David Pogue: The Best 802.11n Wi-Fi Router is Apple's

David Pogue at the New York Times tested new 802.11n routers from Apple, Belkin and Netgear. The Apple router was the smallest, best-looking, fastest, had the strongest signal, and was the most expensive, according to the review.

This new generation of 802.11n routers are faster than the old 802.11g systems, but some vendors claims seem exaggerated. "So how much speed will you get? The "up to 300 Mbps" you see in the ads is among the most preposterous exaggerations in all of techdom. In the real world, you can expect 50 to 100 Mbps ? still a lot better than "g."," Mr. Pogue reported.

Comparing the Apple setup to the other systems, Mr. Pogue said, "The setup program, identical for Mac and Windows, is light-years more polished and accessible than its rivals. You can attach a printer or hard drive to the router?s U.S.B. jack, and presto: it?s accessible by all the computers on the network. Very cool."

Notable was the observation that Appleis router is the only one with a 100 Mbps Ethernet jack. All the others, and even Appleis own computers, all come with ports for gigabit Ethernet.

The other routers managed to offer somewhat less for somewhat less money. But there was praise for the Belkin N1. "And, man, you have never seen a company try so hard to make networking easy. The jacks on the router are color-coded; the parts and cables bear huge numbered stickers that correspond to the instructions," the author wrote with fanfare. "Finally, Belkin?s tech-support phone number appears prominently on every single sheet of paper in the box. Incredible."

The verdict was that the 802.11n protocol is reaching maturity. Buy the polished, upgradeable gear from Belkin or Apple in preparation for the final ratification of the 802.11n protocol. Appleis router is the very best, but it costs the most.