Belkin Play Max 802.11n wireless router (preview)
Belkin Play Max 802.11n wireless router: Wi-Fi with apps
- Good speed in initial tests, wireless networking apps
- Apps still quite limited
This bundle is an interesting idea; and if Belkin significantly improves its apps, the Play Max could be a compelling buy for advanced home users.
The Belkin Play Max 802.11n package supplies you with a dual-band router plus Belkin's full assortment of wireless networking apps for getting the most out of your wireless network.
The set of apps includes Bit Boost, which lets you set rules to prioritise network traffic, and Torrent Genie, which lets you continue BitTorrent transfers when your PC isn't on. You also get three apps designed to help you manage and share your music libraries across your network: Music Labeler automatically tags your music, Music Mover shares your music libraries across your network, and Daily DJ sets up customised playlists by analysing your music libraries and pick songs that cater to a certain "mood." Finally, Print Genie and Memory Safe let you share printers and schedule backups to devices connected to one of the Play Max's two USB ports, and Self Healing claims to automatically correct networking flaws.
Setting up the Play Max is fairly easy: Plug the router into the modem and power outlet; pop the driver CD into your PC; then install Belkin's router management app, and set it up through the Belkin Setup wizard. The router has encryption turned on by default (with a password printed on an included card as well as on the bottom of the router itself), so you don't need to worry about someone creeping onto your network the moment you plug it in.
Gaining access to the Play Max's more advanced features, such as Bit Boost and Torrent Genie, requires a little bit more digging. Unlike the software that comes with the Cisco M20 Valet Plus, the Belkin Setup app doesn't let you alter the router's configuration from the Advanced Tools section (which just gives you links to the appropriate page in the Web-based GUI setup system).
A Windows utility called the Belkin Router Monitor, which runs in your taskbar, handles the apps. From there, you can change your Bit Boost Quality of Service profile to various presets (Voice over IP, Online Gaming, and so on), launch Vuze--the included BitTorrent client, which can combine with the Torrent Genie app to continue file transfers when your PC is off, if you have a USB drive plugged into the Play Max--and access Belkin's suite of music-related apps.
Belkin Router Monitor got annoying fairly quickly. It stays open in your system tray and pops up occasionally to warn you if you're not on your router's Wi-Fi network--and I couldn't find a way to shut it up. Worse, this warning kept coming back when I was on the router's own 5GHz network (instead of on the 2.4GHz network), and there's no obvious way to stop it short of closing it.
Overall, the apps are a bit lacklustre. For instance, the music apps offer no compelling reason to switch from a more robust app such as iTunes, which already handles music sharing, tagging, and randomised playlist needs just fine. Memory Safe's scheduled backup functions are nice, but Windows 7 has its own a built-in Backup and Restore app.
Even the two apps I was most looking forward to--Bit Boost and Torrent Genie--were underwhelming. Bit Boost is essentially a collection of three preset configurations for the Play Max's Quality of Service functions, promising a way to avoid the tiresome chore of configuring QoS rules manually. Unfortunately, while this app might be useful for juggling VoIP and video, the Online Games mode is downright antiquated. It supports 11 games, most of them dating back to the early 2000s (such as Quake, Half-Life, and Team Fortress 2). The most recent game on the list (Battlefield 2) debuted in 2005. If you want newer titles to work with Bit Boost, you'll have to add them manually--port ranges and all.
Similarly, Torrent Genie sounded like a great idea: You leave your PC on to download BitTorrent files all the time. But I prefer to manage my downloads with uTorrent, as Vuze feels slow and clunky--and unfortunately Torrent Genie supports only Vuze, forcing me either to choose between the two or to deal with the hassle of using two torrent clients.
Another complication: One of the perks of leaving your PC on with Vuze (or uTorrent) is the remote management function, which lets you manage your torrents from another PC, but it doesn't work with Torrent Genie.
We haven't yet put the Play Max through our complete battery of performance tests, but it managed to sustain strong bandwidth (between 20 and 25 megabits per second for close and medium ranges) in an office environment with plenty of other Wi-Fi networks nearby.
Though its throughput suffered, it also managed to maintain usable signal strength at longer range in a building with plenty of physical obstructions--meaning that it can probably cover an apartment or small house without requiring additional access points.
In addition, I had no problem streaming HD video at close or medium range. The benefit of having a dual-band radio is that you can set the 5GHz network to allow only 802.11n clients, so it can take advantage of 802.11n's faster speeds while older clients can connect to the 2.4GHz network.
This capability isn't readily configurable using Belkin's included software, however, and users who are unfamiliar with Wi-Fi channels and frequencies could easily set up and use the Play Max without realising that they weren't getting the optimum speeds for their setup.
Join the newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 LG G6 Plus: Full, in-depth review
- 2 First Look: Nikon D850
- 3 OnePlus 5: Full, in-depth review
- 4 Nokia 8: Full, in-depth review
- 5 Sony's latest Ultra HD OLED debuts in Australia
Latest News Articles
- NETGEAR 4G LTE Modem Keeps You Online
- ASUSTOR and Seagate Technology Bring IronWolf Health Management to ASUSTOR NAS
- NBN hooks up 6 million homes and businesses
- Wi-Fi Alliance introduces a certification program for new smart home construction
- Google's Espresso networking tech takes SD-WAN to internet scale
PCW Evaluation Team
The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.
The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.
The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic
I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.
It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.
The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.
- Moto E4: Full, in-depth review
- First Look: The Evil Within 2
- LG G6 Plus: Full, in-depth review
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTSocial Media Executive / Specialist (Facebook) - Online PokerNSW
- CCNetwork Engineer - Cleveland BasedQLD
- CCSenior DevOps ManagerVIC
- CCMean Stack Developers x4ACT
- FTBusiness Analyst - TableauOther
- FTPresales Security ConsultantWA
- FTProject OfficerOther
- FT.Net Developer - Multiple positions availableSA
- CCHogan Technical Consultant - BrisbaneNSW
- CCReporting Analyst/Workforce Analyst - TelcoVIC
- FTChange ManagerOther
- FTWebMethods DeveloperOther
- FTInfrastructure/ Hybrid Cloud Architect - Government OrganisationVIC
- FTSAP Integration ManagerOther
- CCProject Manager - Audio VisualNSW
- FTLead Business Analyst - Logistics and Supply ChainOther
- CCInformation Security ConsultantQLD
- CCPMO Resource ManagerNSW
- CCSenior Project ManagerNSW
- FTInfrastructure ArchitectOther
- CCIOS DeveloperNSW
- FTDeployment Analyst / Customer Service - Minchinbury NSWOther
- FTCRM Business Analysis Senior ConsultantOther
- CCSenior Development DBA - OracleNSW
- FTSystem EngineerOther