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!
Apple iPhone X
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-55EZ950U
cloudandco Smart Cane
Bang and Olufsen BeoVision 14
Nespresso Creatista Coffee Machine
Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44
Dyson Supersonic™ Hair Dryer Fuchsia/Iron
WD MY PASSPORT™ X Gaming Storage
SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™
Panasonic OLED 4K Ultra HD TV - TH-77EZ1000U
Toys for Boys
Google Daydream View VR Headset
Ubiquiti Network’s Front Row Camera
Lego Mindstorms EV3
Propel Star Wars T-65 X-Wing Drone
UBTech First Order Stormtrooper Robot
Onyx Smart Walkie Talkie
Bose SoundLink Micro
Leica M10 Digital Rangefinder Camera
LaCie Rugged USB-C Portable Hard Drive
Panasonic Hi-Fi - SC-UA7GS-K
PETKIG Go Smart Dog Leash
WD MY CLOUD™ HOME Personal Cloud Storage
Amazon Echo Bluetooth Speaker
Toffee Bags Commuter Satchel
iRobot Roomba 980 Vaccum Cleaning Robot
Xbox One X
Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K
Dearear Endear In-ear Wireless Earphones
Nest Protect Smart Smoke Alarm
Belkin Pocket Power 10,000mAh
Tile Pro Bluetooth Tracker
Kogan Bluetooth Soundbar
Logitech Doodle Collection Wireless Mouse
Fallout Geeki Tikis
3SIXT 3-in-1 Smartphone Lens Kit
Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse
Panasonic Portable Splashproof Fun - RF-D20U
Urbanworx Full HD Action Camera
Ikea NORDMÄRKE Wireless Charging Pad
Raspberry Pi Starter Kit
Lexon Flip Alarm Clock
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Fitbit Ionic review: Impressive but not quite iconic
- 2 Acer Spin 5 review: Value for money but conditions apply
- 3 Huawei Mate 10 Pro Review: A solid winter flagship that cribs from the best
- 4 Sony LF-S50G review: Google Assistant and then some
- 5 Google Pixel 2 review: not quite 'pixel perfect' but damn close
Latest News Articles
- CES 2018: Everything Announced By Netgear
- CES 2018: D-Link Demonstrates New Connected Innovations
- Razer Partners With Ignition Design Labs on Gaming-Grade Wi-Fi
- Netgear target small businesses with Orbi Pro
- D-Link Launches Their Fastest-Ever NBN AC5300 MU-MIMO Modem Router
PCW Evaluation Team
I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.
It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.
Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.
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
- CES 2018: Belkin go big on wearables accessories
- Amazon Alexa and Echo set for Febuary launch
- OPPO Load Up A73 Smartphone With Flagship Features
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
Product Launch Showcase
- FTFront End DeveloperNSW
- CCHogan Technical ConsultantQLD
- CCSenior Business Analyst (Cyber Security)QLD
- CCTableau DeveloperQLD
- TPProgram Manager - Long Term ContractQLD
- FTTechnical Consultant - HP Service Manager 9NSW
- CCCRM Business AnalystQLD
- FTInformation Security AnalystNSW
- FTConsulting Project Manager (Agile)ACT
- FTDesktop EngineerOther
- FTSenior Front End Developer - ReactQLD
- FTLead PHP DeveloperQLD
- CCSecurity Business AnalystVIC
- CCJunior to Mid Level Tester - BankingOther
- TPBusiness Process Improvement AnalystQLD
- FTSenior Infrastructure Delivery ManagerOther
- FTSCADA Project MaanagerOther
- FTFront End DeveloperOther
- TPSAP S/4HANA Implementation Project Manager - FMCGVIC
- FTProject Cost ControllerSA
- FTMobile Developers (Android OR iOS)WA
- CCMid-level Architect/Technical Lead ( Java/J2EE) - Brisbane LocationVIC
- FTNetwork ArchitectQLD
- FTBusiness Analyst (Engineer) Mining SystemsOther