Belkin N750 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router
At its street price of less than $100, the Belkin N750 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ router is much cheaper than any other true dual-band router that also offers the higher 450Mbps speed on the 5GHz band. And it's a capable device, providing very fast 5GHz wireless speeds and a host of advanced features.
On the downside, the N750 DB's wireless range on the 5GHz band and especially the throughput speed on the 2.4GHz band could use some improvement. The router's built-in network storage is much inferior to that of similarly configured routers on the market. Its lack of support for IPv6 and WEP wireless encryption means that it's neither future-proof nor backward-compatible with certain older wireless clients.
Still, for the money, the N750 DB is a good choice for those looking for a robust home router. If you don't mind spending a little more, also check out the Asus RT-N56U or the Linksys E4200.
Setup and design
Shaped like a sleek UFO standing vertically on a base, the Belkin N750 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ router looks great. Unfortunately, this is not a very practical design, as the base is rather light, making the device topple easily, especially when there are network cables plugged into the ports on the back. The router comes with four Gigabit LAN ports for wired clients and one WAN port for connecting to an Internet source. Also on the back are two USB 2.0 ports to be used with external storage devices or printers. We tried these ports with a few portable bus-powered external hard drives and they worked well as long as only one drive was plugged in at a time. When two drives were connected, the router's USB ports didn't seem to provide enough juice to power both.
Like previous routers from Belkin, such as the Play Max, the N750 DB comes preconfigured with two wireless networks, one on each band, with their names and encryption keys printed on a label attached to its body. This way, if you don't want to bother with setting up networks, you can just use the router with the default configuration. We'd recommend changing these, however, as the provided network names and encryption keys are hard to remember.
And it's actually very easy to further customize the router. All you have to do is log in to its Web interface from a connected computer by pointing a browser to its default IP address, 192.168.2.1. By default, the log-in password is blank. On top of that, the router comes with desktop software, called Belkin Router Monitor, which helps with the initial setup process and also helps map network drives to the connected USB drive, launches the Web interface, lets you change the router's settings, and so on. Experienced users however, will probably want to skip this software entirely as it isn't really necessary and will run by itself each time the computer starts up, unless you change its settings to dictate otherwise.
Like the Play Max, the N750 DB comes with some nifty-sounding features: Self-Healing, Video Mover, Print Zone, and Memory Safe. Despite the fancy names, these are just standard features found in most, if not all, similarly configured routers. Video Mover streams content to network media streamers; Print Zone supports use of a USB printer; and Memory Safe enables a connected USB external hard drive to be used as the backup destination for connected computers. The only feature unique to the N750 DB is Self-Healing but this feature basically means that the router can restart itself at a scheduled time, which a good router shouldn't need.
We tried out Video Mover and Memory Safe and found that though they worked as intended, they weren't really viable due to the slow performance of the router's built-in network storage. You can't control the way the router streams or shares data stored on the connected USB storage device, either. Once plugged in, the entire drive is shared over the network with everybody having full access to it.
As with the Play Max, we'd recommend that you not get excited about these gimmicks and focus on what the N750 DB really offers as a wireless router.
The N750 DB is a true dual-band router, meaning it offers two separate wireless networks simultaneously, one in the ever-popular 2.4GHz band and the other in the newer, clean 5GHz band. Its 5GHz band even supports the higher 450Mbps Wireless-N standard (as opposed to the 300Mbps of most Wireless-N routers). The router also offers a comprehensive guest networking feature, which allows guest wireless clients to access the Internet but not other local resources such as a printer or files. It can work like a public hot spot by making unknown users log in via a Web page, giving the owner more control over the connected clients. Guest networking is only available on the 2.4GHz band.
The N750 DB offers a few other standard advanced features such as such as Access Control, which can restrict the Internet access of certain computers in the network; Virtual Server, which enables a computer to be set up for a particular service, such as an FTP or HTTP server; and Quality of Service.
The router's Web interface is typical of Belkin routers, organized and responsive. Unfortunately, it seems the router's current firmware doesn't support IPv6, the new version of Internet Protocol intended to replace the current IPv4, which is running out of addresses. This won't affect most home users, however, and might be added via a firmware update. What will almost certainly affect many users is the fact that the router doesn't support the old WEP wireless encryption method, just WPA and WPA2. While WEP is not as secure as later methods, it's used by older wireless clients and without this support the router will not work with a large selection of existing wireless devices.
The router also supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) with a button on its front that initiates a 2-minute time window in which other WPS-enabled devices can enter the wireless network automatically.
The N750 DB showed mixed performance in our testing.
On one hand, the router's throughput on the 5GHz band was very fast over a short distance (15 feet), at 92.34Mbps. Even when we increased the distance to 100 feet, the router still registered 74.64Mbps. At these speeds the router can finish transferring 500MB in significantly less than a minute. And in both tests, the router was the third fastest on our comparative charts. Note that this formal testing was done with 300Mbps Wireless-N clients. When we tried the router with clients that support the new 450Mbps, the Belkin's performance on the 5GHz band proved to be even faster, up to a 50 percent improvement. As our 450Mbps testing plan hasn't been formalized, for now, we'll keep using the numbers generated by 300Mbps Wireless-N clients for the charts. Note that most Wireless-N clients currently on the market only support the 300Mbps standard or slower.
On the other hand, the router's performance on the 2.4GHz band, though quite fast, was consistently below average in our testing. Its 2.4GHz range was very good, stretching to about 290 feet away. Its range on the 5GHz band was much more modest, just about 200 feet or so. For both bands, we found that the router was best used within 150 feet or less.
The router passed our 24-hour stress test. For this test, we set it to transfer a large amount of data back and forth between clients on both bands, and it didn't disconnect once.
Like the Play Max and many other routers with USB ports, the performance of the N750 DB's network storage feature was slow, averaging 21.9Mbps and 55.5Mbps for writing and reading respectively via Gigabit Ethernet. At these speeds, the router can't offer much from its connected USB external hard drive, other than some light file sharing or music streaming.
Service and support
Belkin backs the N750 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ with a two-year warranty, which is good for a router, as routers usually only come with 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 Web site also offers documentation, downloadable drivers, and FAQs.
We loved the N750 DB Wireless Dual-Band N+'s price and 5GHz throughput but were let down by the performance of its 2.4GHz band and its lack of compatibility and features. Still, it would make a good, affordable high-end router for homes that don't have legacy wireless clients.