20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
It's a good thing I have as much patience as I do...
, 25 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Belkin Wireless N300 Modem Router ADSL (BT Line) (Electronics)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First impressions of the Belkin N300 were fairly favourable - it's not going to win any design or prettiness awards but it also won't look too out of place next to your PC or AV equipment. It does have a very `plastic-y' sound to it, though, and it doesn't feel particularly substantial. Ignoring the aesthetics for a moment, with the router you get a short Ethernet cable, a short telephone cable, a phone line filter and a CD with the router's set-up software and manuals on.
The front of the router gives you precious little in the way of information - there's a combined power/connection light and a separate WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup) button that you'll probably never use, but that's it. There are no status lights for the Ethernet connections, and no lights to give an indication of the DSL or the wireless security status. The router is also minus a power button so unplugging it from the mains is the only way to turn it off. The Ethernet and DSL status is of little concern to me, but I did miss the wireless security status light, having had it on my two previous routers. The power/connection light is also very bright but Belkin helpfully provide a way of dimming it in the router's configuration settings, if you want to use it in the bedroom, for example.
When it came to actually using the thing, connecting the router to my ISP was a protracted and somewhat painful experience. The auto-set-up feature on the CD was easy to understand but the router was unable to connect to my ISP automatically, so I had to input certain settings myself - I would strongly recommend that you have ALL of your ISP's connection settings (particularly the VPI and VCI numbers) handy before you start the process. Even with these settings, it still took two hours of shouting, several erroneous `wrong settings' messages, and numerous program restarts to make a connection, and I have to admit that at that point I was very close to giving up on it and going back to my old router.
But persevere I did, and once set up, the N300 proved sturdy and reliable, when used with a wired connection; wirelessly, things were a bit different. My old Samsung mobile (which could only ever connect to my old router when they were in the same room!) connected to the Belkin first time, from two solid-block rooms away, but my XP home PC (again, two rooms away) returned a weaker signal and slower connection speed than it had done previously. My 18-month-old Windows 7 laptop was completely unable to connect, returning a `faulty wireless adapter' notification whenever I tried. Some mucking about with the settings later - culminating in me changing the bandwidth from 20 to 20/40 MHz - and it did manage to connect, but the process wasn't the sort of thing I would ever want any of my elderly or less tech-savvy relatives to have to cope with.
The N300 uses what Belkin call their `MultiBeam antenna technology', which they say gives "...a powerful signal strength and maximum coverage so you can connect from multiple devices, virtually anywhere in your home." While it's true that I was able to connect from more areas of my house than I had been able to before, the signal strength in some areas was diminished, indicating that the Belkin may be throwing the available signal around more, rather than increasing it in any meaningful way. The N300 has an internal, rather than a protruding, antenna, and this may have contributed to the weaker signal that I was getting - it would be interesting to see if an external antenna would fare better. Most of my machines are `wireless g' capable only, although I did add a `wireless n' adaptor to my home PC, which nicely boosted the connection speed to a very noticeable 108 Mbps but had no discernable effect on the signal strength.
If you want to play around with the N300's various settings, you access them through your internet browser, initially from the included set-up CD and thereafter directly via a bookmark that you can add manually. At first the range of settings on offer might be slightly bewildering for those of a nervous disposition, but the reality is that (a) you'll never use most of them, and (b) the router is already configured the way the majority of users would expect, so you only need tinker if you want to. I would recommend setting up a log-in password, checking that the wireless configuration is optimal, and maybe changing the WEP key, but in my case most of the other things appeared to be already configured as I would have wanted them.
The two utilities available that you may find handy, are `Self Healing' and `ECO Mode'. Self Healing reinitialises the router at set times during the week (usually in the middle of the night on certain days) to clear the memory and help keep the router running smoothly. ECO Mode allows you to disable the wireless radio, again at set times, to conserve power. Neither is particularly groundbreaking but both show that some thought has gone into the device and each is nice to have.
Forcing me to go through its setup procedure was definitely not the best way for the N300 to start our relationship, and if I had been blessed with only slightly less patience then it's a relationship that wouldn't have lasted. Fortunately, I persevered and was rewarded with a faster, if not quite as solid, connection to my home PC, plus a mobile phone that now feels the Wi-Fi love more than it ever did before. The N300 is plainly at the lower end of the Belkin router range, and I would have preferred to have one with spiffy lights, dual-band networking and maybe a USB port or two, but that's not what it's about. If you can actually get it set up and connected, then you've pretty much won the day, but you may find getting to that point not as simple or as pain-free as it perhaps should be.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you?