Provides: Wireless networking/streaming
Minimum Requirements: Hardware: Broadband Internet connection such as a cable or DSL modem with RJ45 (Ethernet) connection, at least one computer with an installed network interface adapter, TCP/IP networking protocol installed on each computer, RJ45 Ethernet networking cable, Internet browser. Software: A computer running Mac OS X v10 or Windows XP SP2 or higher, Windows Vista, or Windows 7, minimum 1GHz processor and 256MB RAM 600MB of free hard-drive space for installation
There are two angles I can take on this review: simplicity or functionality. If simplicity, I’d start with the story of how I told my boss I had a new wireless router to hook up, and he said, “There goes your evening.” When I told him the following day I had the router set up within five minutes and seven devices connected within another ten, he just didn’t believe me. He still doesn’t.
If I go the functionality route, I’d focus on how after getting those seven devices connected, I haven’t had one of them drop a signal. No connection error reports (mainly, those ridiculous “Safari cannot open the page because it is not connected to the internet” error messages when I’m clearly getting a WiFi signal). And what’s more, the speed is noticeably better.
So, what’s more important to you? Do you want a router that’s headache free during installation, or do you want a router that’s headache free after it’s set up? I guess it doesn’t really matter, because the Play N600 HD Wireless Dual-Band N+ Router provides both.
Installation is so simple that it’s kind of pointless to even explain the process. Each piece is numbered right out of the box in the order in which they’re to be connected. The network name, default password and security type are printed on a small card that can be stored on the bottom of the router for easy access. The rest is handled through the software, and yes, there actually is Mac software.
Basic setup is a breeze. Advanced setup is also easy if you know what you’re doing. If not, Belkin does a decent job of allowing you access to the different configuration options via your web browser, but doesn’t do much to explain them. There is also one point in the setup where the progress bar completely stopped moving for longer than I was comfortable with. I fought the urge to kill the process, though, and sure enough, it did complete.
Unlike my previous router, which gave me different lights for the modem, the router, the Internet, the WiFi and whatever else, The N600 HD has only a router status light and WiFi protected setup light. They’re very easy to read: blinking green = starting up, solid green = connected, amber = trouble.
(If you’re looking for more feedback from your router, you’ll want to check out the N1 Vision.)
On the back, you’ve got a clearly marked (yellow) modem (WAN) ethernet port, plus four additional gigabit ethernet LAN ports for connecting other devices. The N600 HD also includes two USB ports for printers, hard drives, etc. for easy access from your connected computers. Obviously, this makes it very easy to share these devices amongst any computer that’s connected to the network. However, using the ports was much slower than if they were connected directly to my Mac. If you need wireless printing, they’re good to have. If you don’t, you’re better off leaving these empty.
Now, regarding performance, I have nothing about which to complain. Back when I purchased my previous router and only had a computer, an iPhone and the Wii connected, that was fine. But now I’ve got two iPhones, an iPad, two Nintendo DSis, the Nintendo Wii, and an Apple TV. Quite often, three or four of these devices are connected at once, pulling down heavy media.
Since switching to the Play N600 HD, the media has moved with ease. The dual-plane antennas and MIMO technology have given all devices a steady signal no matter where I am in the two story house. The Dual-Band N technology has improved the download speed of iTunes movie rentals and purchases, WiiWare downloads, etc. At claimed speeds of up to 300 Mbps, it’s very impressive.
It helps that when setting up your channel and SSID, you can set up two different channels individually: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Security settings, compliance, bandwidth…all are handled individually. Of all my devices, only the iPad recognized the 5GHz channel, and I would like to see Belkin offer better explanation of why this is. The setting options aren’t well explained in either the manual or the online tips, and that’s unfortunate. Although the performance on all devices is great, knowing it could be better is kind of a downer.
I mentioned security settings above, and the Play N600 HD has you covered there. If offers WPS/WPA2 encryption and one-touch WiFi protect setup (WPS) for securely connecting your devices with the push of a button. Perhaps more importantly, none of the devices I use had trouble with the security options, so I didn’t have to mess around with everything in search of something that worked with them all while also keeping them secure.
It’s possible your household doesn’t need all of this speed and power. Mine does. I have the seven WiFi devices now, but there’s no intent to stop there. Going forward, I may add a MacBook Air. The kids are reaching the age where they’ll need their own computer. And since WiFi connectivity is now finding its way into A/V receivers, digital picture frames, and even scales, there’s no telling how many devices will be hitting the router at once.
So, whether you’re ready to upgrade or looking to just now go wireless, you really should consider the Play N600 HD. Bear in mind, though, that all of my network devices are from Apple and Nintendo. Routers tend to behave differently with different products, so do some research to see what tends to fare better with your hardware. If you’re on Appletell because you use Apple products, however, you’re good to go.