- Pretty. The Belkin Surf, although it is a cheap router, won my heart away with its modern design and glossy finish. While you certainly shouldn't judge a book by its cover, when a geek is faced with a choice and not enough information on the subject, beauty can win him over.
- Compact. This cheap wireless router makes it easy to have a wireless network. Whereas some routers require a wide space, the Belkin Surf could easily fit into a very narrow shelf or cubby. And, with its storage slot underneath the base for WPA-2 key information, users will never forget how to connect to the network.
- Horrid connectivity. Even if the Belkin Surf was bedazzled and made of crystal glass, it would still classify as a cheap wireless router due to its horrible connectivity. After doing some basic troubleshooting, it was evident that the problems in my mom's Internet connection were from this router and nothing else. I suppose if you get an adrenaline rush from not knowing if you'll be able to finish streaming a video or not before the Internet drops, you will love this router.
- Poor customer support. Belkin seems unable to realize that this is just a horrible router; consequently, they tell their customer support to make themselves as difficult to understand as possible. By suggesting "solutions" that did nothing to resolve the problem, Belkin appears helpless in fixing this cheap, wireless router.
While browsing the local Wal-Mart, this cheap router, the Belkin Surf, caught my eye. My mom needed a new router for her new apartment and wanted to use wireless technology. The downside to purchasing electronics at retailers is the lack of consumer reviews immediately available; however, my mom wanted the router soon. I encouraged her to try this one out. At only $49, it was the cheapest wireless router available. At worst, she would just have to return this cheap wireless router for a new one.
A Sleek, Cheap Router
The router itself is very sleek and modern in appearance. The router is a dark gray color with all ports in the back. A bright yellow CAT-5 Ethernet inbound port is on the top, with various gray CAT-5 Ethernet ports to hook up via a wired connection. In front, there is an elliptical indicator light that changes color based on the router's performance and stability. A green light indicates connectivity, and an amber light indicates that there is a problem. With no visible antenna, it can easily fit virtually anywhere in a household. Finally, the base upon which the router rests is stable. With previous experiences with routers with strange, curved builds, the plain, working, but attractive design of this cheap router was a welcome change.
The router came with a relatively short Ethernet cable to hook up to a CAT-5 Internet port. Thankfully, the port in my mom's apartment is conveniently in the bedroom. People with their Internet hook-up ports in an obscure place in the house may want to invest in a longer cord. Nonetheless, the router also comes with a driver and utility and power adapter cord, as well as a "pamphlet" of instructions. By pamphlet, I mean a tag-sized piece of laminated cardstock with a three-frame comic strip. On the other side of this cheap wireless router's manual were WPA-2 details for wireless network security. While the instructions leave much to be desired, I give Belkin credit for making the log-in credentials easy to find. This manual slips in a slot under the router so the user won't ever lose it. Convenience at its finest, eh?
Perhaps Too Sleek of a Cheap Router... (Connectivity)
The convenience, I'm afraid, stops here.
After installing the driver utility on my mother's computer for both the router and her wireless dongle, things were finally up and running. According to the dongle utility, signal strength ranged from 60-80%. Considering the router and the computer were on opposite ends of the apartment, this connectivity was perfectly acceptable. After being up and running for approximately 15 minutes, the Internet disconnected. Connectivity was at 64%, and it just disconnected without warning. After about twenty seconds, the Internet came back.
Things resumed normally for a few hours, then the Internet connection dropped again. Puzzled, we decided to hardwire a connection to the router. Even when wired via CAT-5 Ethernet, the Internet dropped regularly. After disconnecting the router and just hooking the computer up directly to the Internet CAT-5 port, my mom was able to have Internet for the rest of the day.
Putting this Cheap Router's Utility to Use
I considered that there may be a resolvable problem with the router; consequently, I booted up the diagnostics utility that the driver came with when the Internet died out. There is a "Click to Fix" button that appears whenever the router's light turns amber or connectivity is dropped, so I clicked it. At some times, it suggested that the wireless adapter was not working, although the adapter seemed to be able to recognize the network just fine. About a third of the time, it suggested that we used an incorrect WPA-2 key to connect to the router. This, of course, can't be the case, since we've tried re-entering the key so many times that we have both managed to memorize it.
My mom contacted customer support and was unable to understand the woman at the other end. Furthermore, all she ended up doing was resetting the router and giving it a new WPA-2 key, which did absolutely nothing to resolve the issue of dropping connectivity.
The Belkin Surf: A Cheap Router with a Nasty Temperament
The only possible resolution? The Belkin Surf, as beautiful of a cheap router as it may be, is a user. It managed to win my heart with its gorgeous dark tone and sleek build, but then did nothing but drop Internet. Enraged, I went online and found that the vast majority of reviewing customers have all had a similar experience of heartbreak with this cheap wireless router.
Ultimately, the Belkin Surf is just a cheap router with poor signal strength and unstable connectivity. Don't let its pretty exterior fool you. Stick with more trusted wireless routers like the Cisco-Linksys WRT54GL Wireless-G Broadband Router
While this cheap router is certainly gorgeous and sleek, the Belkin Surf is not a product I would recommend. If you are looking for a stable router for a home Internet connection, try your hardest to ignore the flirtacious glances the Belkin Surf will give you in the store and buy something else. Remember: browse electronics online before you make your purchase. The best indicator of product quality is consumer reviews; without them, you are playing a game of luck.