Belkin Play N600 Wireless Router

When wireless routers became commodity electronics, industrial design became a differentiation factor. They used to all be uniformly boxes with antennae sticking out of them, but now they come in many shapes and sizes. There’s definitely a market catering to people who don’t like the look of antennae sticking out. This retired Belkin router was from a line of similar designs, with its antennae completely enclosed inside a slickly designed exterior.

My favorite part of this design is a subtle passive cooling system that did not call attention to itself. Between the main body and the foot is a small gap, and here’s where cooling air can be pulled in from the bottom of the unit.

Normal convection forces would send warm air up to the top of the case, where it exits this slot acting as exhaust. I love it.

Only two fasteners are accessible, one hidden under the bottom label.

Removing those two screws allowed the foot to be removed. The cooling intakes are now clearly visible.

Those two screws also help hold the enclosure together. Of course, there are plenty of plastic clips all around as well.

With the first side panel removed, we can see the main circuit board held between the central plastic frame and the other side panel.

Four more screws and many clips later, all major components have been separated.

The circuit board is not very tightly packed. Metal pieces to the top and the left are its WiFi antennae, set at ninety degrees to each other for mutually complementary reception. I’m sure their shape is an intentional design with tradeoffs versus the traditional stick, but I don’t know enough RF voodoo magic to begin to guess at what’s going on. Speaking of RF voodoo magic… I see no metal RF shields covering any part of this circuit board. I see provisions for them on this board in the form of silvery solder square outlines above and below the chip marked Broadcom, but unused.

Here we see more unused provisions. This router has a single USB port and a single rear status LED. On the circuit board we can see provisions for a second LED, just above the text labeled LED6. Plus provision for a second USB port, with unused pins labeled 5, 6, 7, and 8. Adding a second USB port would require unsoldering this USB connector and replace it with a double-deck equivalent. The LED housing is already all set up for a second LED.

J12 here is weird, it seems to be a 2-pin header being used as an antenna wire guide. If the pins were straight, I would say this was just a hilarious coincidence with the wire getting caught between pins, but the pins have been bent inward at the factory, what other purpose might that serve but to keep the wire in place?

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