Belkin N1 Vision wireless modem router

Making sure you're connected in your home or office is important stuff, especially if you want to go online to read Pocket-lint. So will the Belkin N1 Vision allow you to just that? We try and get online to find out.

The first thing you'll notice about the Belkin N1 Vision is that it's not like an ordinary router. It's not a grey non-descript box for starters. It's black, glossy black, and stands upright sporting a big LCD display on the front next to a d-pad for controlling on-screen menus. You'll quickly get the feeling this is supposed to be on display in your house rather than buried under a desk or the stairs.

On the hardware side there are four Ethernet ports around the rear, three aerials to provide maximum wireless coverage and a built-in ADSL router.

Of course the "N" in the title gives the speed and the range away, this is an 802.11n wireless router that's Draft 2.0 compliant with MIMO support so you'll get fast connection speeds over long distances so long as your wireless card in your laptop (or external bolt-on) can cope.

In our tests we were able to still see the router (40%) over 100m away through buildings.

If your laptop is under a year old you should be fine, else you'll probably find you'll revert back to the slower, but still fast, wireless g offering, however Belkin do offer a N1 Wireless USB adapter (dongle) so you can fix this if it's a must.

Out of the box there is a quick automatic or manual setup procedure to run through where you type the your key data about your ISP and it does the rest for you. Most of the top 20 broadband providers are there. While this shouldn't concern many, it is worth bearing in mind that you can't use this as an access point to extend a network. For the installation process to complete you must have it connected to an ADSL connection.

The software provides you a number of "innovative" features to help you share your connection, get online and do it all with the knowledge that you aren't going to get hacked.

The "innovative" features mostly use that LCD screen on the front of the device and from here you can, if you wish, see how many devices are connected to the network, see who is connected, see how much data they are consuming, usage over the past 24 hours and even manage basic security.

Taking the connectivity options one step further and realising that you might have guests to your office or home that want to get connected, the N1 Vision actually creates 2 SSID connections: one for you and one for your guests. The bonus is that guests won't get access to any drives on the network you can let them check their email or surf the web without giving them access to your files.

In practice this works really well and will certainly appeal to companies or homes that have plenty of "Do you mind if I just use your internet?" moments from friends, family or work associates.

Verdict

The LCD screen makes this router need to be centre stage rather than tucked away, something that will be a strange notion for most broadband wireless users.

Additionally while the usage graphs and connectivity options are handy, we can't see why you would need them as a physical set of features on an LCD display rather than just a software display panel or widget (either for Vista or Apple's Desktop) on your main computer.

If you are looking for a posh looking router - it is glossy black remember - this certainly isn't a dull box, but you'll be paying a premium for that display, which you may find you never use.