Belkin Australia N1 Vision Modem-Router (F5D8632au4A)
A modem worth looking at
- Built-in screen lets you easily view details about your network, Wi-Fi Protected Setup, lifetime warranty
- Doesn't have a dedicated 802.11 draft-n mode in its Web configuration page, slightly sluggish wireless networking performance
It's a little sluggish, but the N1 Vision modem proved to be reliable during our testing period and its built-in screen does come in handy.
Price$ 399.95 (AUD)
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Being able to glean information about your network connections just by looking at an LCD screen on your modem sure is convenient, and that's what Belkin is hoping will drive users to embrace its latest N1 Vision Modem-Router. While the N1 Vision has been around for a while, the modem version is a neater solution for ADSL users who are on the look-out for a new 802.11 draft-n-capable all-in-one unit.
Setting up the modem for our iiNet account was an easy task using the built-in Setup Wizard. The modem's Web interface houses a list of Australian ISPs, and you can simply select your company from the list, and then enter your login details. Once it connects you to the Internet, it proceeds to let you configure your wireless settings, which is equally easy. Indeed, the user-friendliness of this unit is undeniable — but it's still not a perfect unit by any stretch of the imagination.
Its wireless settings are restrictive for anyone who wants to set-up a purely 802.11 draft-n network. This is because you can't set an n-only mode within the router — you can only use 802.11b/g/n mixed mode and a mixture of 20/40MHz bandwidth. This won't be a problem if you plan on using a mixture of 802.11g and draft-n devices anyway.
Speed tests showed the N1 Vision to be a little slower than the Linksys WRT160N and significantly slower than the D-Link DGL-4500 Xtreme N Gaming Router. (Both those modems allowed us to test in an n-only mode.) It recorded an average throughput of 5.28MBps from a distance of 10m in our 802.11 draft-n transfer test, which is about 1MBps slower than the Linksys. But it did fare better in the mixed transfer test: running the same 802.11 draft-n transfer while also streaming video to a Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000, which is 802.11g-based, the N1 Vision Modem-Router recorded 4.41MBps. This is 0.1MBps faster than the Linksys.
You should be able to get a far-reaching signal with the N1 Vision Modem-Router, too. We managed to view a video stream from approximately 30m away before it started stuttering badly, which is what we expected in our test environment. The unit has three antennas on its rear that need to be optimally positioned by the user in a 'W' arrangement. We do hope that Belkin has plans to hide the antennas inside the unit in upcoming versions, similar to what Linksys and Netgear (HD/Video 5GHz Wireless-N Networking Kit (WNHDEB111)) are doing with their products.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the N1 Vision Modem-Router is the built-in screen. Its viewing angles are a little poor, but it's perfectly readable from a distance when looking at it head-on. It comes in handy when you just want to know how many users are connected to your router, and how much of your Internet bandwidth they are consuming.
You can also see at a glance if your Internet connection is down, and even get download figures from all the computers that have been connected to your router for the past 24hr. And you can do all this just by pressing the arrow buttons on the unit itself, so there's no need to even enter the Web configuration page unless you need to change settings. Funnily enough, when we tried to view the currently-connected computers in the DHCP client list section of the Web interface, the information was horribly wrong.
The N1 Vision Modem-Router also features Wi-Fi Protected Setup, and this can be invoked either through the Web interface or by navigating the menu from the built-in screen. The unit also has a built-in firewall, and you can configure virtual servers (port forwarding) and DMZ settings for online gaming and Bittorrent applications. Parental controls, such as keyword filtering, aren't available, but IP filters can be implemented to restrict Internet access by time and day.
There aren't any advanced features for power users to look out for: you don't get QoS, nor built-in support for VPN protocols. However, you do get a 4-port Gigabit Ethernet switch, which should be expected at this price point. Another plus for the N1 Vision Modem-Router is its warranty, which is for the lifetime of the product.
So while it was a little sluggish in our wireless transfer tests, and while it doesn't quite have any advanced features, the N1 Vision Modem-Router performed reliably throughout our test period and its screen does actually come in handy, especially when troubleshooting. It's more than just a novelty — you get used to it and continually rely on it. But if you don't like it, you can turn it off and it will only turn on to tell you if there's a problem.
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