The Belkin Play Max Wireless router includes two USB ports and four-port gigabit ethernet.

Three modem models are available in Belkin's new range: Surf, a simple four-port wireless-n modem router at £69; Share, which adds USB and VPN support for £89; and the Play, a dual-band device for £99. For power users, the £119 Belkin Play Max
Wireless here includes two USB, and four-port gigabit ethernet.

For wireless LAN the Belkin Play Max Wireless offers '300Mbps' 802.11n, simultaneously on 5GHz as well as traditional 2.4GHz bands.

They all take the same rounded upright case with ust one LED and no external antennae.

Extra apps can be added to expand functionality, with the Belkin Play Max Wireless having the largest selection in the range. Bit Boost selects and prioritises particular network traffic. Torrent Genie continues torent downloads when your PC is off. Daily DJ compiles personalised playlists, while Music Labeller explores your archive and fills in missing track info.

But before the bells and whistles, a modem router must fulfill its primary role of distributing an internet connection to computers, while letting them talk to each other and additional devices on your network. This is where the Belkin Play Max Wireless let us down.

In one setup we had four Macs connected, one by ethernet, the others wirelessly, and at various times they could not reach each other on the network. An Elgato Netstream digital TV tuner was invisible, while on the another Belkin Play Max Wireless sample a network printer was unavailable.

Later Belkin confirmed that contrary to its claims, the Belkin Play Max Wireless does not support Apple Mac OS X.

We measured network transfer rates in real-world speed tests, using CD and DVD-sized directories of data. On the 2.4GHz band, at 1m distance the Belkin Play Max Wireless could pass data at around 61Mbps. At 10m distant, through plaster walls, this fell to 40Mbps.

On 5GHz, when binding two channels together for a nominal Transmit Rate (TR) of '270 Mbps' this rose slightly to 88Mbps. But 10m away the higher frequency band showed very limited range, as TR dropped to '81', with an actual measured rate of again 40Mbps.

Note all figures are substantially below the advertised 300Mbps of 11n networking, but are not unusual for today's wireless-n products.

In broadband speed tests, the Belkin Play Max Wireless didn't play so well with our Be Unlimited's exchange DSLAM (digital subscriber line access multiplexer), giving us just 8Mbps download and 1Mbps upload. Our reference DrayTek, though not optimised for Be's Broadcom DSLAM, gives figures of 15.7Mbps and 0.8Mbps respectively.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

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Belkin Play Max Wireless: Specs

  • Dual-band wireless modem router
  • ADSL/ADSL2+
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 256bit WPA/WPA2 and 64/128bit WEP encryption
  • VPN support: PPTP and IPSec passthrough
  • Dual-band wireless modem router
  • ADSL/ADSL2+
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 256bit WPA/WPA2 and 64/128bit WEP encryption
  • VPN support: PPTP and IPSec passthrough

OUR VERDICT

In a cross-platform Mac and PC network, the Belkin Play Max Wireless failed to provide adequate connectivity. Wireless transfer performance also fell short of specification, although this is more typical of wireless routers.

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