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Like most wireless routers we've seen, the Belkin unit is fairly plain looking. It is a blue-grey 4-port router with two rotatable antennas extending from its rear, which adds wireless capabilities.
On the front panel is an eight-LED display that indicates at-a-glance which functions are in use. From left to right are lights signifying power, ADSL line synchronisation, ADSL data transport, wireless network (WLAN) activity and four lights that blink to indicate data transport on each of the wired Ethernet ports.
In the box you also get a RJ45 Ethernet cable (to connect the router to your PC), a RJ11 phone cord (that goes from your phone socket to the router), a power supply, a 3-step installation pamphlet and a user manual CD-ROM.
For such an integrated unit, installation is surprisingly straightforward. Belkin makes it simple even for novices to setup wireless using an ADSL connection at home as no software is necessary to install. After connecting the three cords mentioned above and switching the unit on, you need to type the IP address of the router (192.168.2.1) into a Web browser, select your connection type and enter the username and password provided by your ISP.
The Web-based interface (see image) is clean and well laid out, with navigation links down the left hand side, information in the centre and Internet connection status at the top right corner.
The main attraction of this unit is the convergence of a modem with a wireless router. Rather than having a box for each, Belkin combines the two into a single, small package.
Dual antennas at the rear of the unit provide the 802.11g wireless access point with speeds up to 54Mbps. By default, SSID (a name you give the wireless network) broadcasting is enabled, allowing wireless notebooks to instantly see the network.
To ensure your neighbours or anyone roaming about outside your house doesn't gain unauthorised access to your network, the Belkin unit can implement a wide range of wireless security and encryption features including WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) and the more secure WPA (Wireless Protected Access) protocol. Filtering MAC addresses (serial numbers for all networking components) provides an additional security layer by only allowing access to a specific list of clients.
When switched on or reset, we found the Belkin unit to synchronise at a reasonably fast 20 seconds with our ADSL line. Changes made through the Web-based configuration page are automatically applied while the modem reboots.
One note of caution, the metal panelling on the base and rear of the unit gets hot -- a little too hot for our liking, considering the device is generally stored on top or near of other (expensive) components with electrical wiring.
Performance-wise, we had no trouble with the Belkin. It rarely dropped our ADSL connection and wireless transmission times were normal (which in the real world is about half the theoretical maximum of 54Mbps). The unit supports a variety of operating systems including Windows, Mac and Linux.
All up we find the Belkin ADSL Modem With Built in Wireless Router is an economical way to create a home network that connects multiple PCs and Wi-Fi notebooks to a single Internet connection.