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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

Netgear RangeMax NEXT Wireless-N Router - Gigabit Edition

At a Glance
Product - Belkin N1 Vision Wireless Router (F5D8232-4)
- Belkin N1 Wireless Notebook Card (F5D8011C)
Summary Wi-Fi Certified 802.11n Draft 2.0 router and CardBus card based on Atheros XSPAN silicon.
Pros • Gigabit switch supports Jumbo Frames
• Surprisingly bandwidth friendly to neighboring legacy WLANs
Cons • 2.4 GHz band only
• Very basic routing feature set

Belkin created a bit of a stir when it introduced the N1 Vision Wireless Router back in July. Its vertical orientation and graphic front panel status display gave it an elegant look and style that set it apart from the ho-hum crowd. Now that the router and its Notebook Card have received Wi-Fi 802.11n Draft 2.0 certification, it's time to see if it has the performance to match its looks.

The Vision is designed to sit upright only—it has no wall-mounting slots and can't be laid flat on a desktop. The usual array of front panel status lights (Figure 1) has been replaced with a graphic display that Belkin touts as "The most advanced interactive network display".

N1 Vision Front Panel

Figure 1: N1 Vision Front Panel

I didn't find the display to be that useful, however, maybe because I was turned off by the heavy pressure required by the navigation button cluster. I had to hold the router with one hand and tilt it up to see the display properly while I pressed hard to get my button-presses to register.

Granted, there are a couple of handy features accessible via the display and front-panel keypad that you otherwise would have to launch a web browser to access. You can initiate the router end of a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) session, enable / disable the radio, and enable Guest Access.

The last feature provides a second SSID, with its own security key to wireless clients whose traffic is kept separated from that on the main SSID. This feature is only available, however, when either WPA or WPA2 security is enabled.

I was also disappointed that the "Broadband Speedometers" didn't provide a peak-hold type of indication as implied in the user manual. You get only a graphic and numerical readout of current average speed. There also weren't speedometers for wireless traffic, or even switched LAN traffic, which also would have been useful.

If you're intrigued by the front-panel feature, you should check out the summary of screens in the slideshow, or view Belkin's brief Flash demo.

The rear panel layout (Figure 2) is notable by what's not there, specifically link/activity indicators on each of the auto MDI / MDI-X 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports. So there is no way to quickly tell if you have a valid link. Instead you have to navigate to the front panel Connections / Speed page and run a ping or file transfer to see if the bits are flowing.

N1 Vision Rear Panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: N1 Vision Rear Panel

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