PIN and PBS (Push Button Setup) methods with compliant client systems. Wireless performance isn’t particularly inspiring with a 690MB video file copied from the notebook to a 3.2GHz Pentium D PC on the LAN at an average of 50Mbps with WPA encryption. An increase in range also had an adverse affect. With the notebook on the floor below the router we saw a drop in signal strength of around fifty per cent with the same copy returning only 32Mbps. If you feel the need for more wireless speed then check out Netgear’s Gigabit equipped RangeMax WNR854T.
Belkin is a bit light in the features department although most home users will be satisfied. The SPI firewall can be partnered by up to twenty virtual server entries for routing certain inbound traffic to specific internal IP addresses, and a DMZ allows one system to sidestep the firewall for full exposure to the Internet. The client IP filter feature could be useful as it enables you to designate ranges of IP addresses on the LAN and restrict access to the Internet or particular services permanently or to a basic schedule. You don’t get any web filtering features but to be honest those found on most competing routers aren’t up to much anyway. It’s always worth making sure the latest firmware is loaded and the router can check Belkin’s web site to see if any new versions are available.
The N1 Vision represents reasonable value as its price tag is in the same ball park as competing Gigabit equipped 802.11n routers such as D-Link’s DIR-655. The N1 isn’t as well featured and wireless performance is pedestrian at best, but if you want the best looking broadband router on the planet then look no further than this.
(centre)”’The web interface kicks off with a useful quick start wizard”’(/centre)
(centre)”’The wireless guest SSID option is an unusual feature to see in a consumer product”’(/centre)
(centre)”’You can create filters to block certain PCs or groups of users from accessing specific services using port ranges”’(/centre)
(centre)”’The Vision can check Belkin’s web site for new firmware upgrades”’(/centre)
(centre)”’The N1 PC Card utility provides plenty of connection information”’(/centre)
Score in detail
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