Belkin F7D8301 Play N600 HD Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router review: Belkin F7D8301 Play N600 HD Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router

Another corny-sounding feature is Memory Safe, which is a backup software application that automatically backs up a computer's files to the router's external storage. We would have preferred it if this were simply called Backup Software.

It's worth noticing that all of these so-called special features are just basic features found in most, if not all, routers that have support for external storage, such as the Linksys E4200 or the Netgear 3700. The only difference, if any, is the fact that the Belkin Play N600 HD's features are less intuitive to use.

However, the Play N600's Web interface is very much like that of the best-of-its-time Belkin N+, intuitive and responsive. Here you will find the router's other advanced (yet common) features, such as Access Control, which can be used to restrict the Internet access of certain computers in the network; Virtual Server, with which you can set up a computer as an FTP or HTTP server; Firewall; and so on. We found that it's better to skip the router's included software and all the related features and use only its Web interface to manage it. You'll have a much more pleasant experience with the device this way.

Again, the Belkin Play N600 HD is a true dual-band router, meaning it offers two concurrent, separate wireless networks, one in the overly popular 2.4GHz band and the other in the newer and cleaner 5GHz band. It also has a Guest Networking feature that enables you to create a third separate 2.4GHz wireless network for guests. This network allows guests to access the Internet but not local network resources, such as printers. While Guest Networking is not new, Belkin has upped this feature a notch by offering a Web-based log-in for guest users, making the router suitable for use as a public hot spot.

Like most recent routers, the Play N600 HD supports all available wireless encryption standards, including WEP, WPA-Personal, and WPA-Enterprise. The router also supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) with a button on its front that initiates a 2-minute time window when other WPS-enabled devices can enter the wireless network automatically.

Performance
The Play N600 HD showed mixed performance in our tests.

On the one hand, it blew us away with the throughput speed in the 5GHz band at close range (around 15 feet), scoring 109.6Mbps, the fastest we've seen. At this speed the router can finish 500MB of data in just around 35 seconds. When we increased the range to 100 feet the throughput was lowered, as expected, coming in at 73.4Mbps as the second fastest in our comparison, just a tad behind the 79.1Mbps of the Linksys E4200. We noted, however, that the gap between 109.6Mbps and 73.4Mbps is quite large.

And this signal degradation was even worse in the 2.4GHz band. This time, the router scored decently at 57Mbps for the close-range test but fell to a mere 12.6Mbps when the range was increased to 100 feet, the lowest we've seen among N routers. In the mixed-mode test where the router was set to work with both Wireless-N and pre-N wireless standards, at close range, the router scored an average 33.6Mbps.

Overall, the N600 only worked well with clients within a 75-foot radius. Farther out, the throughput dropped significantly or fluctuated a great deal and was only enough for light Web surfing. In our testing both bands of the router offered a maximum range of around 240 feet, noticeably shorter than other dual-band routers. The router however did pass our 24-hour stress test, during which time it didn't disconnect once.

Like all routers with built-in support for network storage, the Play N600 HD didn't impress us at all with its storage performance, with just 11.4Mbps and 23.8Mbps for write and read, respectively, via Gigabit Ethernet. These numbers are just too low for any serious data sharing, backup, or media streaming over a network. If you're serious about network storage, we'd recommend the LaCie Wireless Space or, better yet, a dedicated NAS server.

CNET Labs NAS performance test (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance score (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Mixed mode  
Range  
Throughput  
Cisco Linksys E4200
57.6 
46.9 
61.4 
D-Link DIR-825
55.04 
40.4 
57.44 
Belkin Play N600 HD
33.6 
12.6 
57 
Belkin N+ Wireless Router
36.16 
29.44 
55.44 
Netgear WNDR3700
41.8 
38.6 
54.8 
Belkin Play Max
47.5 
44.8 
52.2 
Cisco Linksys E3000
35.3 
32.8 
43.5 
Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station
35.2 
21.12 
40.6 
Linksys WRT610n
27.04 
28.8 
35.76 
Apple Time Capsule
20 
20.8 
32.2 

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N performance score (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Belkin Play N600 HD
73.4 
109.6 
Cisco Linksys E4200
79.1 
100.48 
D-Link DIR-825
36.48 
80.96 
Apple Time Capsule
57 
70.16 
Cisco Linksys E3000
48.8 
65.4 
Linksys WRT610n
54.8 
64.8 
Netgear WNDR3700
40 
60 
Belkin Play Max
56 
57.6 

Service and support
Belkin backs the Play N600 HD with a two-year warranty, whereas most of routers on the market come with only a one-year warranty. Belkin's toll-free phone support is available 24-7, or you can fill out a form at Belkin's Web site for e-mail support. Its Website also offers documentation, downloadable drivers, and FAQs.

Conclusions
Due to its lack of range and mediocre 2.4GHz wireless and network storage performance, it's hard for us to recommend the Play N600 HD Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router except to 5GHz enthusiasts. It's probably time Belkin dropped the Play concept with its bloated and corny "features" and focused on making its routers lean and solid performers, as the N+ was in its day.

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Belkin F7D8301 Play N600 HD Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router

Part Number: F7D8301
Low Price: $37.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Compliant Standards IEEE 802.11b
  • Data Transfer Rate 300 Mbps
  • Data Link Protocol IEEE 802.11g
  • Connectivity Technology wired
  • Features VPN passthrough