Evaluating wireless network gear is a tricky equation. There are so many variables to consider, it’s nearly impossible to determine if network issues lie in the hardware, firmware or test environment.
A case in point is our test of the Belkin N750DB Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router. This is Belkin’s top of the line wireless router and at under $90 over at Amazon, it represents an excellent value. Unfortunately, if you look at the user reviews, you’ll find buyers reporting very mixed results.
This was our experience as well, but we know that we are testing in an environment that has bested many other top-of-the-line devices in the past.
Any wireless network topology guide will tell you to place your router in the middle of the house, but unfortunately, our connection is located in one corner of the second floor. For all we know, our neighbors get better wi-fi signals from our routers than we do.
The N750DB boasts of implicit beam forming, which Belkin claims “focuses the energy of the radio signal toward the devices on the network instead of radiating in all directions.” Sounds like the answer to our prayers.
We can report with confidence that the Belkin performed at the upper end of our experience but well below what we hoped its multibeam technology would deliver.
Setup is very easy. Just plug your cable modem into the router and run an Ethernet cable to your pc. Run the setup cd and your router will be operational. It automatically creates two wireless networks, running at 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz, respectively.
Link rate of the 5GHz network is supposed to approach 450 Mbps while the other maxes out at 300 Mbps. We were unable to achieve anything approaching that speed, but our wireless environment is very noisy. Despite setting a laptop up only a few feet from the router, noise levels never got below 18%. Subsequently, we never saw signal levels above 77% on the 2.4GHz band. Level was even lower on the 5GHz band.
We won’t fault the N750DB for this mediocre performance; it’s still better than what we’ve seen from a Cisco Valet, D-Link DIR-628 and a Linksys WRT-54GS. But it will mean that we will stick with our Powerline network for consistent video streaming.
The N750DB includes four Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports. Attaching an external drive to either USB port allows you to easily create a network attached storage (NAS) device to house your documents and media files.
Although the router is aimed at mainstream users, the router’s setup page includes pretty much all the settings an advanced admin would require. This is arcane stuff, so be careful messing with these settings!
Once a setting is changed, the router will require a reboot, which is fairly slow compared to other routers we’ve tested.
All in all, the Belkin N750DB is a good deal; just don’t expect any miracles.