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Great Multimedia Wireless Router from Belkin

Quote-end
02.11.2009

Advantages:
Reliable, Fast, Easy to configure, Lots of features, USB for sharing drives

Disadvantages:
Bit expensive, Not full speed with every machine

Recommendable Yes:

Detailed rating:

Speed

Reliability

Ease of Installation

Ease of use

Value For Money

Range of extra features / functionsExcellent

DesignExcellent

Manufacturer SupportExcellent

Instruction manualVery useful

24 Ciao members have rated this review on average: very helpful See ratings
exceptional by (17%):
  1. pcwiz11
  2. pgn0
  3. HarryKgh
and 2 other members
very helpful by (83%):
  1. TheHairyGodmother
  2. D_i_a_n_e
  3. jesi
and 22 other members

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INTRO

The Belkin N+ router is one of the higher end (consumer) wireless modem router offerings from Belkin. It cost me £85 from PC World, but can probably be found for a bit less if you shop online. The Cable version costs a little less. Reason I bought this one was because two PCs in the house with wireless cards kept losing the wireless connection when I was using a Linksys router (my own PCs / laptops were fine though!). I replaced that with a second hand Belkin, which worked fine but unfortunately, a power cut killed the wireless on it. Liking the performance of that cheaper Belkin router, I decided to stick with Belkin and get this one!

DESIGN

The router looks very stylish and stands up tall rather than laid down flat. It doesn't appear to have been designed to be laid down flat like many other routers, which may be to maximise signal strength by standing it taller. It has two antenna sticking out at the top which can be adjusted and it's got loads of LED lights which light up icons to show what's working and what's not with different colours, which helps with troubleshooting. Amber lights means the things aren't working properly whereas blue lights mean it's working.

Something quite different to what I'm used to having on a router is the bandwidth indicator or speedometer. It has blue bars that light up on the router showing how much traffic is going through it. This is great if several people share a broadband connection in the house as you'd know if someone's hogging the bandwidth just by looking at the router (in my case, it's usually me!).

SETTING UP

Setting up is the same as any router. It comes with a CD, which I think can walk you step by step through the settings but I just log into the router in a web browser to add my settings. The user interface is very straight forward with everything under the appropriate headings. I can find the options that I want at a glance. Internet connection settings, port forwarding and wireless settings are easily found and set. If you get stuck, the manual on the CD or the Belkin website should answer any questions.

PERFORMANCE, CONNECTION AND STABILITY

On my PC, I manage to get the full 130Mbit speed that my Linksys wireless dongle allows. However, on my Wireless N laptop, it only gets a speed of 54Mbits, no matter how close I am. Previous cheaper Belkin and Linksys Wireless N routers gave me faster speeds (240Mbit or something). This only affects internal network speed and doesn't affect Internet speed though and I generally get good download and upload speeds despite this anyway. Only thing is, transferring files within the network isn't as fast as I'd like from my laptop. This router does boast it has the "Best" speed and coverage as opposed to the lower end routers in the range which only give you 'Good' or 'Better' speed and coverage so the lower speed on my laptop may be due to some sort of incompatibility. Wireless range is good though as I can get at least a good signal around the house. Don't know what the maximum speed is for this router but I'm guessing 300Mbits? Compared to the router that came with my broadband with BE, web pages do seem to download quicker.

Wireless aside, the router also has four Ethernet ports so you could plug PCs and network devices in directly should that be convenient as wired connections are always more reliable. Speed may be about the same though if you get good wireless speeds as the router isn't a gigabit router (1000Mbit) and only has standard 100Mbit Ethernet ports.
Feeling the router itself, it doesn't feel that warm compared to other routers (i.e. the Linksys I had before). The router itself has proved to be very reliable and I've restarted it several times but most likely, Internet issues were due to my ISP and rebooting the router is just a standard way of troubleshooting problems with the Internet connection.

Now, I've mentioned that my previous router's wireless packed up after a power cut. Same thing has happened with this one! It's become unusable unfortunately, after the power cut as it seems to just freeze shortly after powering up. Luckily, it has a lifetime warranty. This only happened once as it survived further power cuts.

FEATURES

This router (or at least the box) boasts "Storage Performance Networking". This means it's supposed to be fast for multimedia. The router itself has a USB port, which lets me plug in flash drives and USB hard drives enabling everyone on the network to access the files on the drive. It does require Belkin's Storage Manager software to be installed on the machines first though. Once installed, assuming you're connected to the network, the software seems to just pick up the drive and it shows up in My Computer as a network drive. I've played some video files on my PC and laptop at the same time and all the video plays smoothly so the bandwidth is sufficient. I expect quite a few more multimedia files can be played concurrently.

Streaming a single High Definition video to both my PC and laptop at the same time proved to be fine as well. You can also copy files into the drive attached as well as just access so that's brilliant as it means you can turn your USB drives into network drives. In a way, this is better than sharing folders on your Windows machines as you can come across all sorts of sharing problems and the computer sharing the file needs to be switched on.

It also has a section for labelled 'Guest Access', which , which lets you set up another access point for people to access the Internet with but prevents them from accessing internal network resources. Very handy if you use one of these at work and want to let clients access the Internet without giving them access to your network. That or you've invited some mates round and you just don't trust them enough in case they hack into your PC with some private files. One option is 'Hotel-Style' Security, which lets you set up a passphrase for users to log on. This router could very well be used in a hotel, letting guests access the Internet without giving them any access to the network. This saves getting a dedicated phone line and broadband connection or giving them access to a wireless network connected to your local network.

SUPPORT

Belkin are a massive brand when it comes to networking devices so they should be around for a while. Software, firmware updates and user manuals and documentation can be downloaded from the Belkin website. I seem to have misplaced the included CD but I managed to download the Storage Manager software and a newer firmware from their site without any registration or fuss. Download speeds were fast. If you're not very technical, Belkin's site has a lot of tutorials and information on just about everything you would need to know for each of their products, including this router.

If it packs up, getting a replacement router from Belkin takes about 1-2 weeks so pretty good turnaround. For me, after a bit of email communication and some troubleshooting tips from Belkin, I managed to return the faulty one (free post) and get a new one (UPS Express delivery) in under a week! Posted on Saturday and received new one on Friday. Great service from Belkin. Just keep your ISP's router as a backup and the week wait isn't so bad as you'll still have Internet access during the process. I didn't even need to provide proof of purchase.

It's a lifetime manufacturer's warranty and free technical support (local call rate) with this router, which did sway me into buying this particular router.

SUMMARY


PROS

- Stylish design, doesn't get too hot
- Good performance and reliability
- Lots of features and even a USB port for sharing files on drives
- Lifetime manufacturer's warranty!
CONS

- Too sensitive to power cuts
- A bit expensive
- Not full speed on my laptop despite it having a Wireless N network card

VERDICT

This is one of the best routers I've ever used and it hasn't given me any grief until I had a power cut, which pretty much broke it. However, it survived a further 2-3 power cuts so maybe it was a one off. It is a bit on the expensive side but not as much as business routers. There is another router from Belkin that costs even more than this one but that one tells you your broadband speed and other stuff on a display on the router itself, how cool is that? As for this Belkin N+ modem router, it has all the features you could need and more unless you need VPN (connects you to a network securely over the Internet (Virtual Private Network)) but it's not meant to be a business router so can't blame them for that. Power cuts can kill the thing but it only happened once. Highly recommended as you do get a lifetime warranty with Belkin.


Thanks for reading!


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Comments about this review »

pcwiz11 23.11.2010 19:36

A brilliant review! Sounds like a fantastic router. Great work!

pgn0 05.11.2010 21:00

Very well reviewed - and I have the MIMO-version, the triple-antenna'd model, needed to hoof the signal to the far end of the house, through three intervening solid walls. It is mounted high up on the wall above a door, with the three antennae pointing up towards the ceiling - I think I reviewed it on hear many moons ago.

D_i_a_n_e 24.11.2009 21:49

Great review!

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Product Information »

Manufacturer's product description

Connect your wired and wireless desktop computer and notebooks to your Belkin N Wireless Modem Router to share your...

General

MPN F5D8633UK4A, F5D8636UK4A, F5D8633DF4A, B5DUK061, F5D8635UK4A, F5D8235UK4, F5D8236ED4
Device Type Wireless router - 4-port switch (integrated)
Enclosure Type Desktop

Communications

Type DSL modem
Digital Signaling Protocol ADSL

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This review of Belkin F5D8633-4 - wireless router - DSL - 802.11b/g/n (draft) - desktop has been rated:

"exceptional" by (17%):

  1. pcwiz11
  2. pgn0
  3. HarryKgh

and 2 other members

"very helpful" by (83%):

  1. TheHairyGodmother
  2. D_i_a_n_e
  3. jesi

and 22 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.

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