It’s all started with the arrival of the ‘pinky’! HP laptop in that colour has become the feature work machine of my wife’s choice. This is where also complaints have started. The laptop was dropping the internet like crazy while showing full WIFI range in the notification bar. It took me longer than it should, to figure out that the laptop was not capable of sending the signal through the walls, but the router was strong enough to broadcast it that far. Each time the connection dropped, the WIFI was glowing strong, masking the issue.
The WIFI extender searches populated my amazon search history. This is where I take the first issue with the Belkin N600 Extender. I am to blame, but Belkin offers 2 identically looking devices named N600. The WIFI router and WIFI extender. And when my 1st order got through, guess what? Router arrived instead. This is my punishment for copy and pasting the Belkin N600 DB name into the search bar. Amazon was kind enough to correct this for me swiftly. But there are things that even customer support at Amazon can’t sort out.
Setup and specification of Belkin N600 DB Extender
The Belkin N600 DB Extender is a cute looking device with two WI-FI antennas and a LAN port at the bottom. You can easily plug it into most of the power sockets, including narrower extension leads. The device is capable of 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks, and the ethernet port is purely for the client connectivity (you can’t connect the extender via LAN and use it as a wireless access point). Up to 32 WI-FI enabled devices can be connected at once, plus one via the internet cable and the advertised speed is up to 300mbps (depending on band connected, range, and the traffic).
The set-up is easy, once connected to the open WIFI you can modify the extender settings by typing belkin.range into a browser. Options are kept to a minimum, and by the default, the extender will inherit the names of your existing networks, so most of the time you won’t notice how you connect to the internet. You can modify the SSID names and security, just be careful not to skip this option. Once the same names are assign it is hard to connect to the correct device manually.
Set-up although simple (select network, add a password, select the other network,m add another password, confirm) is little sluggish, and I had few niggles affecting the automatic setup until I have reset the router and Belkin N600 DB extender as well. Another thing that bothered me, the connection was dropping each time I registered a device for the first time through the extender. This was only the beginning of my troubles.
Network speed and range
The network speed heavily depends on how far you are from the device and what WIFI band you are operating on. My ISP supplies me with a 50Mb fibre connection which is transmitted over a Super Hub 2. I have 2 bands available to my disposal. 5GHz and 2.4GHz. Below tests are hardly scientific but give you the essential overview of the extender. Extender had issues seing the 2.4GHz in 300Mbps mode, but was ok in the 54Mbps mode.
The ‘pinky’ (2.4GHz only, also LAN)
This laptop used to give me a lot of issues. It is prone to dropping the connection and it refuses to work mostly anywhere upstairs. In the spots in where I can get some reliable WIFI and Belkin N600 DB extender- results are as follows:
Since ‘pinky’ doesn’t support the 5GHz band, I wasn’t expecting fast surfing, but I have to say that the speeds are very slow. The ping is manageable, and if you can live with limited speeds but consistent range, then this could be a solution for you. I was pleasantly surprised with the LAN connection, where the internet was delivered with a full speed. This could be a game changer as let’s face it, most of the time you are connected to the mains, and if you are, having your connection hardwired isn’t that much of an issue.
My PC (2,4GHz; 5GHz)
The desktop machine that I own supports both bands and I was able to do some testing. For this scenario there Belkin N600 extender is in the room next to me. As you can see 5GHz band is OK. Not super fast, but should cover most of the workflows. 2.4GHz quickly becoming the thing of the past with unimpressive speeds. There was no reason to try it this time with a LAN cable, we got that answer already.
Mobile (2,4GHz; 5GHz)
What came as a surprise was the 5GHz test with the Belkin N600 extender. Despite the same supported bands as my PC I was constantly able to score much higher transfer rates, even when measured next to my PC to mitigate a distance as a factor. Tests done on the 2.4GHz band were in line with the other devices.
One of the things to mention is the ping. While using the extender this can get very high, making the device not a very good choice for gamers. While most of the requests are delivered within the expected time, there were few lags present while starting the test.
I have measured the ping to the router directly, which seem to confirm my assumptions:
The range if fairly strong. I have no problems getting the connection across the house (2 levels) and at the most awkward position, I was able to get the signal at the back of the house, while Belkin N600 DB extender was located on the upper level in the furthers corner of the house. All the above tests were done using auto configuration, with the extender being located floor above the router. I assume this would be a common scenario for getting one.
While pushing the range to the maximum, you will see a massive speed drop. My mobile was reporting 6-7Mbps on the 5GHz band. which is a big drop from 50GHz.
I have to mention that during testing and constant switching the SSIDs I run a few times to the issue where WIFI was present but the extender was unable to receive any signal from the router. A restart fixed the problem for a while, but the device refused to work in any reliable way.
As you can see the item listed has nearly 300 one star reviews at the time of the writing, however after closer inspection 250 of them refer to the Belkin N300 mini. It is always a good idea to look through few pages of the negative reviews and see that they apply to the same product. Let’s take a look at some negative reviews for the actual device.
It’s hard to argue this, device supposes to be plug and play, and it refuses to work this way. I have been having a lot of connectivity issues, and resetting the device, reserving the IP so it would run smoothly, and even reflashing the firmware to make sure I gave it an honest chance.
This sounds again like my experience. I slowly start to believe that all the positive reviews are placed simply because unless you set up a different SSID name, there is no telling which device is currently online, and perhaps this is why the majority of users aren’t reporting any complaints.
Another issue is the operating temperature of the unit, it is incredibly hot. To the point, I wonder if my extender isn’t broken. I don’t feel easy leaving this unattended if I’m honest, but at the same time, I don’t see other users complaining about it.
The unit is packed and is going back where it came from. I will be searching for another solution soon!