Belkin Play Max N600 HD review
802.11n dual band, 4x 10/100/1000Mbit/s Ethernet ports
The Belkin Play Max N600 HD is larger than most wireless routers, but has a tasteful, minimalist design. There's just one status light to indicate whether the router is working.
While it's easy enough to access the router's web-based configuration page, novice users are directed to install a setup utility from the CD-ROM. This not only launches a step-by-step setup process, but also installs a tray icon that gives you access to a number of utilities. While some of these are useful, such as the USB device manager and the ability to switch between QoS settings, most are pointless, such as the Belkin Daily DJ, which creates playlists from your music collection.
The integration of USB devices is extremely useful and well implemented. When you plug a memory stick in, it's automatically mapped to a drive letter in Windows Explorer. The CD contains a copy of the Vuze Bittorrent client, along with a plug-in that lets you use an attached USB drive to continue downloading even when your PC is switched off.
As well as these fancy features, the N600 supports all the bells and whistles that advanced users might ask for, such as a guest wireless network, QoS, a DMZ and Dynamic DNS. The interface is clear, with a well-organised menu on the left and help pages that include a glossary. Some terms also have a handy More Info link right next to them.
In our speed tests, the N600 managed over 40Mbit/s using a Centrino 2 laptop, and even faster with Belkin's own USB adaptor (F7D4101, £22) at up to 56Mbit/s. Switching to the 5GHz band, speeds were roughly the same, although it might give an advantage in areas with lots of WiFi networks.
The N600 isn't cheap but it's good value for a wireless router with Gigabit Ethernet, two USB ports and dual-band Wi-Fi so you can use the less cluttered 5GHz band. It's easy to use, packed with features and fast, too, and is a worthy Best Buy award winner.