I’d like to think that my house is a bit of a tech utopia. From high-def projectors to LCD TVs, to every gaming console on the planet, there’s nothing that I haven’t at some point picked up to add to my growing collection. I’ve now discovered that many of the gadgets in my house now piggyback onto my dinky little wireless router on the ground floor, syncing data, downloading updates, streaming media, and causing all kinds of mayhem at times. So as if by magic, I got a chance to check out the Belkin Play N450 DB router this week to see if I could improve my wireless network.
Build quality & Design
At first glance the N450 doesn’t look like much – in fact it looks like two small dinner plates sandwiched together. But it’s somewhat svelte design means that it can fit snugly in most locations and remain hidden from view with the cables neatly cascading at the back. The only flip side is that the router has absolutely zero status lights on it – there’s a thin slit at the top which glows blue when the router is connected, and flashes orange when there’s a problem. Just below that is a button for WPS connectivity, and that’s it. The minimalist look may work here, but I’m used to seeing at least LAN or Internet status indicators on routers, so call me old-fashioned for wanting more lights on this thing. At the back of the device four Ethernet ports, sadly running at standard speeds rather than Gigabit Ethernet. There’s a yellow port to connect to your modem, as well as a small reset button and the power port.
Features & Coverage
The N450 prides itself on an ‘easy setup’, and I’ve often taken claims like that very lightly. But I was pleased to discover that this router actually did what it said on the box, and connected to my Etisalat connection without much trouble. I just connected the required cables, popped in the software CD and I was up and running in about 15 minutes tops. The router status light glowed bright blue to indicate it was ready to go, so I lined up my gadgets for some testing fun.
There are some rather interesting features with the N450, the first of them being the dual-band nature of this router. You have the option of connecting to the standard 2.4Ghz or the 5GHz network, with the 5GHz boasting speeds up to 300Mbps and being optimized for video streaming across the network. I decided to put this theory to the test, and fired up a 720p rip of ’28 days later’ on my Ubuntu laptop. With my old router this was almost impossible to do without plugging my laptop into a LAN port. On the 2.4GHz network of the N450, I faced similar issues with the file loading fine but stuttering every few seconds. Switching to the 5GHz network allowed me to open the file and stream it without any interruptions at all. I have to point out that this was done with the router a few meters away from me, so when I headed upstairs the movie did still stutter, but only every twenty minutes or so, which was far better than the 2.4GHz band. Since I had placed the router in a central location on the ground floor, I had excellent coverage in all the upstairs rooms, including my bedroom which is a dead spot for my previous router. Surfing the web, streaming video and music all worked great on the 5GHz network, and I was even able to take my iPad out to the very edge of the garden and still get Internet access.
Another feature of the N450 is Belkin’s ‘Multibeam’ technology which is supposed to improve antenna reception greatly as compared to traditional routers. This technology gives the N450 an ‘apple-shaped’ range of coverage while other routers tend to have ring-shaped coverage. This of course means little to the average consumer – as long as they can walk around the house and stream YouTube videos of cats, they’ll be fine. But seriously, this might be behind the somewhat zippy feeling when surfing websites using this router – everything loaded just a fraction faster (or felt like it did) and I was able to scroll through pages comfortably while the rest of the content loaded up. While the router averaged decent speeds with different proximities, it was a bit disappointing to not have USB ports included on this model. If you could share a printer or hard drive using this router, that would instantly bring up its appeal but that’s a luxury relegated to the other Belkin routers.
The Belkin Play N450 DB is a shoo-in choice if you’re looking for a brand new router with better than average coverage. If you’ve currently got a working wireless router that you’re happy with, there’s no real need to swap to the N450 unless you really do care about streaming content over the 5GHz network while the rest of your household enjoys uninterrupted network coverage on the 2.4GHz one. For a sleek, fuss-free, easy to deploy router, the N450 is a great fit to any setup.