Feb
20
2006

Review: Belkin Wireless G Plus Router

Short version for ADD readers: the Belkin Wireless G Plus Router rocks!

belkin-router.jpgWireless connectivity has become one of those essentials I can’t do without. Nothing’s better than sitting on the couch with a laptop and no wires. Although with the battery down to a nub in my G3 iBook, a power cord is pretty essential these days. Nevertheless, I don’t care to compound that indignity with a cat5 cable in the other side. I’d been running a D-Link DI-514 802.11b wireless router, but it seemed to be growing progressively more crochety in its old age, and had gotten to the point where renewing its DHCP config every 10-15 minutes was essential to staying online. I had a history with D-Link going back to 1998 and my first home network, built on a D-Link kit with 2 NICs and a 10MbT hub used to share a dial-up connection. That network was rock solid, and led me to choose D-Link when I first switched over to wi-fi. Got a good three years out of my first D-Link wireless router, and when it died a sudden death I was still happy enough with them to purchase the DI-514. Unfortunately, this unit was a pain to configure in a mixed PC/Mac environment, and required attention far too frequently. When it finally gave up the ghost, my elation at not having to nurse this monster along any further almost outweighed my unhappiness with the replacement expense. Until I looked at my options…

I needed something available locally, as I’m too cheap to blow the money I’d save ordering from Amazon on overnight shipping. Given the preponderance of Macs on my network, Apple’s AirPort Extreme was a logical choice, but I balked at paying $200 for a unit with only one LAN port. Linksys was somewhat appealing, but they’ve done away with the Linux firmware patching on almost all of their wireless routers, and the model that does still support Linux didn’t seem to be available locally. I’d had a Netgear wirless unit before, and returned it within 24 hours as unfit for human consumption. SMC sounded somewhat promising, but I wasn’t sold on them either. Fortunately, a friend heard about my plight and suggested a Belkin Pre-N Router. Since our current iBooks max out at 802.11g and lack pcmcia slots, Pre-N wasn’t especially compelling. But Belkin is pretty Mac-friendly stuff in general, and seemed like a pretty good way to go. $60 dollars later at the local Circuit City, I was the proud new owner of a Belkin Wireless G Plus Router.

The Belkin unit comes with the standard wall wart power supply, a CD, and a manual. Reading the fine print on the box confirms the unit as using the same Broadcom chipset found in Apple’s AirPort devices. Although the CD includes a quick start wizard, I decided to go the manual configuration route as a testament to my oversized computer geek manhood. I released the DHCP address from my old D-Link one last time, spit in the dirt, and replace it with the Belkin, following the manual setup instructions. Once I bring it up, it presents me with a very easy to navigate web interface, and syncs right in with the cable modem. By default, it uses a subnet of 192.168.2.0/24 instead of the standard 192.168.0.0/24. Since the old D-Link never did DHCP very well, I changed all the systems on the network from static IPs to DHCP, and they all came right up on the new IP range. The whole conversion and installation process only took 10-15 minutes. I’ve had it up and running for a couple of weeks now with no problems whatsoever. As with any hardware that runs around the clock, there’s a potential for problems down the road. But for ease of setup and initial reliability, the Belkin is easily the best wireless unit I’ve ever had. And that’s from a man without Amazon referral links to shill!

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