|Go the wireless route|
Wireless communication with your Windows PC is all the rage these days, and the newly finalized 802.11g standard provides the leading edge upon which a new generation of products will base their wares. Belkin's 802.11g Wireless DSL/Cable Gateway Router model #F5D7230-4, designed for individuals and home offices, is among the best of this new generation of products.
The new router is backward-compatible with 802.11b hardware, but when used with other 802.11g-compliant equipment, it's nearly five times faster than the previous standard. Belkin's router also uses the new Broadcom BCM9420 chipset, which adds WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) encryption support, thus preventing wireless freeloaders from using your bandwidth without your permission.
The router has among the easiest set-up and installation that I've ever seen. But if you've never worked with wireless PC products before, there's still a learning curve. Fortunately, Belkin has included a very easy-to-read 90-page manual that covers just about every possible problem and, more important, provides solutions to every one of them.
The package also includes an "Easy Installation Wizard" application that, through a lot of electronic handholding, automatically configures the router and attached PCs for you. If, however, you're fairly well versed with the technology, the included Quick Installation Guide will get you out of the gate and started with a minimum of hassle and preparation.
Belkin's browser-based configuration tool is very user-friendly, and uses a tabbed interface so that everything you need to access is always on the screen. The software also boasts a continually-updated status page, which provides such information on the unit as LAN/WAN configuration, firmware info, and which features are currently enabled as well as which features are turned off.
The WLAN configuration area offers three different options:
-- 54g Only, which will, as the name implies, only work with other 54g hardware;
-- Mixed-Mode, which will accommodate the 802.11b standard;
-- and LRS, which stands for Limited Rate Support and helps you correct problems you might encounter with older 802.11b and 802.11a devices.
Another interesting feature in the software is an automatic firmware updater. Regardless of what the name implies, the program doesn't automatically update your firmware; instead, it periodically checks Belkin's Web site and notifies you when a firmware update is available. If you're like me and you tend to forget to check for updates, this can be a real boon for helping you keep your hardware updated and running at peak performance.
You can use the router to connect to a multitude of different devices in a multitude of different waysÑso many that it would be impossible to review in the limited space of this column. It doesn't matter whether you're only just now considering going wireless, or you simply need a new router and want to upgrade to the newest standard and gain better security via the new WPA encryption support in the process. Belkin's latest would serve you well in either case.
From opening the box to accessing the Internet through the router via my Windows XP laptop, I was up and running in less than thirty minutes. My D-Link Internet camera also worked like a charm with the router, and everything was easy to understand and configure with only the minimum of having to consult the manual.
Visit Belkin's Web site for more information and for hardware and software specifications for the 802.11g Wireless DSL/Cable Gateway Router. The product lists for $190 and can be purchased at your better computer and electronic stores everywhere.