Whether you're into streaming video, gaming or you just have a gaggle of Wi-Fi gadgets, the Belkin N900 Dual-Band Wireless Router is a flagship worthy of your attention. In addition to a striking design, this router offers strong speeds, dual USB ports for networking a printer or hard drive, and good Quality of Service features. So where does this $199 router rank?
The all-black bubble shape of the Belkin N900 looks very sleek. Like the Netgear N900, Belkin's model also sits vertically, rather than flat like the Cisco Linksys E4200v2. Similar to the Netgear N900 router, the Belkin N900 has two USB ports in addition to four Gigabit Ethernet ports.
Configuring the Belkin N900 took about 15 minutes. There isn't a mobile app for setting up the router or changing options, but Belkin says a new Web-based setup will be available by July. We used a desktop app that walked us through the process, but a few settings were confusing. During install, the router somehow disabled the LAN port on our laptop, and we had some difficulty getting the Internet to work.
Still, once the router was up and running, we had no problems using some of the N900's features. For example, you can set an option to clear the cache on the router routinely, scan for clear wireless channels at set intervals, refresh router memory and even reconnect quickly to the Internet if a problem arises.
Features and Security
The N900 recognized a 1GB thumbdrive and an HP D110 printer automatically, and made them both available faster than any other router we tested. Since there are two USB ports, you can connect two devices at the same time or mix and match throughout the day for added flexibility.
As expected, the Belkin N900 supports the latest security standards, including WPA2. You can configure the router for guest access so visitors to your home or office can connect quickly, and then just type a code when they open their browser. The N900 has a powerful 600-MHz processor that's notably faster than competing models, handling the wireless management duties quickly.
As a dual-band router, you can use either the 2.4-GHz signal or the steady (but shorter-range) 5-GHz band. In terms of raw speed, the Belkin N900 is outstanding - even if it can't keep up with the Netgear N900. Using IXChariot, we clocked 140 Mbps in the 5-GHz band from 5 feet, and 98 Mbps from 150 feet. By comparison, the Netgear N900 averaged 164 Mbps and 100 Mbps from those respective distances, and the category averages were 151 Mbps and 84 Mbps.
In the 2.4-GHz band, the Belkin N900 delivered 84 Mbps of throughput from 5 feet and 68 Mbps from 150 feet, which are on a par with the Netgear N900. These results beet the category averages of 82 Mbps and 66.4 Mbps.
Oddly, the 3GB file transfer took 7 minutes to copy from one laptop to another. A 2GB collection of 400 video, photo and audio files took just 3 minutes to copy. That's a lot slower than the Netgear router, which took 4 and 2 minutes, respectively.
Range was less than the D-Link by 100 feet, and didn't reach the 1,000 feet to the end of our driveway, as with the Linksys E4200v2 or Netgear N900.
We had no problems with quality of service, a way for the router to manage connections and keep them smooth. We streamed an episode of "Modern Family" on one laptop, downloaded a movie with iTunes on another and performed several file transfers on a desktop all at the same time with no ill effects. The options for setting quality of service were also easy to understand and use.
By any measure, the $199 Belkin N900 is a very good dual-band router, offering fast throughput and multiple connection options. It also looks great on your desk. Overall, we prefer the Netgear N900, which for $20 less offers even better speeds and longer range. But those who pick up the Belkin N900 will not be disappointed.