The world is going app crazy and it's not restricted to the domain of mobile phones. Routers too, it seems, are not being left out. As well as embracing the 802.11n wireless protocol and simple three step setup, Belkin's latest router offerings also break into the world of applications with software that automatically detects and resolves network issues, a playlist music generator and an automated data backup program all leading the charge.

Belkin's Surf, Share, Play, and Play Max 802.11n Wireless Routers all benefit from the company achieving a 60 percent reduction in the number of touch points which holds the promise of a simpler setup process. According to Belkin: "getting your network up and running is as easy as 1, 2, 3." Pre-installed security settings take much of the hassle out of the setup process and instead of checking network status lights on the hardware, the company has moved much of this to the computer screen.

Other shared features include dual-plane antenna positioning and a special implementation of MIMO technology that the company says gives "consistent signal, even through walls and floors"; compatibility with Mac OS X v10.6 and v10.5, and Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP; 256-bit WPA/WPA2 encryption and support for PPTP and IPSec pass-through virtual private networks. They all operate at the familiar 2.4GHz spectrum but some also give the choice of a less congested 5GHz too.

Belkin has also taken care of the USB dongle pairing with the Play Wireless USB available at US$69.99 and the Surf & Share Wireless USB at US$49.99.

Starting with the leader of the pack

At the top of Belkin's new release tree sits the Play Max wireless router at US$129.99. As well as high-speed Gigabit ports, the unit also features a couple of USB 2.0 ports for direct connectivity to printers or external hard drives. This model offers simultaneous 802.11n Dual-Band (2.4Ghz and 5GHz) for speeds of up to 300Mbps (although actual throughput will be lower) and UPnP server.

Second in command is the Play Wireless model at US$99.99 which also sports Dual Band, Dual Concurrent Radio 2.4GHz and 5GHz ISM but has only one USB 2.0 port. Also featuring singular USB 2.0 connectivity but dropping down to 2.4GHz only is the Share Wireless at US$79.99.

And finally, bringing up the rear is the Surf Wireless at US$49.99 which only benefits from the support of one of the apps on offer, the Self Healing app which automatically detects and resolves network problems and runs routine maintenance scans. If a problem is detected which requires user action, notification is sent to the connected computer screen rather than being restricted to blinking lights on the router itself.

Apps for the network

The other routers in the range can all access Self Healing and as well as (depending on the model) a range of other applications. Users can back up data to a connected external hard drive with Memory Safe, wirelessly print off documents from any network computer with Print Genie, correctly tag and play music on networked devices using Music Mover and Music Labeler or use Daily DJ to create personalized playlists, manage downloads even after the computer or laptop has been switched off with Torrent Genie and control network usage priority with Bit Boost.

Lots more information on Belkin's networking solutions is available on the company's networking page.