Belkin have always been a very well regarded manufacturer of computer peripherals, focusing mainly on networking. Their products are stable and of excellent value. Everyone I recommend a Belkin product to never complains.
These are the reasons I purchased the Belkin F5D6130 along with a CompactFlash wireless card for use with my HP Ipaq Pocket PC.
I paid a very reasonable £31 for this device a month or so back, which is the approximate RRP.
- Single 4-inch fixed aerial
Ethernet connection to the rest of your network
802.11b networking standard, deliverying 1, 2, 5.5 or 11Mbps connection speeds
Up to 500M range
64 or 128-bit WEP encryption
MAC address filtering
Dimensions: 8x14x2.5cm (WxDxH)
And here's a picture of it, sitting next to my printer:
The three LEDs on the front of the unit indicate (from left to right) wireless connection/activity, LAN connection/activity and power. I've found that these do not always serve a very useful purpose, which will be explained later.
The unit uses a standard 9volt power adaptor and barrel connector. That and the 10Mb LAN port are on the rear of the unit.
This device allows you to easily create a wireless connection on your network; to save running wires to your computer(s) or to allow you to access your network resources while mobile. It does just that.
Setup is incredibly simple. Plug the device's power in, and connect an ethernet cable to it from your hub/switch/router.
Once this is done you can use the included Belkin CDROM software to detect and configure your router. I chose to only use this software to find out the IP of the device (I have a DHCP server on my network) and after that I decided to use the web interface to modify the settings.
Click here for a screenshot of the web interface
Setting up via this is very simple. Use the left menu to choose the options you wish to modify.
The most common features you'll need to modify before use will be the MAC filtering, WEP encryption and SSID broadcasting, depending on how secure you want your network to become. I also set a password for the web interface, as it was left blank initially.
WEP Encryption codes can be set manually (64 or 128bit) or generated automatically if you enter a passphrase (again, 64 or 128bit).
MAC addresses can be entered into the table, ensuring ONLY the devices
with the specified MAC addresses can wirelessly connect to the device.
There's a statistics page showing packet throughput, error rates, etc.
There's even an option to see which client(s) are connected to the device. It shows the MAC address and current connection speed.
Once you've done configuring, simply fire up your wireless device (In my case a PocketPC with a CompactFlash card), let it detect it, enter any WEP keys and you're off.
It really is that easy. And in my experience with the F5D6130.
I experienced no difficulties with the setup whatsoever. The only possible hiccup you might experience is getting your wireless devices to detect the access point if you disable SSID broadcasting (basically disabling the access point from broadcasting the fact that it exists... It's another security measure to prevent intrusion), so leave it enabled until you have your device(s) setup.
Once it was all setup, I was browsing the internet and annoying people on MSN from all over my house!
Range was very good for such a small device (coupled with such a small CF card too). I can get a reliable connection in every corner of the building. Things only start getting patchy when I walk out into my back garden (which is on the other side of the house from the room where the access point is located).
The speed was never reported below 11Mb either until I walked into the garden, although in reality I'm sure the speeds were closer to 9Mb.
So... Things appear excellent a few hours on from installation? But has it been plain sailing for the past month or so? Not quite, I'm affraid.
The access point's LAN access LED insists on flashing madly at (albeit seemingly infrequent) random intervals, sometimes causing the wired connection to the access point to become very slow. This is what I was talking about when I mentioned above that the LEDs can sometimes be useless. A lot of the time it does not affect the speed of the device, but it depends on the "intensity" of the flashing. Often the only cure is to power-cycle the device.
I have come to a fairly reliable conclusion that it could be in conjunction with the network music player on my network, but we needn't go into that here!
Other than this issue, I have had no other problems with the F5D6130. It never once has lost it's configuration settings, or "locked up" requiring a reset (there's a small button on the bottom of the unit).
Speeds remain closely as advertised, enabling me to browse the internet at the full 750KBPS as advertised, and streaming audio/video (well within my Ipaq's capabilities anyway!!).
The connection always remains reliable. I've sat in bed for a couple of hours surfing/chatting and it just keeps on working!
The device isn't too much of an eyesore either. It's not a contender for Miss World 2004 but it certainly looks nice sat on a desk!
The F5D6130 is an excellent 802.11b access point for anyone willing to go wireless without the expense of 54G, or for someone simply not requiring the additional speed. 54G CompactFlash cards don't exist, so it would seem wasted in my situation! It appears simple at a glance, yet has the advanced features of much more expensive wireless equipment.
The only issues I have with this device really are the wireless range (coupled with the fact the antenna is fixed to the device and replacing it would require you to dismantle the unit, invalidating your warranty), and the possible problem with other network traffic interfering with the device.
Although compact is good, the size and weight can make the cabling a bit cumbersome, as thick Category 5 cables can sometimes appear "overwhelming" when connected to the device. It really is very small!
- Excellent value
Easy to set up
Excellent set of features
Attractive and compact design
Reliable wireless connections
- LAN connection becomes flakey on occasions
Wireless range could be better, although it's not too big a concern
Official HowardMark© Rating:
7.5 out of 10