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Belkin Play Max ADSL router review

Attempts far more than it can reasonably pull off

Our Verdict

For

  • Simple innocuous design
  • Internal aerials remain effective
  • Hugely flexible, varied routing
  • USB drive and printer sharing...

Against

  • ...with awful software installed
  • Poor quality additional 'apps'

Belkin has obviously tried very hard to make the Play Max an attractive package to beginners. The unit itself is neat – its three-dimensional aerials hidden within the stone-grey case.

It's a plug-and-play affair in terms of getting hooked up. WPA2 is enabled by default, the relevant security details are written on a label attached to the base, and the unit's single button activates WPS to facilitate the quickest connections possible.

It runs wireless N and G, and has twin radios to support 5GHz and 2.4GHz connections simultaneously. The power and range, particularly on wireless N, is fantastic.

Giving guests access to your network is also straightforward. A hotspot-style connection technique enables visitors to connect to a 'guest' subnet, separate from your primary network, by typing a custom password into a browser landing page.

App attack

If only Belkin had stopped at great connectivity instead of spooning more and more custard onto the router crumble.

In the Play Max, Belkin has weighed down an otherwise fine router with a swathe of iPhone-style apps, most of which are flimsy masks for some pretty mundane, and in some cases poor, features.

The Self Healing app, for example, appears to make the unit reset itself periodically to fix possible errors. Well, great.

BitBoost claims to accelerate traffic based on its type – giving priority to gaming packets, for example – but we couldn't find any evidence that this was more than standard Quality of Service routing, something that comes as standard on the majority of new routers.

Then there's Video Max HD: essentially the same thing as BitBoost, but for videos.

It's not a complete bust; some of its functions are genuinely useful. Compatibility with USB printers and hard drives, for example, is a boon for the networking potential of the Play Max. But actually using that functionality means installing an awkward, dedicated, system-bloating application on your Mac and any other machine you want to connect.

Play max rear

This is, frankly, a little ludicrous. We've used plenty of routers that work perfectly well with external drives and printers without having to resort to dedicated software. That list includes the Play Max's cousin, the Belkin N+, which makes this decision even more baffling when you think about it.

Then there's the stuff that makes perfect sense but has been executed horribly. Take the Torrent Genie app. This basically amounts to on-board compatibility with the Vuze Offline Downloader, a shred of code that enables you to continue torrent downloads while your client machines are offline.

Again, this is spoiled by unnecessary software; Vuze proper has an awful ad-laden interface, one so poor that we dropped it as a torrent tool of choice some time ago. If you want to use the Play Max take, you have no such choice.

So here's the plan: instead of buying a Play Max router, buy its little brother, the Belkin Surf. It's less than half the price, doesn't include any of the tiresome, unnecessary features, and does the job of routing internet traffic around your network just as well. As for this offering, consign it to the 'marred by software' heap.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeWireless Router
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11n
ISM BandYes
UNII BandYes
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
USBYes
Number of Network (RJ-45) Ports4
Number of Broadband (RJ-45) Ports1
Wireless Transmission Speed300 Mbps
Brand NameBelkin
Green CompliantYes
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityENERGY STAR
ISM Maximum Frequency2.40 GHz
UNII Maximum Frequency5 GHz
ManufacturerBelkin International, Inc
Product ModelF7D4301UK
Product NameF7D4301UK Play Max Wireless Router
Manufacturer Part NumberF7D4301UK
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.belkin.com/uk
Marketing Information

Get the perfect wireless network with the least amount of interference and dead spots. The Play Max Wireless Router delivers the speed and range to cover demanding home usage that takes up large amounts of your bandwidth. Simultaneous dual-band networks double the performance by using two 802.11n radios to eliminate the clutter and noise from other home appliances, giving you clear consistent video streams you demand.

Package Contents
  • F7D4301UK Play Max Wireless Router
  • Power Supply
  • Setup CD with User Manual
Limited Warranty2 Year