Since our last Wi-Fi router review, the market in India has expanded steadily and the device has today become a mainstream product. This expansion has been made possible by companies such as Netgear, D-link, and Linksys, which have gradually introduced a wide variety of products for Wi-Fi networking in virtually all categories, at prices ranging from Rs 1,500 to Rs 7,500.
Looking to capitalize on this burgeoning market, well-known networking company Belkin recently introduced its range of Wi-Fi products in the country. We spent some time testing the N1 Vision router, which happens to be the company's flagship model. So how did it fare? Read on to find out...
The N1 Vision is one of the smartest looking candidates we've got for review. Unlike other drab routers, this one has tried to set itself apart by going in for a polished smooth finish. For starters it stands upright on a nicely designed silver base, while the body on the front has a smooth glossy finish similar to that offered on most modern laptops. The rear houses its three antennae, a single Gigabit-capable WAN port, and a 4 port Gigabit network switch.
The center of the N1 sports a nice large display screen with a series of menu buttons. This LCD display is what sets it apart from the competition. It allows you to easily manipulate quite a few settings, for which you would require access to its central interface otherwise. It allows you to power down the Wi-Fi radio, enable the second SSID for guest access without accessing the rest of the Ethernet network, and connect a new network device without the need for configuration.
The screen also allows you to view certain details such as the current download speed (bandwidth consumed), the amount of data transferred, and the peak usage over 24 hours by client. At the main menu, the screen can be configured to simply display the time or the current bandwidth consumption.
Configuring the router was a seamless experience. For some reason at first it refused to retain our settings and continually kept reverting to base settings. Despite multiple restarts, this problem was not fixed and it required a hard reset using the tab behind the router to get it to work. Once reset, the router was quite easy to configure. The menu layout offered is quite comprehensive and simply designed. We were able to quickly configure WPA/WPA2 settings. As expected, the router offers the standard selection of options, including DMZ settings, QOS settings, and security-based features such as a Mac filter.
The unique "guest" SSID feature allows you to set up a separate virtual SSID for offering Internet services to users who don’t need to access existing network devices. This increases the usefulness of the router manifold, as you can simply configure a new user on the network without having to worry about them accessing sensitive information on your network.
Now while a lot of the stuff we have described above caters to advanced users, a first-time buyer of the router is offered a very simple wizard that will have one's network up and running in no time at all.
For the purpose of testing, we used an HP DV6700 laptop and a Dell Inspiron 1525 with N support. We divided the test into simple parts. In the first test, we tested file transfer speeds using a directory consisting of three folders of 1.5GB ISOs, a directory with 3GB of small files, and a single large 5GB file. In each case the test was done multiple times to achieve accuracy in the result.
In the second test, we simply checked the speed availability that the router offers at maximum distance. On the router side, since it only offers a mixed mode, no extra settings needed to be modified.
The results we got from our file tests were about average. The router achieved a stable throughput of 43Mb which is a bit on the lower side compared to what D-Link and Linksys routers are able to achieve. The good thing is that despite moving around quite a bit, the router was as stable as a rock and the file transfer speeds stayed consistent.
Our second test result was a bit disappointing. Though the router is quite stable in its file transfers and seamlessly steps down, its signal throw (area of reach) proved to be quite poor. At a distance of barely 90-100 feet, the signal had dipped quite a bit and had downshifted well into 802.11g territory. A little more movement and it completely lost the signal. When you compare this with our in-house Linksys WRT310n router, which at the same spot was offering a 50 percent signal, the N1 does cut a sorry figure.
The Belkin N1 Vision router retails for Rs 12,000. In comparison, Linksys offers its entry-level WRT310 model for just Rs 6,900, which can be modded with DD-WRT firmware to gain all the functionality of an enterprise-level Wi-Fi router. This alone makes it difficult to recommend the N1 vision – not only are its file transfer speeds on the lower side, it also does not offer a good network spread.
We would suggest that you look at offerings from Linksys, which can be modded with DD-WRT or D-link’s DL655 series. This offers some of the fastest raw file transfers and widest network spreads that can be obtained from any company today.
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