Pre-N offerings are hot products right now. Part of the demand can be attributed to home remodeling and housing starts, which have been on a torrid pace. Networking a home used to mean running a bunch of Cat-5 run through the frame and installing a wiring closed. Now folks are turning to fiber for whole house entertainment and computer networking is being upgraded to Cat-6. However no matter how well planned there are always opportunities for wireless. With the increased speed and range of the N standard, running all that cable for Internet connectivity isn't necessary.

Ubiquitous 802.11 a, b and g standards still work pretty well in open office or loft type type environments with minimal interference. These standards are more than adequate for smaller bandwidth requirements. However, MIMO products like Belkin's really shine in home environments where multiple walls and miscellaneous electronics can wreak havoc on previous standards, especially when moving large amounts of data and streaming media.

We tested the Belkin Pre-N router, PCI cards and PCMCIA cards in a mixed mode environment with a ThinkPad and three other machines running a variety of Pre-N and 802.11 b/g standards. The Belkin worked as advertised and did not slow the entire network down to the lowest common denominator. The Pre-N machines exhibited the best performance and there was no noticeable speed change on the other systems. However, best results were achieved with Pre-N cards installed in all systems on the network. The Pre-N router did improve the range of the ThinkPad, which has a build in Intel 2200 b/g network card.

Belkin's Pre-N router is easy to access via the standard 192 IP address and its menu of options is straightforward and complete. The only issues we found were in setting up the highest levels of security on the network. WEP, WEP 128, and MAC address control all worked without a problem. However, we had trouble getting the WPA settings to work. The manual advises using the Belkin utility to control the network settings yet the WPA settings will only work with Windows controlling the network settings. For consistent connections and performance WEP128 with MAC address control will have to do. Forget about WPA with AES encryption.

All in all the Belkin Pre-N router is funky, fresh and a sign of even greater things to come in the world of wireless networking.

Visit Belkin for more information about its line of Pre-N products.