I have to apologize for the delay in getting this review out, but I have Comcast to blame for waiting to connect the Belkin AC 1200 DB Dual Band Gigabit Router. My issue has nothing to do with the router, but my internet setup through Xfinity.
This is the situation I had: I recently changed my telephone service to Xfinity voice, and in doing so they replaced my customer owned Motorola Surfboard DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem with their Arris TC862 gateway, which is an all in one solution for Xfinity, a cable modem, gigabit router, n wifi radio, phone adapter and battery backup. The problem is, the Arris Gateway is already acting as a router and providing DHCP to the network (Comcast /Xfinity does not allow you to disable this), as well as transmitting a wifi signal that could interfere with the Belkin's signal, or at least degrade it since it would be in such close proximity to the Xfinity device (Comcast/Xfinity does not allow you to turn your wi-fi signal on or off in your own home).
I needed to replace this gateway with a modem that had telephone capabilities (known as a EMTA or Embedded Multimedia Terminal Adapter). After countless calls to Comcast/Xfinity, I thought I encountered a technician who understood what I was talking about, and he said I would have an EMTA by the end of the week, however, nothing came, and when I called back there was no order in their system for it. So, I had someone order me another one, and this time I received a regular cable modem with no telephone capability.
After several more calls and being transferred to higher service levels, I got the whole thing straightened out. The Arris Gateway will be used ONLY for phone service, the Wi-Fi will be turned off, and I will hook up my customer owned modem back up for internet service, where I will connect the Belkin AC 1200 DB. Keep in mind, this was all done without a technician being sent to the house.
The reason I am writing about this scenario is because the Arris TC862 is the latest technology that Comcast/Xfinity is using (you can even see it in their latest commercial with the houses racing) and you may have this device in your home already. Although you may be able to plug the Belkin AC 1200 DB into the gateway device, you would technically be double NAT-ing which may cause all sorts of configuration problems and would not be using the Belkin's full capabilities.
Now let's review Belkin's AC DB Dual Band Gigabit Router. I am always happy to manufacturers that use easily recyclable packaging. Belkin is one of them. Inside the cardboard box was a pulp (egg carton like) tray, and plastic bag (that can be recycled) that the router was wrapped in. That was it. Hooray for Belkin and the environment.
The outside of the box claims "Easy Setup" and they're not kidding. Belkin is a lazy person's paradise. They have pre-connected the power cable and the Ethernet cable into the router for you, and labeled the steps with a printed piece of cardboard attached to each cable that corresponds to the steps in the enclosed "Router Setup Guide". There are four basic setup steps for the minimalist setup to this router: 1. Turn off your modem (by unplugging it) 2. Connect router to modem (remember Belkin already connected the other end to the router for you) 3. Turn on modem (by plugging it back in) 4. Turn on Router (by plugging it in to power - Belkin has already plugged it into the router). That's easy setup. Initially when the router is plugged in, the front LED turns pink, then blinks blue, and if all goes well it turns a solid blue, otherwise it will blink amber if there is a problem connecting to the internet. If you choose not use the enclosed setup CD your can configure your router by typing [...] into your web browser. Techy geeks like myself prefer a manual router setup as opposed to using the CD.
If you choose to run the setup CD, once it loads you will see "Get Connected" surrounded by a green border, that is what you would click on, since there is also a link to advanced tools and the user manual in the same window. When you click on "Get Connected" it gives you the same instructions on how to connect it to your modem, then it asks you to enter then network name and password found on the bottom of the router. Once you enter this information you should connect wirelessly to the device, and change any advanced settings., such as your "Network Name & Security". I find this CD quite useless, since everything just links you back to your router's setup page anyway. It's much easy to follow from there.
To get to the router's setup page just type [...] into any web browser. Initially the router's administration page does not come with a password, but it will ask for one, just leave it blank and hit enter. I strongly recommend adding a password for security reasons. Once the setup page loads it brings you to the router home page, which features a lot of useful information to those who know how to read it. Probably to the average user it may not mean too much.
The Belkin AC1200 DB's settings are pretty extensive. The LAN Settings allow you to choose the router's IP address, turn the DHCP server on or off, pick your IP Pool's starting ending address and lease time from a half hour to forever (which is essentially a static address), and even allows you to name your network with a Local Domain Name. There are settings to select your WAN Connection, enter an address for a DNS server, so you don't have to use your ISP's (although you could if you wish) and input a MAC address for the device if you need to. There is an IPv6 pass through, which I cannot use since my area is not IPv6 compatible.
For those looking for Parental controls, Belkin uses Norton to filter out various levels of inappropriate websites: No Filters (everything gets through), Block Malicious Sites - malware, phishing and scam sites are blocked, Block malicious and adult sites, and Block Malicious, Adult and other non-family friendly sites. Belkin achieves this by replacing the DNS server with Norton's DNS that blocks the content automatically. This seems like a good idea for those with kids. There is also an Access Control list which is a quite comprehensive way to block a particular device from being used on the network. Access can be allowed or denied based on a scheduled time or times, a particular service such as Ping, HTTP, HTTPS, FTP, POP3, IMAP, SMTP, NNTP, Telnet, SNMP, TFP, IKE or user defined. That's quite an extensive list and would make your internet connection pretty useless if these rules were invoked. You can also block specific URL's or all URL's or URL's with Keywords in them. Belkin does a great job to control devices on the network, too bad for the children out there if their parents know how to setup this section of the router!
One great thing about the Belkin AC1200 DB router is that it is a SIMULTANEOUS DUAL BAND router, that means that it broadcasts both its 2.4GHZ and 5 GHz radio signals at the same time and is able to handle the traffic on both bands. You generally connect printers and computers that you use for email and general web surfing to the 2.4 GHz band, while the higher bandwidth devices, such as video streaming, gaming media sharing is done in the 5 Ghz band, which has greater bandwidth and is faster. Keep in mind, not all equipment has 5 GHz capability, but all 802.11n capable equipment does have 2.4 GHz capability. As a matter of fact, the only devices I own that have 5 GHz radio in them are my Panasonic Blu-Ray player and my MacBook Pro, the iPhone 4S and the other new computers are not 5 GHz capable.
When you set up your SSID's you can give each band a different name, so that the connections are easy to distinguish. For each band there are the same adjustments for all the settings. You can select channels, bandwidth, whether you want to broadcast the SSID, turn on protected mode and QOS. You also have the option for different Security Modes and Passwords for each band as well. You can use Wifi Protected Setup, there is a button below the LED on the top of the router to start the Push Button Configuration. I never seem to have much luck with WPS and use a manual configuration for the most part, which always seems to work. There is an access point mode, which allows you to use this basically as a WiFi bridge on the network, but you need to have another router somewhere in the network, since this mode bypasses all routing and firewall functions.
One of my favorite features of this router is the Guest Network. The Guest Network allows you set up internet access for well, a guest. It uses a separate SSID from your primary network as well as a separate password, or choose to leave the network open without a password. On the guest network you can even have you visitors log in like they would at a café by logging in via a webpage. The guest network does not allow your visitor access to any resources on your network such as printers, network drives, or shared folders, so your information is safe from prying eyes. It runs only on the 2.4 GHz mode only, so is compatible with just about any Wi-Fi device, and can be enabled or disabled at any time via Belkin's Router Setup Page.
There is a new technology included in this router called 802.11 ac (Draft 2.0), which Belkin claims to be up to 2.8 times faster than 802.11n technology (which is the current standard now). The 802.11ac (Draft 2.0) protocol has a bandwidth of 867 Mbps and only operates in the 5 GHz band. Unfortunately this technology is brand new and none of my equipment has the necessary 802.11ac configuration to take part of such a blazing speed. As a matter of fact the only laptop out there with an 802.11ac radio out there built into it is an Asus G75VW gaming laptop, and as far as I can tell Netgear makes the only 802.11ac USB WiFi Adapter, the Netgear A6200, so this router definitely will not need replacing any time soon. It is ahead of the technology out there right now, which is something hard to claim these days, so I am proud to own it. I will be looking forward to faster speeds in future devices.
The Belkin AC1200 DB features Quality of Service (QoS) features to prioritize packets for VoIP, gaming, video, VPN, etc. There is a feature called Intellistram that analyzes the bandwidth, how this is actually done, Belkin does really indicate. There is also Traffic Chart that allows you analyze the type of traffic the router encounters. What I don't like about the Traffic Chart is that it only starts from the time you open it up, you cannot look at past history. There are two different charts, one for Inbound Traffic, the other for Outbound Traffic. It breaks down traffic as follows: Network Connectivity & Control, Voice, Video Chat & Gaming, Web & Web Video, Email & VPN and Downloads, Torrents and Others. This feature is sort of eye candy, it is not really that useful to monitor specific packets like a sniffer, but I guess it gives a general idea about the router's traffic pattern. There is also a Media Server that is a "Video Mover". The only option is a checkbox to "Serve media to compatible network media players. The box indicates it is a DLNA/UPnP Media , so I guess that is what it does. I do not own a DNLA enabled TV or Blu-Ray so I have no means to test this function.
Belkin's Firewall features are pretty much the same as with any router, it provides virtual server support, MAC address filtering to deny access to those not trusted on your network, DMZ to work around the firewall, DDNS for dynamic addresses, WAN Ping Blocking to stop hackers from discovering your network, and a security log that contains a system log and a firewall log to see what was blocked or accessed.
The Utilities menu is also pretty basic to any router with a few exceptions. There is a Restart function, Restore Factory Defaults, Save/Backup Current Settings, Restore Previous Settings, Firmware Update, System Settings, and Self Healing. The self Healing function I like a lot. Most major companies restart their servers in the very early morning hours as a way to keep things running smoothly during the day. Belkin's AC1200 allows the router to re-initialize on the days and time you choose to keep itself healthy. It is a nice feature and will probably keep it trouble free and from a manual restart. One other feature, which is under system settings is the ability to disable the radio at certain times of day (like when you are asleep) to save power. It also allows exceptions, like if you don't want to turn off the radio on a Friday or Saturday night when you are streaming movies into the early morning. The is also a setting to turn off the LED on the unit to save energy. That about wraps up the many features the Belkin AC1200 DB has. In my opinion it is jam packed with them.
The style of this router is vertical on a stand. I looks like a shark's fin, well, almost anyway. The back has 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired devices, and one Gigabit Modem Port for your internet connection. There are also two USB 2.0 ports to connect external USB drives or printers directly to the router to make network attached storage or to turn a wired printer into a wireless one. Belkin did not think far enough ahead when including these ports, in my opinion at least one of them should have been a USB 3.0 port since most external drives these days are USB 3.0. For printing USB 2.0 is fine. When you plug an external hard drive into one of these ports it immediately becomes available. I can see it on all of the computers connected to the network, both Mac and PC, which is both a good and bad thing. The good thing is that the setup is easy, the bad thing is that Belkin does not include any access control on the drive. Both Mac and Windows list permissions as custom, which appears to similar to full control. So basically anyone on the network has permission to access, modify and delete files. In my experience this is not particularly a good thing. To access a printer that is plugged into one of the USB ports, the Belkin Router Monitor software on the CD is needed. The router only allows one connection to the printer at a time, and will display a message on another user's computer that someone else is requesting access to the printer if the share is enabled for them. It seems a little bit backwards, but it seems to work. What I could not get to work is my Brother HL-2140 laser printer on my Mac, even after upgrading the printer's firmware. The Print and Storage Center just indicates it cannot connect to the USB port. All of the Windows based PC's do not have an issue and they all print fine. Belkin also includes a rather primitive backup software program that installs with the Router Monitor to use with the USB connected external hard drive. I would stay away from this software and instead use a reputable program that can see the networked drive.
Now for the performance of the Belkin AC1200 DB, it blows Comcast/Xfinity's gateway out of the water! I immediately noticed a huge improvement in speed on my wired and a significant increase in wireless range and speed compared to the Comcast supplied device I was using. . The 2.4 GHz signal was very strong throughout the house. As with all 5 GHz signals, they tend to degrade over distance compared to the 2.4 GHz, there is always a speed vs. distance ratio. The Belkin is no exception to that rule, but the XfInity gateway did not have the 5 GHz band at all, and the Belkin's 5GHz signal gave me the full signal strength even on the top floor of the house with the router in the basement. Once connected there were no problems with streaming video or audio on all of my computers and iPhone, they were flawless, as was video on the Roku, no buffering or stuttering, just pure video delight. This is one speedy device with plenty of options. It does have its noted flaws, however not every device can be exactly what every particular person wants, and I'm OK with that. Maybe future firmware upgrades will make this device even better. We shall see.
EDIT: 8/20/2012 -
It seems now I'm having a problem with the Belkin AC1200 - for some reason, the WiFi keeps dropping from connected devices, even though the signal strength is excellent. When I try to connect back to the router, it says it is unable to join the network. This happens on both the 2.4 GHz and the 5.0 GHz bands. No changes were made to the router. Any device connected via Ethernet cable works fine, so it is not an internet connection problem. Believe me if I could blame Comcast/Xfinity, I would, but this is not their fault, the internet is still connected to this router. The problem appears to be with the WiFi Radio or an with an internal component. A simple router reset does not resolve this issue either, the only way to fix this is to restore the router to its Factory Defaults, but after several hours, sometimes a day or two, the problem still reoccurs. There is nothing strange in the system log to indicate a problem. I have contacted Belkin for a replacement. Hopefully just this unit is defective, not a defect in the model itself. For now I will keep the 4 star rating.
Edit 10/01/2012 -
I received the replacement Belkin router within a few days of the request, and it has been working without any problem whatsoever. The defective unit I had was just a lemon, this new unit works fine after a little over a month of continuous use. I am even using the eco feature to shut off the radio at night. It shuts off when it is supposed to and turns back on at the assigned time as it should. I really like this router. Now that the problems are gone, I hardly ever think about, which is the way a router should work!
UPDATE (WARNING-Long Winded Update at that):
----I waited to even write my initial review below since I have to admit, I don't play well with ANY Belkin product. I had ZERO expectations to get this router to even connect much less perform. But as much as it hurts, this router has performed FAR beyond any router I ever tried. I have bought and paid for over $1300.00 in routers trying desperately to find a fast and stable router I can TRUST for gaming & streaming since I retired. I also use COX Cable. The only company I hate more than Belkin:-) But here it is in a nutshell. Not even any $200.00 I bought got me over 3 to 4 bars of signal strength to my living room, never got me faster than 5 Mb/s downstream, 2.8 Mb/s Upstream. THIS router? STUNNING INCREASE. I have had a 100% SOLID 5 bars of signal strength even in my back yard for God's sake...Performance? Unbelievable but almost 24/7 anytime I check it On my PC Laptop, I get 39-45 Mb/s and an average of 6-7 Mb/s Upstream.
----Here is a link to my latest test today using my PC Windows 8.2 Laptop: http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/4007014684
----On my iPad 4 I average:
Test Date: Dec 23, 2014 12:09 PM
Download: 38.61 Mbps
Upload: 5.77 Mbps
Ping: 15 ms
Connection Type: Wi-Fi
Server: San Diego, CA
----A detailed image for this result can be found here: http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/i/1078598494
----Bottom line, this new Belkin Router puts any and all I ever bought, ever got to try in the Vine Program to shame. I don't know how, I don't CARE how. I eat my words on everything horrible I ever said about Belkin and will no longer boycott their products without at least giving them a fair chance. That is VERY hard for me to say, but they have earned that from me so there it is. I still just can't believe how amazing this thing works for me. First time ever I can watch ANYTHING on YouTube in max HD and watch the internet connection bar race ahead of my watching instead of the usual stutter & reconnects I have lived with non stop for years in this house. I have to say, this router goes from my overly cautious & suspicious 3 star rating to 5 stars now that I have had ample time to test it. If it fails as I expect it to, I will be right back to scream bloody murder:-)
I asked myself WHY of why do I want to even try possibly the most hated router for sale on Amazon? I guess the answer was simple. BORED out of my mind! Being retired I sometimes walk right into trouble. Actually I do that a lot lately. And if there is any one single thing in this world that can put you over the edge, it is ra router and trying to set one up & configure it. I have heard "easy setup" far too many times to ever believe THAT old line...
I also have an almost hatred for most anything with the name Belkin on it. But I honestly just had to try this. With my new ARRIS / Motorola SurfBoard SB6141 DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem I figured why not throw myself completely off the cliff and just be done with it. With COX Cable and their never ending "we just doubled your internet speed" commercials playing endlessly in my head while in reality I see NO change at all, I figured why not. So, what happened the? Well the surprise is, nothing bad at all. YET anyway. To my utter astonishment, I never even read any directions. I simply unplugged my old router, plugged this one in. Then I reset my modem as well just "in case".
I don't know why, but I then simply followed the onscreen prompts/setup and only changed the SSID (Router name) to the same as I had used on my Netgear Router. As a result, EVERY device I have logged on with the same password etc. NO PROBLEMS! Period. Everything just worked and worked perfectly. Speedtest showed no improvement to be honest, but, no problems either. Now it would be well and good but it didn't end there. When I began playing with other assorted setting like QOS etc, it seemed to have a nervous breakdown. BIG TIME. Also, any time I changed any setting at all it would take 2-10 minutes for that change to take effect with a frozen screen for my trouble.
Long story short. I am in the process of a week long test now. I put everything back to factory settings, when everything worked. As such, all is well and perfectly stable as I continue my search as to why MY internet has not sped up with COX cable's new upgrades. As this causes me any problems OR gets better, I will adjust my rating accordingly. But for now, and to my amazement, all seems well. I have no real idea as yet, as to why it doesn't like me tinkering with "settings". I suspect I will figure that out in time too. But for now, I am just glad that trying a new Belkin product didn't cause my house or computer to burst into flames like I expected....