Belkin N1 Wireless Notebook Card review: Belkin N1 Wireless Notebook Card

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Belkin N1 Wireless Notebook Card

(Part #: F5D8011) Released: May 1, 2006
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Belkin N1 adapter is less expensive than the competition and a cinch to install, and it's backed by a generous service-and-support policy.

The Bad The Belkin N1 adapter (with the N1 router) doesn't live up to the promise of 802.11n in terms of performance.

The Bottom Line The Belkin N1 adapter is a little better than the competition, but that's not saying much. Hold off on buying Draft N networking equipment for now.

7.2 Overall
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 6.0
  • Service and support 9.0
  • Design and ease of use 8.0

The Belkin N1 wireless notebook adapter is the companion to the N1 wireless router, Belkin's first 802.11n Draft N product. While it's simple to install and performs on a par with other draft 802.11n adapters, our advice is to hold out until the 802.11n spec is finalized or performance improves. At a suggested price of $99, it's a little less expensive than the Draft N adapters offered by Linksys and Netgear, and it performs a little better, too.

The Belkin N1 wireless notebook adapter is a standard PC Card. Its black endpiece has two LEDs--one for power and the other for activity on the card's internal antenna. As with all of Belkin's previous adapters (and most wireless adapters in general), setup is a snap. Start by inserting the included CD-ROM into your laptop's optical drive to install the necessary drivers. When prompted, insert the card into your laptop's CardBus slot, which will launch the remainder of Belkin's setup wizard. Simply click through the wizard until the installation is complete. Belkin's Wireless Client Utility lets you scan for available wireless networks, set up advanced configurations of the card, and save wireless profiles for the networks you access most often. You can do some of the same things with Windows's Zero Config utility as well, but Belkin's utility gives you a more granular view.

As we mentioned in our review of the N1 router, Belkin has decided not to support single-mode networks in this product. Instead, it offers just a mixed n/g/b mode and will offer an n-only mode only if the finalized 802.11n spec requires it. The N1 adapter (and router) fared well against its Draft N competition in the 10-foot mixed-mode test, more than doubling the Netgear's throughput. At long range (200 feet), the N1 pair also bested the Linksys and Netgear pairs, which is especially impressive when you consider that the Linksys and Netgear pairs were both tested in single mode. (Generally, the slowest clients on a wireless network--in this case, 802.11b clients--create a bottleneck in the network.)

The support options for the N1 wireless notebook card are the same as those for the N1 router. Belkin offers a lifetime warranty and toll-free 24/7 telephone support. Web options include a FAQ, downloadable driver and firmware updates, and an e-mail form to tech support.

CNET Labs maximum throughput tests with mixed 802.11b/g and MIMO clients (at 10 feet)
(Throughput in Mbps)

CNET Labs long-range tests
(Throughput in Mbps measured indoors at 200 feet)
Note: *The Belkin N1 was tested in mixed mode at 200 feet.

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