Last Updated 4/Feb/2009
Review: Belkin N1 Vision Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router
Don Bradbury rates this comprehensive communications device
|Product||N1 Vision Wireless ADSL2+ Modem Router, part F5D8632uk4A|
|Price||RRP £149.99; Amazon currently £120.88|
|We like||Setup wizard; Gigabit Ethernet; informative LCD readout|
|We don't like||LCD speed indicators could do with some smoothing.|
|Requirements||Windows 2000, XP, and Vista; Mac OS, X v10.2, 10.3, or 10.4|
The router-only version of the Belkin N1 Vision has been on the market for many months and has been well received. But what the device really needed, for non-cable users at least, was the incorporation of an ADSL2+ modem so that the complete communications job, modem and router, could be achieved within a single unit.
Somewhat surprisingly, with both products currently available, the upgrade retains the same name as the original, ie 'N1 Vision', though the name is subscripted 'wireless modem router'.
The Belkin N1 Vision Wireless ADSL2+ Mocem Router comes complete with a power supply, ADSL filter, RJ11 phone cord, RJ45 Ethernet cable, quick install guide, and a CD bearing the install wizard and full user manual. The brief Quick Start Guide was adequate as far as cabling was concerned as it's hardly possible to make a mistake.
Then, ostensibly, you can start the install wizard in any of four ways. You can open your web browser and the Wizard should start automatically (according to both the quick start guide and the user manual). If it doesn't, you can enter 'routersetup' (or 'router setup', according to which you read of the quick start guide or user manual) into the web-address field of your browser. Or you can initiate the job by either loading the auto-start CD and selecting the Wizard from the menu, or entering the router's firmware page address 192.168.2.1 into the same field. Either of the third and fourth option worked for us, and the first two didn't on our Vista Home Premium PC. That forth option should perhaps be listed in the guide because you might need it for making user over-rides.
Belkin Technical say the issue over the first two install options is a known to them. "It seems to be connected to the set-up of the browser, the DNS servers on the network connection, or sometimes the firewall software", they said. In any event, we feel the best procedure is via the installation CD. Anything cleverer than that is quite unnecessary.
For setup, all that was required was to indicate the country of usage from a drop-down list, and then select the appropriate ISP from a second drop-down list. That ensured the router would know the basic required settings. Adding the ISP-provided User Name and Password fully identified the user account, and setup was essentially complete. We say essentially complete, but while it was sufficient to get the computer online, there were security settings and other customisations to make, as required, via the Browser.
Cabling of the N1 Vision was, us usual, very straight forward, with the power and ADSL cable sockets placed either side of the four Gigabit Ethernet sockets. These were incorrectly referred to as 10/100 in the User Manual, and that was another issue already known to Belkin.
The N1 Vision features an LCD display by means of which you can keep track of your upload and download speeds, for example, and the number of connected wireless computers or other devices. The display was, on the whole, helpful, though the time display was incorrect as delivered, being too fast by one hour. That simply required an adjustment in the setup screen to select the correct time zone for the UK, the default time servers being based on the continent.
The upload and download speed indicators were also generally useful, though both could have benefited from some smoothing of the output. The upload indicator, in particular, gave very erratic short upload readings and was not considered particularly helpful in most operations for that reason.
Overall, giving relevant network information on an interactive display such as this was considered effective. With it you could also view your network's broadband speed and the computer bandwidth usage; you can also see which computers were currently connected to the network, or note the length of time each unit had been online during the past 24 hours, as well as monitor the status of all your networked devices. It might be considered informative while streaming video, music and photos, online gaming, as well as surfing the web, for instance, and also while chatting with friends, or emailing.
This is taken care of in setup, with WPA, WPA2, 64/128-bit WEP encryption available. You can also have multiple SSIDs, the 'guest account' being useful if you want to provide access to your network for a visitor without risk to your own settings.
Wireless performance was all that we expected for an N1 MIMO device. For optimal wireless performance, users were advised that N1 clients should be used throughout the network. Gigabit Ethernet was particularly advantageous for large data file transfers via wired connections and was a most welcome provision.
The user manual on the CD was comprehensive, with setup and troubleshooting sections leaving little by way of guidance remaining to be said. But it's perhaps worth pointing out that the three aerials that protrude from the top of this device are so placed for a reason, rather than being hidden in a fixed orientation within the case. Belkin recommend that they be arranged manually by rotating them randomly to improve wireless performance. They say "this diversity in orientation can help maximize the benefits of 802.11n and MIMO technology. We recommend placing each antenna in a different orientation".
The Belkin N1 Vision Wireless ADSL 2+ Modem Router was liked for it's simple setup, provided we used the CD-based installation routine. It's speedy wired and wireless connections were welcome, and also it's guest mode which permitted sharing of the broadband connection without risk. Finally, the LCD display was usefully informative.
The modern proclivity for vertically orienting such devices has it's welcome sides, not least the reduced desk space requirement and the viewing angle for such an LCD, but a possible downside of this device does include the shape. It's orientation, while the base is quite supportive, still means that the user has to be careful with siting if it's not to be toppled. And of course the cost might be thought rather high - relative to other devices that are similarly specified, if not so informative.