If you are looking to supply your own modem for a new ADSL connection, then the Billion 743GE from PC Range is worth every cent of its very reasonable $299 price tag. It is an ADSL modem capable of supporting data rates up to 8Mbps/1Mbps (download/upload) and it also has a built-in wireless access point. In addition, it features four RJ45 Ethernet ports on its rear, with 10/100 capabilities.
As a router with built-in firewall, its functions can be firmware upgraded, and it features support for NAT (Network Address Translation, which acts as the gateway between the Internet and a PC or personal network).
It supports all the major ADSL connection protocols. The wireless protocol it uses is 802.11b, so speeds are limited to 11Mbps in this realm; WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) encryption for wireless traffic, up to 128-bits, is supported.
The first thing you need to do is log into the 743GE’s configuration page, which is in simple HTML. You then launch your browser and type in the IP address of the unit, which is 192.168.1.254. This will bring forth a pop-up screen in which you enter the username/password for the device, which is just admin/admin, and then you can proceed to configure the settings according to your Internet service provider’s requirements, such as the protocol, DNS server addresses and IP address.
The unit supports many advanced features, such as Virtual Private Networking (VPN), which allows an encrypted remote connection to a home computer, for example, over the Internet.
We tested the 743GE’s ADSL and wireless functionality across two PCs and one notebook computer by downloading the same file from the Internet using the host computer and the network nodes. We found that we were able to fully utilise our 256Kbps Ozemail ADSL connection across both the wireless nodes, even while signal strength from the access point to these nodes was hovering between 55 and 70 per cent. This is the main drawback of a wireless network: the more sources of interference in the operating environment — such as air conditioners, multiple electronic devices and computers (not to mention walls) — the lower the signal will be.
The 802.11b wireless standard has a maximum theoretical throughput of 11Mbps (1.37MB) and the fastest ADSL connection plan you will find is probably 1.5Mbps (187KB), so signal strength does not pose a problem for Internet sharing at this time. It predominantly hinders file transfer speeds over a local area network, so if you regularly transfer large files between computers then you will definitely notice the speed degradation when the wireless signal weakens.
The wireless adapters we tested with the Billion access point are also from PC Range: an 802.11b Minitar PCI adapter for a PC and an 802.11b Minitar PCMCIA adapter for a notebook. Both support up to 128-bit encryption and feature a simple utility for connecting to the wireless access point.
This combination of products proved to be excellent for a home networking environment and they performed well in the office environment, too. PC Range offers bundles with the Billion ADSL modem, so you can purchase the modem along with two PCI or two PCMCIA cards or one PCI and one PCMCIA card, according to your needs, for only $369.
In brief: PC Range Billion 743GE + wireless adapters
This fully-featured ADSL modem/router/firewall/access point device is supplied with a combination of PCI and PCMCIA wireless adapters.
Price: $299 (743GE only) or $369 with a choice of two Minitar wireless adapters
Vendor: PC Range
Phone: (08) 8322 9544