REVIEW: Belkin F5D7230-4 Wireless Router

BRAINWRECKED

What should have been so simple turned into one of the most frustrating 60 minutes of my life. I bought this router because I wanted to set up a segregated network for WEP devices to hop on to my network and use the internet. You couldn’t pay me $40 to use this device, let alone have me pay $40.

Set up was straight-forward. Skipping the included CD (newbies — sigh), I had the router up and running in under 60 seconds. The web-based GUI was navigable, but ugly. Help wasn’t always available, but if it was, it was given as one huge plainly-formatted HTML file within a small pop-up window that jumped to right section via NAME bookmarks. Every option on a single page had its own Apply Changes button, and only one option could be changed at a time.

That’s when I encountered a glaring glitch: I could not, or appeared not to be able to, enable UPnP (Universal Plug n Play). No matter what I did, the radio button always came back as Disabled. Strike one.

I figured for a bug such as this, there’d surely be a firmware update by now. Giving Belkin the benefit of the doubt, I tried to update the router’s firmware from the GUI. I got the error message, “Cannot connect to the firmware information server.” Note that it wasn’t, “Your firmware is up to date.” I check Belkin’s support site for a manual firmware update, but there’s no firmware updates for the hardware version of my router (version 7000). Now, is this a case of an over-simplified error message, or did Belkin change something in their infrastructure? Not sure, don’t care. Strike two either way.

I fired off an email to Belkin’s tech support for a cordial WTF’ing:

I am using version 7000 of the F5D7230-4 wireless router with firmware version 9.01.05. When I go to enable UPnP in the System Utilities page, the radio button always comes back as Disabled after clicking Apply Changes. All other options on the System Utilities page stay as set. Is this a bug that always shows the state of UPnP as Disabled, or does this bug not allow me to turn UPnP on? Or am I missing something? Also, when I try to Check For New Firmware Version, the popup says, “Cannot connect to the firmware information server, please double check the wan connection.” I tried to check Belkin’s Product Support, but there are no firmware updates for version 7000 of this router.

I fire up my Nintendo DS and try out the new browser. Part-way through loading up the Phantasy Star Universe home page, the DS loses it’s Wi-Fi connection. Odd — it’s never done that before. So I try to download some utilities for Windows that will detect available wireless networks (to make sure it wasn’t a channel-overlap thing), and my downloads would stop on my wired PC somewhere between ½MB – 1 MB. I checked my logs — in the 10 minutes I’ve been having trouble, my router has made DHCP requests to my ISP 5 times. Not only that, but a quick glance at newegg.com’s customer reviews reveals I’m not the only one with the disconnection problems. Strikes 3 through 81 — game over.

But the fun wasn’t over. I got this response from Belkin tech support:

Thank you for contacting Belkin Components.
There are no new firmware updates for your version. Try disabling any pop up or antivirus software before applying changes, try from another computer.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us again. Thanks for your interest in Belkin products.

Derek [last name withheld]
Technical Support Agent

That’s straight copypasta, as the kids would say. Two formatting errors, one spelling error, and one grammar error. Plus, these are things the developers should be dealing with, not the customers. Don’t use pop-ups in this day and age of pop-up blockers (Netgear, Linksys, and Buffalo don’t), and don’t use Java or ActiveX that could be mistakenly flagged as malicious by anti-virus software. Besides, didn’t I say I was getting the help pop-ups earlier in this article?

Edit Dec 04 2008: It seems like that we might have an answer to the UPnP question after all theses months. With no help from Belkin tech support, this anonymous commenter figured out a way to make the UPnP option stick back on July 12. On November 29, Matthew Wallace confirmed that this method works. While this still doesn’t explain why the router I got had a propensity to constantly send out DHCP requests, a bug killed is a bug killed.

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