Belkin has always aimed to be more user friendly, by trying to hide away the technical detail and keep things straightforward and simple. Sometimes, perhaps it goes a little far.
Take the single status light on the AC1750DB, which blinks when it powers up, goes solid when connected and blinks amber when a modem isn't detected. On the surface, reducing the status lights to just one output looks like simplification, but it makes at-a-glance diagnosis of problems significantly more difficult.
Belkin has also made the decision to split its ADSL modem out into the power brick, allowing it to sell the same router model separately and bundled with a modem, reducing production costs. There's potential there for a user to upgrade the modem in the future and keep the router, but then that's always been the case, even with integrated units simply running as an access point.
As a result the power brick is huge, and to reset the modem, you'll have to crawl to whatever space your power socket is hidden in and press the tiny, recessed reset button, or yank the adapter from the wall.If you get disconnected from the Internet, the web UI recommends you turn everything off and on again - there's no software option to reconnect. From an end-user perspective, none of this is optimal.
In terms of ports you get the standard four gigabit Ethernet ports, along with a USB 2.0 and a USB 3.0 port. The AC1750DB automatically shares any USB storage over SMB to everyone, with no access permissions available in the UI. DLNA streaming from USB storage is provided by Twonky, and a Belkin MediaPlay app is available for both iPhone and Android to complement that.
The USB port also supports printers, with Belkin providing the best software we've seen thus far for managing devices, auto-prompting as you connect devices to the router.
Belkin's UI looks nice, although its layout is poorly thought out and highly frustrating for anyone who wants to get things done. While many of the modem/router status readouts on the homepage are linked to appropriate settings pages, they've been pushed down the page in favour of not-so-useful options being blown up into huge buttons. Any form of useful navigation is hidden under an "Advanced Settings" expandable section. There's no quick access menu -- if you want to change something in a different section, you have to go back to the home page and expand the advanced settings section. Every. Single. Time.
There are also no hard coded URLs, meaning you can't effectively use your browser's refresh or back button. It's also worth noting that ad-blocking software can interfere with Belkin's interface, throwing a blank page when clicking on several of the options.
Where this all starts to make sense is when you access the web UI on a phone - where things like parental control, connected devices, guest access and other quick administration options make sense to elevate. Things are well laid out for the smaller screen, and unlike competitors, Belkin exposes all of its settings over its mobile interface. We just wish its desktop interface was better suited to its task, rather than being a shoe-horned touch-interface.
Parental control options include scheduled Internet access, and website filtering via a Norton Connect Safe partnership, which filters in three categories: malicious, malicious and adult, and malicious, adult and other non-family friendly. Connect Safe is actually a free service that is enabled by changing the DNS in your router to the server aligned with the appropriate filter category -- and while you can't add your own site to the list or clear others, we can appreciate that some people would prefer a third party like Norton to do the thinking for them.