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Updated 6/19/2009: WAN DHCP problem and 802.11b support

Belkin N150 Wireless Router

At a Glance
Product - Belkin N150 Wireless Router (F6D4230-4 v2)
- Belkin N150 Wireless USB Network Adapter (F6D4050 v2)
Summary Single stream Ralink-based router and matching USB adapter built with draft 802.11n 1x1 chipsets but Wi-Fi Certified only for 802.11b/g
Pros • None come to mind
Cons • Basic routing feature set
• Not guaranteed to work with draft 802.11n clients
• Awful wireless uplink throughput stability
• High download routing throughput variation
• Trouble with dynamic WAN IP connection

I have been writing about pseudo-draft 11n routers since Cisco came out with its now-discontinued Linksys WRT100 and its WRT110 replacement. The basic premise of these products is to take single-stream draft 802.11n hardware that currently can't be Wi-Fi Certified for Draft 802.11n and promote it as 802.11b/g compliant (and usually b/g Wi-Fi Certified). (This latest exercise in consumer misdirection is described in more detail in Buyers Beware! Single Stream Draft 802.11n Products Bring Back Spec Spin.)

The rub comes when manufacturers also promote these products as providing some sort of enhanced performance over 802.11b/g. First, they provide no performance enhancement when used with 802.11b/g clients, since they must fall back to standard b/g protocols when communicating with those clients. But more importantly, since single-stream routers are not recognized in the 802.11n specification and the Wi-Fi Alliance currently won't certify them (or single-stream draft 11n clients), they are not guaranteed to work with Certified draft 802.11n clients.

NETGEAR has also jumped on the "N150" bandwagon with its WNR1000, but is not selling a companion N150 client card. D-Link has a "Wireless 150" router (the DIR-600) "coming soon", but also doesn't have a companion adapter. I expect Cisco to eventually also jump on the bandwagon with some sort of single-stream router, although they probably will use a different marketing term because, well, they're Cisco.

Belkin, however, has decided to boldly go where no one else will and has both its N150 Wireless Router and companion N150 USB adapter on store shelves. So even though I do not approve of any of these "G plus", "N minus" or whatever you want to call them Frankenrouters, I decided to get Belkin's version in for review to see how it performs with regular 802.11g and draft 11n products.

No Guarantee

I asked Belkin what its policy is regarding interoperabilty of the N150 with draft 802.11n Certified products and got this response (bolding mine):

"What is Belkin's policy regarding interoperability of N150 products with draft 802.11n Certified products?
• N150 is interoperable with all Belkin N products at N150 speeds. N150 is certified for interoperability with other WiFi-certified products at 11g speeds.

Is N150 interoperable with competitors’ 802.11n products?
• N150 is certified by WiFi to be interoperable with other WiFi b/g products, at 802.11g speeds; this includes competitor products with the WiFi b/g certification.

As there is no WiFi certification program for 1x1 N, we cannot guarantee that competitors’ products are interoperable with N150 at N150 speeds. For best results, we recommend that our customers buy Belkin ‘s N150 Enhanced Wireless USB Network Adapter."

So with the warnings out of the way, let's get to the review. Figure 1 shows the N150's no-frills front panel, with only the series of backlit icons used in Belkin's revamped router line. Note that none of the icons blink to indicate activity.

Belkin N150 Front Panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: N150 Front Panel

The rear panel layout (Figure 2) doesn't have link/activity indicators on each of the auto MDI / MDI-X 10/100/1000 Ethernet ports, either.

Belkin N150 Back Panel
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: N150 Back Panel

If you like to wall-mount your router, then you'll need to build a little wall-mounted shelf for the N150. There are no screw mounting slots and I couldn't remove the base without fear of breaking it off. Also note that the single antenna is external and moveable, but not upgradeable.

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