Belkin upped the ante on consumer-friendliness in other areas, as well. When you open the box, you're faced with a quick-installation guide that details the process of setting up the router in plain English. Even better, each step is lettered, and a sticker on the router has the corresponding letters, as do the included power and networking cables, so newbies won't have to guess at which port is the WAN port, for example.
If you are setting up your first router, you can start by inserting the installation CD and running the setup wizard, which takes you through the configuration process. If you're more experienced with wireless networking, you can simply plug in all of the cables, then power up and point your browser to the provided IP address to access the network management utility, where you can manually configure your router. The Belkin N1 router has all the standard wireless security options, including WEP and WPA-PSK, SPI and NAT firewalls, DMZ and VPN pass-throughs, and MAC address filtering.
In a departure from the rest of the Draft N pack, Belkin has opted not to support n-only or g-only modes. Instead, your only wireless option is a mixed n/g/b mode. In mixed mode at 10 feet, the Belkin N1 more than doubled the throughput of the Netgear WNR834B router and edged out the Linksys WRT300N. Even more impressive was the long-range test result: we normally test long-range throughput in single mode, but in this case, we had to test the Belkin in mixed mode. We expected it to take a performance hit compared to the others, but instead, it nearly doubled the Linksys's score and squeaked by the Netgear. Despite these impressive feats, we were still underwhelmed by the Belkin's overall performance. 802.11n networking promises speeds up to 300Mbps (though all the networking vendors will admit that this is a maximum burst speed and cannot be maintained), and the Belkin N1 router could reach only a top speed of 53.3Mbps at close range, nowhere close to the max.
Belkin is unparalleled in terms of service and support for its networking products. In fact, unlike some companies that try to bury their support information and tech support number, Belkin includes a boldly colored sheet in the box that details all of your support options, including the phone number. It covers the N1 router with a lifetime warranty, and free, toll-free phone support is available 24/7. At Belkin's Web site, you'll find firmware and driver updates, FAQs, an interactive networking setup guide, and an e-mail support form.
(Throughput in Mbps)