Cafe-level functionality from this new Belkin dual-band wireless router, which comes with a little surprise.
The Belkin N600 DB features of the handiest features we've seen from a consumer-level router in some time: guest access.
A single, less than ideal, client I have on my home network means I can't password-protect my server. The client (a streaming media player for playing music outside) won't allow me to use anything but a guest account when accessing an SMB share; so I don't really have the option of securing my server which holds the music without locking out the media player too. Because of that, I‘m extremely wary of letting people connect to my network wirelessly; once you've got a connection to the network, that server's content is open slather. I know, it's very very far from ideal, and I should follow my own advice; but I do like using that music streamer.
Belkin's N600 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router will now allow me to grant guest access to wireless clients on my network. Specifically, this mode will not allow wireless guests to route data to or from other clients on the network, only allowing them access to the internet. Furthermore, the router supports a standard web-login page for wireless clients, with a click-for-access cafe/hotel style login, which means drive-by internet users can't just hitchhike on the network as they‘ll need a password for authentication.
That's one of the features of the N600 DB that sets it apart. Beyond that, it includes a USB port for printer sharing or data backup to a USB hard disk drive, four internal antennas for the dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz Wi-Fi network and four 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet ports. The next model up, the N750 DB has Gigabit Ethernet ports, which, frankly should really be standard these days.
A very sensible thing has been done by Belkin with the original setup of this device. Considering many users don't know what an SSID is, let alone WPA2 and how to properly secure a wireless connection, Belkin ships the model with a strong password and preset SSID to get you started. The password's slip can then be slotted under the router for safe keeping. It ensures that no users go live with an unprotected network. Simple, but effective.
The router's interface is par for the course, with fairly standard options for a router at this level. You can manage your network quite effectively, and Belkin has included full support for Telstra BigPond and OptusNet Cable subscribers. One thing is that for each change you need to commit, there's a 40 second waiting period while the change is saved. If you need to do a few things in the interface, it very quickly gets boring. We also noticed a few very negative comments about earlier versions of this routers firmware. Be sure to upgrade it to the latest version immediately to avoid frustration.
Performance-wise, the Belkin N600 DB acted as expected. We managed a wireless throughput of 22MB/s in our very noisy wireless environment at 5GHz from another wireless source. That's pretty good, and definitely good enough for video streaming.Available from Belkin, retailing for $169.95
.APC rating: 7/10