This review appears in the December 06 issue of PC Advisor – available from 19 October – as part of our definitive guide to wireless networking.

The N1 retains the basic form factor of previous Belkin routers, but this one has had a black glossy makeover and looks quite stylish. It's a draft-N four-port Wi-Fi router based on the XPAN chipset by Atheros. It features the usual wireless security options, including WEP and WPA-PSK, SPI and NAT firewalls, DMZ and VPN (virtual private networks) pass-throughs and MAC-address filtering.

But what sets the N1 apart from the competition is its impressive ease of use. The setup process is simple: the Belkin was up and running online the second we plugged it into our ADSL connection. The N1 dispenses with winking status LEDs in favour of backlit icons that illustrate the chain of connection from PC to internet. If all is well, every icon is blue. However, if you've got a connectivity problem you can see at a glance where it lies.

Put to the test, the N1 produced a mixed bag of results. Using QCheck, we clocked a maximum data throughput of 52Mbps – easily the best of the draft-N Wi-Fi routers we looked at and a good result. But that was in our close test, connecting only from the room next door. When we shifted to the front of the house in our far test, the once impressive score dropped to just 16Mbps. In a complete turn of events, this was the worst of the group. Interestingly, the N1 can only operate in mixed mode – support for 802.11b and g, as well as draft-N – which can reduce overall performance.

Belkin N1: Specs

  • Wireless router
  • close-range speed 52Mbps
  • long-range speed 16Mbps
  • Wireless router
  • close-range speed 52Mbps
  • long-range speed 16Mbps

OUR VERDICT

Very easy to set up with impressive nearby performance, but a disappointing let-down for distant connections. Customers receive excellent support and a great warranty, but it’s expensive.

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