Belkin N1 Vision, the wireless router is "cool" again

Remember the old days when wireless networks were few and far between? Since then, we have come a long way with commercial & personal networks overlapping and blanketing neighborhoods and city blocks. Although performance, reliability, and security have improved, hardware is still bulky, unattractive, and generally "unfriendly". Wireless hardware is the type of device that is unboxed, plugged in, connected, troubleshooted, and left underneath an office desk or atop a bedroom shelf [until the device needs tweaking]. There really is no reason to keep a wireless router in plain view. Browse the wireless section at your nearest electronics store and you’ll see the same square boxes with an antennae or two sticking out the backside.

Belkin introduces the N1 Vision

Package (front)

Belkin recently launched the N1 Vision ($199) which offers a built-in display for broadband network speed, upload & download speed, individual computer bandwidth usage, connected devices, total data usage over a 24 hour period, devices accessing the network as guests, and a general clock / date.

Packaged in a new sleek and sophisticated design, N1 Vision offers the best in networking performance with its wireless 802.11n* 3×3 radio design and wired gigabit ports. The N1 Vision wireless router continues Belkin’s commitment in providing the best user experience in the home market through its Plug-and-Play “CD-less” installation and simple network security setup. [source]

My N1 Vision arrived earlier this week and gave me plenty of time to experience the setup, test performance, and share my thoughts concerning a $199 802.11n router.

Apple sets the packaging standard, Belkin takes a hint

Like many other companies, Belkin picked-up on a few hints from Apple and their attention to packaging detail. See Apple, Jawbone, and Belkin below:

Mini + ACD

Wrapper off

No styrofoam

Clean and organized packaging really does translate into an easier unboxing and setup experience. The numerical hints which adorn the small boxed items match the numerical order of steps found in the quick start guide & on the back of the router itself.

Simple setup

N1 ports

N1 Vision; a "friendly" router installation

Setting up the router is as simple as plugging in the power adapter (wall-to-unit), connecting the ethernet cable (modem-to-router), hard wiring a computer (initial setup), and typing "routersetup" in your favorite browser. From here, the installation is quick and easily completed within a minute or two.

belkin-n1-setup.jpg

Simple management

Opening "routersetup" in your default browser begins the setup process for entering your network name (SSID), security key (default security type is WPA + WPA2 PSK), guest mode (disabled by default), and a guest security key. Click apply and the router is provisioned and restarted.

belkin-n1-setup-complete.jpg

Once the router saves your initial settings, your setup is complete. Disconnect your computer from the router and search for your new wireless network to connect.

N1 Vision Admin

Belkin N1 Vision setup screen – click for high resolution screenshot.

N1 Vision display is not gimmicky

An auxiliary wireless router display may seem gimmicky considering the router serves a single purpose of sharing your internet connection. However, after a week of use, the router display has proven itself as a great resource for diagnosing your wireless network performance.

  • The ISP is currently down, N1 Vision makes this known by overriding the current view with a status message notifying you of connectivity issues.
  • Want to know who is on your network? Browse through a list of connected users.
  • Curious to know why your network is feeling sluggish? Find out who is moving the most data right now.
  • Wow your guests and showcase your geekiness.

Things I like, and a few I don’t

Likes

  • Excellent network coverage – up to 1600 ft. With the router setup in my apartment, I can access the network from one of my favorite sushi spots up the street.
  • Auxiliary display which lets me see how much data is moving in and out while sitting back watching television.
  • The router is appealing enough to keep in plain view – looks right at home with the glossy finish of the Toshiba Regza LCD.
  • Gigabit – need I see more? Four ports to share the data between XBox, Mac Mini, and networked media server.

Dislikes

  • The N1 Vision arrived factory sealed but has some serious spider scratches over the entire finish – bad quality inspection.
  • Buttons to navigate the different display views require a very firm press. Buttons click but often do not respond unless firmly pressed for 1-2 secs.
  • Entering "routersetup" from any networked machines does not open the router admin panel – the usual 192.168.x.1 does the trick.

Overall, I am a huge fan of the router which offers a huge set of security options and wireless configurations. Guest access mode is great, but not something I see myself enabling. Prior to the N1 Vision, I was using the the Kyocera KR1 router + Sprint’s EVDO network as my main connection. The addition of the auxiliary display gives me a heads-up on network activity while providing a little extra juice for moving data on my local network. [Digg this]

* Belkin N1 Vision unboxing pictures on Flickr.

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Discuss - 87 Comments

  1. Ben says:

    This really sucks. I love this router, but I want to be able to setup a VPN between my home network and my brother’s. But it doesn’t work. We have narrowed the problem down to the Belkin N1 Vision router.

    I contacted Belkin tech support in January 2010 and eventually got the reply that the N1 vision does not support GRE (IP protocol 47) passthrough and there were no plans to support it. This means I can’t use Windows 7 VPN server/client (PPTP) which need port 1423 open and passthrough of GRE.

    This has got to be sorted.

  2. Lucas says:

    Seriously. Belkin routers look great, but once you open their configuration you realize they are not that powerful. My N+ has been riddled with speed issues, but the worst is lack of VPN support. This one’s going in the trash can.

  3. Derek says:

    I just got off a chat w/ Belkin support. It took some trial and error (most importantly: open ports 1723 for TCP and 500 for UCP for your device), but the clue was… in the firmware. I have updated to version 1.00.23 () which for MY device code is the correct one, and now it works.. The site even mentions that “A problem with VPN connections using the PPTP protocol has been resolved”…

  4. Derek says:

    And the speed issues could be fine-tuning your MTU settings. Don’t ask me what that is, but there are sites that indicate that this can lead to irregular speed problems. I am now set to 1492, which seems to be ‘the advise’