GCN LAB REVIEW
Belkin N+ Wireless Router
The N+ Wireless Router from Belkin International can sit on a table or shelf and is 11.5 inches high, including the two external antennae. Every status light and port is clearly marked, which all too often isn’t the case with smaller appliances.
The N+ has two distinct modes — one for router operation and one for access point operation. To switch modes, you use a simple Web-based interface. The N+ has five gigabit ports in the back — one for connecting to the Internet while operating as a router and a four-port switch that is accessible in both modes. It also has a USB 2.0 port for connecting storage devices for access via the network.
Belkin has included Wi-Fi Protected Setup capability, which allows users to connect to WPS-enabled client adapters with the push of a button.
We had a couple of minor complaints. There is no way to adjust the power level of the device’s radio, which is a concern because one way to secure a wireless network is to lower the power level so a clear signal is not possible beyond a certain distance. Without the ability to adjust the power level, you must rely more heavily on other security tools.
The inability to adjust the output power made testing in our small, shielded enclosure a bigger challenge. After a great deal of tweaking of the test equipment’s power levels and attenuation, the best we could achieve was an average throughput of 178.62 megabits/sec for downloading a 1,518-byte packet from wired to wireless. That is about 70 megabits/sec slower than we would expect.
The VeriWave tests revealed another potential flaw. The Belkin had significantly worse results for tests that ran for longer times. That indicates a problem with buffering in the access point’s memory, which occurs when data is transferred for an extended time. Admittedly, in a real-world environment, data transfer is more sporadic, which might allow for the memory to catch up and clear the buffer more often. And the poor performance might have been related to the power adjustment issue. However, we felt it was worth pointing out.
In our file-transfer tests, the N+ performed well at short distances — 10, 20 and 40 feet — and was still in the top group at distances of 80 and 160 feet. The transfer rate of 18.82 megabits/sec for downloads and 30.99 megabits/sec for uploads at 10 feet were especially good.
Belkin sells the N+ for $120 retail — a good price for the features and performance this device offers. Belkin’s N+ Wireless Router would do well in almost any situation, but in more secure environments, you might want to make sure that other security features are in place if the physical space isn’t enormous or if other nongovernment offices or public spaces are nearby.
Belkin International, 800-223-5546, www.belkin.com