Belkin Play Max F7D4401 review: Belkin Play Max F7D4401

Review Sections

Belkin has chosen Vuze, formerly known as Azureus, to handle torrents. The software is installed on your PC and everything is managed from there, with the ability to later offload the torrent to the router. Or at least, it's meant to, but we could never get it to work, with Vuze consistently claiming that our router was offline. It looks like it's an auto update issue, but it's frustrating nonetheless. None of the torrents can be managed on the router either — the only option you have is to wipe items in the queue, which includes partially downloaded and complete files.

Don't be fooled by the feature list — the Belkin Play Max is not a replacement for a NAS in any form, and not being able to manage the features through the router itself is near criminal. We haven't tested it yet to see if its internal routing speed is as good as the Play Max, but if Belkin is on your shopping list we'd investigate the cheaper "Play" version, as it's still at least simultaneous dual band, and loses some cruft along the way.

Performance

After analysing the spectrum with InSSIDer, an empty channel of either 1, 6 or 11 is chosen for 2.4GHz wireless testing. The router is restricted to the 20MHz band and will only allow 802.11n clients. If possible, the MCS is set to 15.

We use iperf to determine throughput, running eight streams, with a TCP window size of 1MB, and an interval of one second. The test is run for five minutes in three different locations, on two separate occasions. The locations are in the same room as the router, one floor down around spiral stairs and with concrete walls and floors, and two floors down under the same conditions.

The wireless throughput is tested using three chipsets, the Atheros AR5008X, Ralink RT2870 and Intel 5100AGN, then all results are averaged.

2.4GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Billion BiPAC 7800N
  • Linksys WAG320N (2.4GHz)
  • Belkin Play Max F7D4401au (without Intel 5100)
  • Belkin Play Max F7D4401au (with Intel 5100)
  • Location one (same room, no obstructions) 69.2065.9770.853.90
  • Location two (one floor down, some obstructions) 64.6354.3769.152.33
  • Location three (two floors down, some obstructions) 38.2335.2722.2119.07

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

We've included two scores here, one without the Intel 5100AGN, one with. This is due to the Belkin not accepting connections from the 5100 when set to accept N clients only — we were only able to connect when this was off, resulting in 802.11g speeds. Without the Intel it puts in a strong showing, although its distance performance isn't the best as we can see by the location three scores.

5GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Belkin Play Max F7D4401au (without Intel 5100)
  • Belkin Play Max F7D4401au (with Intel 5100)
  • Linksys WAG320N (2.4GHz)

  • Netgear DGND3300 V2
  • Location one (same room, no obstructions) 121.0065.9793.9792.5
  • Location two (one floor down, some obstructions) 91.8554.3793.1092.5
  • Location three (two floors down, some obstructions) 004.500.06

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Location three is particularly challenging for 5GHz. The Linksys is the only one that makes a stable connection, and even then performance isn't great. We should also note that Linksys' own external dongle was all it would connect to — both the in-built Atheros and Intel chipsets failed to make a connection. The number shown above is the average over the three connections, but obviously the zero scores distort the results here: the actual throughput on the Linksys dongle for the Linksys and Netgear modem routers was 13.50 and 0.18Mbps respectively.

Belkin's Play Max is the only 5GHz modem/router we've tested with fast enough internal routing to take advantage of gigabit to wireless speeds. It seems Linksys and Netgear have chosen to hold out, instead leaving the faster speeds for their WRT610N and WNDR3700 dedicated routers.

ADSL performance is simply measured by the sync speed on an Internode ADSL2+ connection to the St Leonards exchange, on Internode's very high speed profile. If the connection remains stable over a period of time, the sync speed is recorded.

ADSL2+ sync speed (in Kbps)

  • Billion BiPAC 7800N
  • Linksys WAG320N (2.4GHz)
  • Asus DSL-N13
  • Belkin Play Max F7D4401au
  • Uplink 1349134213461284
  • Downlink 22,30622,57921,92122,648

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Power consumption

We measured power consumption using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. It's important to note here that due to limitations of the meter, measurements are limited to values 1W and greater, and are reported in 1W increments.

The wireless radio was turned on, and an iperf test begun for measurement, using one wireless client and one wired.

Juice Box
Transmitting 14W
Idle 12W

While most routers idle around 7W and at most get to 11W while transmitting, Belkin's Play Max is most definitely not an eco saver, being the most power hungry modem/router we've tested to date. It also gets quite warm, perhaps a side effect of all this power draw and no active fans.

Warranty

Belkin covers the Play Max for three years, a very competitive term for routers. You will need to contact Belkin to arrange a product replacement.

Conclusion

The Play Max distinguishes itself by being a simultaneous dual-band modem/router with fast internal routing speed. Sadly, due to some extremely poor design decisions, high cost and being bogged down by software that runs on the PC rather than the router itself, the Play Max cannot be recommended.

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