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Wireless Reviews

Wireless Security Performance

I checked for throughput loss in WEP 128, WPA/TKIP and WPA2/AES modes. Unlike products based on other draft 802.11n chipsets, Ralink-based draft 11n products have shown no appreciable throughput loss when run in WEP or WPA/TKIP modes. But the Plus (at least when run with the N+ USB adapter) looks like an exception to that rule.

Figure 12 shows the downlink results for security mode tests run in Location A in the default 20 MHz bandwidth mode. While there is more than 80% drop in throughput when run in WEP 128 mode, WPA/TKIP mode shows a less than 10% loss.

Wireless security tests - 20 MHz mode, downlink
Click to enlarge image

Figure 12: Wireless security tests - 20 MHz mode, downlink

But the uplink results are also different than what I usually see from Ralink-based products. This time there is a 60 - 70% loss in both WEP and WPA/TKIP modes.

Wireless security tests - 20 MHz mode, uplink
Click to enlarge image

Figure 13: Wireless security tests - 20 MHz mode, uplink

While this is disappointing, it just puts the N+ on par with most other draft 802.11n products.

Wireless Performance - Competitive Comparison

I created a comparison table of best-case open-air throughput for a collection of entry level draft 11n routers for the NETGEAR WNR2000 review. The other products were tested in the Cheap Draft 802.11n Router Roundup. The highest results are highlighted in green, while the lowest are in red.

Location A Wireless Performance (Open Air, Same Room, 10 ft.)
  Belkin N+ Belkin
Downlink - 20 MHz b/w (Mbps) 61 82 56 59 48 58
Downlink - 40 MHz b/w (Mbps) 84 83 61 69 60 62
Uplink - 20 MHz b/w (Mbps) 70 80 34 55 34 53
Uplink - 40 MHz b/w (Mbps) 85 73 63 63 49 66
Table 1:Entry-level draft 11n router throughput comparison

For at least "best case" performance, the Belkin N+ and N share the best results honors, while the lowest performer is consistently the NETGEAR WNR2000.

The database of wireless routers with open air test results is growing. So I can also compare the Plus against the NETGEAR WNR2000 in all six test locations. I'm also including the Linksys "RangePlus" WRT110, in the comparison shown in Figure 14, even though Linksys doesn't call if a draft 11n router.

The Plus does pretty well in the stronger-signal Locations A-C. But as signal level falls off, so does the Plus' throughput.

Wireless competitive comparison - 20MHz mode, down

Figure 14: Wireless competitive comparison - 20MHz mode, down

Figure 15 shows uplink throughput, where the Plus starts out with almost 2X the throughput of its competitors. But it quickly loses the advantage as signal level drops.

Wireless competitive comparison - 20MHz mode, up

Figure 15: Wireless competitive comparison - 20MHz mode, up

40 MHz bandwidth mode shows a similar pattern, which you can see in the downlink and uplink comparison plots.

Use the Wireless Charts to generate other comparisons.

Closing Thoughts

In all, the Belkin N+ is a nice little draft 11n router with a unique combination of features. But at around $110 as I write this, it's really too expensive to be called an "entry level" draft 11n router, which is generally how I classify two-antenna draft 11n routers.

For actually less money, you can currently pick up a D-Link DIR-655, Linksys WRT350N (while supplies last) or Linksys WRT310N, all of which have gigabit switches. Of the three, the WRT350N is the only other that can share a USB drive. But file sharing performance is so slow, I don't think that is worth influencing your selection.

The Plus' key differentiator is its captive-portal guest access, which can be quite handy for small offices, cafes, B&B's and other hospitality uses. None of the other products have it and maybe that (plus the gigabit ports) is why Belkin has priced the Plus relatively high.

If Belkin had included a radio with better range and street-priced around $70 - $80, then the Plus would get a real thumbs up. But as it is, it's really a pay-your-money-and-make-your choice proposition and, unfortunately, that's what you'll have to do.

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