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We'd wanted to upgrade our router for a while to cope with Rich playing on his Xbox online mainly as we kept getting lag, which was especially apparent if I was also browsing the net (which I generally was) even to the point of Rich being disconnected mid game. He was getting annoyed with it so when we saw this router on offer at ebuyer.com for £69.99 (but has since gone back up to its previous price of £89.99); I jumped at the chance to get it and now we have it, I thought it was worth writing a review about, so here we are!
My review will be based on my experience of the router, and not a full technological break down of what it is capable of etc as that is readily available online from the manufacturer and would probably bore most people to tears anyway.
The first thing I notice when opening the box is how big the router is; from the photos I'd seen of it, I'd always assumed it to be small (I should have really looked and found out the dimensions but I was so desperate to get it ordered as there was only one left in stock that I never bothered) but it's no problem really, just a surprise and I thought I should mention it to you as you may also be considering it and thinking it's a really small router.
This router comes in both cable and ADSL versions so anybody on any of the normal ISPs should be fine to use one of them, dependant on what internet they are being provided, ours is a cable one. The router is a wireless N1 which means that the data transfer rate is up to 300mps over the network instead of up to 54mps which is what you get with standard Wireless G technology. It also has a wide coverage area which means that if you want to go and use your laptop in the garden, then you shouldn't have any big connection issues (dropping connection etc) due to its proximity... unless you live in a big house with a big garden of course. You should check Belkins website to make sure this router will provide the coverage you need though as I wouldn't want to just assume it would for the purpose of this review.
It also means that my dad can use my connection from his house next door if his net ever goes down (although he'd need me to give him the security password which I shall talk about below) as our network shows up on his laptop when he's reconnecting to his home network haha. This also reinforces the security aspect that I will address in a few moments as you don't know who else can pick up your network on a wireless search within your area!
Setting up was relatively easy, connect all the wires as instructed, power the router up and then open a browser window, it should bring up a wizard but if it's like ours, it didn't; this was easily fixed though as it tells you to type in 'routersetup' and this brings up the wizard for you.
Our previous router was also a belkin so I can't say if this was a reason for us not really needing to put too much into the router settings but it worked straight away; the only thing we did was put in our passwords to make the router and the network secure. These are both done in the router settings browser that you get to by typing your assigned address which will generally be a selection of numbers and full stops something like 126.96.36.199 (it beings up a grey and white page with information and a menu on) and then going into the relevant page within your router settings.
To secure your network you need to look at and go to the left side menu where it says security under the wireless heading and select your security mode and unique password. We used WPA PSK/WPA2 PSK as the security mode for our wireless network, which means you can assign a password consisting of both letters and numbers that is easily remembered to your network.
The other mode you could use is WEP, this needs you to use a series of hex digits (0~9, A~F) as your 'password' which is obviously not going to be as easy to remember for most people; however if you have a good memory for this kind of thing, or have a way of logging them somewhere secure then this is a very good way to secure your network. Click 'apply changes' when you are done/happy with your password settings and wait for the router to count down after it applies them.
You'll also notice that there is an option to enable guest settings; this means that when you have people over who have brought their laptops etc and wish to use your internet connection, that you don't actually have to give your proper password over for them to connect, and also doesn't allow them on your home network (thus no access to your personal files and folders). I don't have this enabled as I generally trust anybody who'd be in my home and in that position but it's a very good feature to have these days.
Hopefully now your network is secure, so I'll now tell you how to secure your actual router. You need to look back to the left side menu and scroll to the bottom where it says Utilities, and ten click on the 'System Settings' option. This will bring you to a page where you can see the date, time and more importantly blank spaces for passwords to be set. Routers ship with a blank password as standard so if you're asked for a password for any of the pages BEFORE you change this password, just click submit with the box left blank. This is also true for when you change your password as it asks for your current password so just leave that blank and type in your new password. Again, once you have done this, click apply and wait for a couple of moments for your router to apply the new settings.
I cannot stress how important it is to do these 2 small and relatively simple things as doing this helps to stop somebody using your internet connection without your permission and also securing the router stops somebody being able to lock you out of your own internet connection. It's not a 100% guaranteed as there are some very clever hackers out there, but you should still do it as it's better than having no security at all.
We have encountered a couple of tiny problems with the router so far:
Usage in past 24 hours on the router LCD seems way out, telling me I had used 6.36 GB of bandwidth in the couple of hours I'd had the router installed... when I'd barely been at my pc and didn't have anything that uses the internet open. It's not such a big deal to me, but if it's one of the features that are important to you then you may want to check if it's a widespread problem, and if so if it has a solution. It doesn't cause us a problem really hence we haven't got around to getting in touch with Belkin about it.
It also didn't recognise my fiancés computer on the wireless when we first set it up, after a lot of messing about I discovered it was because I had set the security mode to WPA2 instead of just WPA. I mention this because my computer will handle WPA2 as it's a newer system, however my fiancés is an older system and it didn't get on well with it. I thought it was worth noting as you may have a set up similar to ours and this it could save you some time/messing about to check that you have it set correctly. I appreciate this was partly my error but it would be preferable for it to have it noted somewhere on the necessary page.
So far these are the only 2 hiccups we have had with the router so are still over the moon with it. Overall the router is a nifty little thing, which has made our internet experience a much more pleasant one as it has solved the problems we had encountered. I would thoroughly recommend it, though I'll be sure to come back and edit if I have any other thoughts on it.
I am pasting some information from within my router help menu (which is very good for information actually) as I believe it will be of use to some of you, I have put this at the end of my review so that it does not get mixed in with my own views/opinions.
WPA means Wireless Protected Access. WPA/WPA2-Personal PSK is a recent standards-based security technique where each packet of information is encrypted with a different code, or key. Since the key is constantly changing, WPA/WPA2 is very secure. The encryption key is generated automatically from a string of characters called the Pass Phrase or the Pre-shared Key (PSK). Obviously the biggest security risk in WPA is if someone finds out your Pass Phrase.
* Authentication - Select the method supported by all clients.
WPA-PSK uses TKIP encryption.
WPA2-PSK uses AES encryption.
WPA-PSK + WPA2-PSK allows clients to use either WPA-PSK (with TKIP encryption) or WPA2-PSK (with AES encryption).
* Encryption Technique - WPA-PSK always uses TKIP encryption. WPA2-PSK always uses AES encryption. WPA-PSK + WPA2-PSK uses TKIP + AES.
* Pre-shared Key (PSK) - All clients must use the same PSK. The PSK can be any word or phrase from 8 up to 63 characters. Watch out for upper and lower case differences ("n" is different than "N".) Remember, the easiest way to break your security is for someone to guess your PSK.
* 128-bit WEP: Until recently, 128-bit WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) was the standard for wireless encryption. If not all of your wireless devices support WPA, 128bit WEP still offers a very good security option. It will require you to enter hex digits (0~9, A~F), or else generate the keys by using the PassPhrase/Generate option.
* 64-bit WEP: This is similar to 128-bit WEP, but not as powerful. Belkin only recommends 64-bit mode on networks where some devices do not support either WPA or 128-bit WEP."
More in-depth information on the security modes is available all over the net but here are a couple of links that may be useful.