Spare a thought for the humble router. Following the meteoric rise of home broadband, and the subsequent increase in home wireless networks it now seems that nearly every broadband enabled home has one of these wondrous boxes, sitting behind sofas or shoved behind the TV, busily delivering your precious packets of data from the wilds of the internet to the safety of your home network.
There’s a big problem with the majority of routers though – they’re rubbish.
The need for ISP supplied routers to be useable by the masses has meant that many of the more useful features like the ability to DMZ a specific network address, status/event logging or even decent port forwarding functionality are often sacrificed for simplistic, bomb proof menus and reliability is a prickly issue as well. How many times has your modem/router inexplicable suffered a brain fart and stopped working, requiring a hard reset at the wall? We’d guess more than a few.
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ISP supplied routers also understandably skimp on a lot of the high end features like Gigabit LAN or wireless 802.11n, inclusions which enthusiasts have benefited for a while on motherboard purchases and can be extremely useful, but which John Smith will never use (Sorry, John).
However, there’s plenty of demand for high end modem/routers among the right set of users and today we’re looking at one of Belkin’s models, N1 Vision, which on looks alone is streets ahead of the boring featureless routers that you hide behind the sofa. The N1 Vision is designed to stand upright on a shelf or surface on full display, and the curved styling and glossy black fascia indeed look very swish to accommodate.
The front of the N1 Vision also houses the router’s grandstand feature – a nifty LCD status display. This bright blue LCD display can display current upload and download speed for the entire internet connection, the number of wireless devices currently connected, current upload and download speeds for every computer connected to the router, total data downloaded by every individual computer in the last 24 hours and it can even double as a clock!
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It’s a unique and admittedly cool feature with some genuine uses; think your flat mate is hogging the connection? Now you can easily check, using the handful of buttons next to the screen to navigate the displays different functions. If you don’t want the screen there’s a power saving mode that disables it if the controls are left idle for more than a few minutes – perfect. Sadly though the information displayed on the screen isn’t accessible using the N1 Vision’s configuration menus - a niggling omission, especially if you want to check the connection’s status and aren’t in the same room as the router!
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Turning the N1 Vision around we see the router’s four Gigabit RJ45 network connections, placed at the bottom the unit so not to over balance it, as well as the triple wireless 802.11n antennae. It’s a bit of a disappointment that there are no activity lights above the network ports (an inclusion that, while simple, can still be very useful to diagnose if a port or cable is working), but the signal strength and range of the N1 Vision’s wireless signal is excellent, delivering a strong reliable signal from thirty feet away and through multiple floors and walls – certainly a whole lot better than a single antennae wireless G capable ISP provided router. We tested the two models in different houses through several floors and in proximity to other routers without an issue - the connection was stable, but ultimately the end result is entirely down to the router location and area lived in.
It's also worth noting that while there are plenty of Gigabit Cable/DSL routers, as far as we're aware the N1 Vision is one of the only ADSL2+ modem routers which supports Gigabit networking, making it something of a unique proposition for ADSL users wanting an all-in-one performance unit.