Belkin N600 DB wireless router

The N600 DB is passable as a wireless router. While a lifetime warranty is incredibly appealing, the wireless performance is trounced by devices that are in the same price bracket.


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Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Right from the outset, it's important to note that there's a Belkin N600 DB that's just a wireless router, and one that's a wireless modem/router. While they share many similarities, these are very different beasts performance-wise, so the results here should not be conflated with the other product. For this review, we're focusing on the plain wireless router version.

It's an odd shape, this one. A vertically standing, convex wedge in piano black, with a rim of grey and an activity light on the top.

Specs at a glance

Firmware tested 1.00.09
ADSL2+ modem No
Annex M N/A
3G modem No
IPv6 No
Wireless protocols 802.11b/g/n
Dual band Simultaneous
Highest wireless security WPA2
WDS Yes
Ethernet ports 4x 100Mb, 1x 100Mb WAN
USB print sharing/storage Storage, printer
Accessories Ethernet cable, installation CD

Connections

The N600 DB takes the standard approach; four 100Mb Ethernet ports, and a USB port that can manage either printing or storage. A 100Mb WAN port sits at the top, which should suit most needs, unless you happen to be a rather lucky internet subscriber. Just like most routers that "detect" internet access, the N600 DB is a little stupid; if you've hooked up your net connection via LAN instead of WAN, rather than testing access, it just assumes that there's no net connection at all. This doesn't affect much — only online firmware checks — but it's such a simple thing, and many router manufacturers miss it.

Belkin N600 DB rear

Power jack, USB, 4x 100Mb Ethernet and 100Mb WAN port.
(Credit: Belkin)

UI and features

Belkin hasn't given its UI a once over for a very long time. It's still the same old grey, which works well enough, but it's certainly dull. Page level contextual help is given via a link at the top right. While a techy will be right at home, for a company that appears to pitch itself at less-educated users, the UI is nigh on hostile, hiding things like parental controls under "Firewall" and calling them "Access Control".

Belkin N600 DB UI

Same old same old, but it works.
(Screenshot by CBS Interactive)

A long-standing Belkin bugbear, not being able to put spaces in SSIDs, has been rectified with the N600 DB. It supports such features as guest wireless (on 2.4GHz only), QOS, outbound WAN stats, a media server and the standard glut of features that you'd expect on a standalone router.

In a disturbing trend, saving settings on the router is incredibly slow, which is a vastly frustrating experience for someone who is trying to set up their network just right.

Performance

After analysing the spectrum with InSSIDer, an empty channel of either 1, 6 or 11 is chosen for 2.4GHz wireless testing. Usually the router is restricted to the 20MHz band, if the option is available.

We use iperf to determine throughput, running eight streams with a TCP window size of 1MB and an interval of one second. The test was run for five minutes in three different locations on two separate occasions. The locations are in the same room as the router: one floor down around spiral stairs and with concrete walls and floors, and two floors down under the same conditions.

The wireless throughput is tested using three chipsets (the Atheros AR5008X, the Ralink RT2870 and the Intel Ultimate-N 6300), and then all results are averaged.

2.4GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Belkin N600 DB (wireless modem/router)
  • Belkin N600 DB (wireless router)
  • Netgear WNDR4500
  • Netgear DGND3700
  • 139.00107.5387.7682.5
    Location one (same room, no obstructions)
  • 114.3390.8083.7374.27
    Location two (one floor down, some obstructions)
  • 53.8349.1744.9040.43
    Location three (two floors down, some obstructions)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


5GHz throughput (in Mbps)

  • Belkin N600 DB (wireless modem/router)
  • Belkin N600 DB (wireless router)
  • Netgear WNDR4500
  • Netgear DGND3700
  • 189.67151.3391.7091.20
    Location one (same room, no obstructions)
  • 135.50100.9791.1766.40
    Location two (one floor down, some obstructions)
  • 8.537.7300
    Location three (two floors down, some obstructions)

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


The N600 DBs aren't class leading, especially when it comes to close quarters. Interestingly, though, the N600 DB wireless router puts in a strong showing in the difficult-to-reach and distant third location for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

Note that the N600 DB modem/router 5GHz results are averaged from only two adapters; the Ralink-based USB adapter would not see the router operating on this frequency. Even then, performance appears capped to some degree.

Warranty

Belkin covers the N600 DB with a "lifetime" warranty, considerably outstripping its competitors.

Conclusion

The N600 DB is passable as a wireless router. While a lifetime warranty is incredibly appealing, the wireless performance is trounced by devices that are in the same price bracket.

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NitroWare.net posted a comment   
Australia

You should have tested with the latest firmware Firmware 1.00.12 (Nov 28 2011)

Nov 2011 is old enough that there is no excuse not to use it !!

The 'no net' issue also will not sync the time not just firmware, but the lack of firmware updates makes this moot.

The no net issue also affects access point mode , the firmware doesnt support dns and gateway for AP/Bridge mode as they think it would probably conflict, so they pass through

Our test unit is still set to 1970 since it has not been able to contact the time servers yet and it seems to way to manually set the time

The biggest issue with this specific model at its specific price is lack of GBE. Other units at pricepoint have GBE. If they dropped the price to E3200 levels, it would be a good deal.

With the WNDR3700 selling for $120 in channel it makes recommending this model difficult on price alone.

Belkin does some things better centric on ease of use and setup over other brands, while other brands do some things better than Belkin. IN comparison our experience with the same age IPV6 ready LInksys E1500 was terrible.

Many routers have a long wait time , restarting the AP is a neccessary part of the design.

 

Craig Simms posted a reply   
Australia

It didn't used to be necessary to restart routers to change settings. I call this a design flaw, and don't accept that "many routers" employing this method makes it okay.

 

NitroWare.net posted a reply   
Australia

You are right its not ok, and certain chipsets or firmwares had the tendenacy and others did not, howowever by 'restarting the AP' I actually meant the acess point daemons in the linux context not the whole router OS.

When you change various wireless settings the progress bar somtimes its the acess point restarting rather than the whole router os rebooting.

Although frustrating and annoying when you start to delve into source code and how modern routers work it does make sense, its a neccessary evil

Windows, Mac and LInux still need a reboot for some things, however this reduces each new generation.

What would you rather, a stripped down router/modem firmware or one thats feature rich but because it has not been severely customised has 'annoying' restart requirements.

In the real world, consumers do not touch their routers. They do not change wireless settings, do not update the firmware, nothing. ONly when something goes wrong. Its the tech types who constantly tweak where a 'reboot' would be annoying to.

I do not like what you mentioned either, but given Wi-Fi is majoritly a firmware-software driven technology there is not much way around it.

DavidH9 Facebook
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DavidH9 posted a review   

The Good:looks good

The Bad:everything else

I can only speak for the unit I purchased here in the UK
I've had the unit now two weeks and it's going back for a refund tomorrow.
This is useless, I've had to disable the so called "self healing" feature
as it keeps changing the settings, so much so that it turns off the wireless!!.
As reported in the Cnet review the wait times are worse than waiting for a bus! It's a heap of junk!
This unit is only fit for the bin don't buy it




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User Reviews / Comments  Belkin N600 DB wireless router

  • NitroWare.net

    NitroWare.net

    "You should have tested with the latest firmware Firmware 1.00.12 (Nov 28 2011)

    Nov 2011 is old enough that there is no excuse not to use it !!

    The 'no net' issue also wi..."

  • DavidH9

    DavidH9

    Rating1

    "I can only speak for the unit I purchased here in the UK
    I've had the unit now two weeks and it's going back for a refund tomorrow.
    This is useless, I've had to disable the so called ..."

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