Why virtualise your NAS environment?
Billion BiPAC 7300N
Low price and plenty of features
- Can work with ADSL2+ and cable accounts, inexpensive, QoS, customisable firewall settings, easy set-up
- At this price you can't go wrong, but it was a little slow in 802.11n-only mode
You'll get plenty out of this all-in-one unit, which contains an ADSL2+ modem as well as an 802.11 draft-n access point. It's easy to use and best of all, it's very well priced.
Price$ 219.00 (AUD)
Having used Billion products for around six years now, it's easy to sing the praises for this brand, which offers unparalleled value for money in the Australian market. The company's latest model — the BiPAC 7300N — is a fully fledged all-in-one unit that finally employs the 802.11 draft-n wireless networking standard.
For only $219, you get a unit that is an ADSL2+ modem, a 4-port Ethernet switch (10/100) and an 802.11b/g/draft-n wireless access point. You also get a unit with a comprehensive Web interface that encompasses everything from QoS to URL and keyword filtering. But what's most pleasing about this unit is that pretty much anyone should be able to plug it in, follow the supplied instructions and be up and running in a matter of minutes.
A Quickstart wizard detected our iiNet ADSL2+ connection swiftly, and after hitting Next a couple of times, all we had to do was enter our log-in information. The modem supports download speeds up to 24Mbps (we connected at 18Mbps, which is excellent) and uploads of 1Mbps, but it also supports Annex M, for faster uploads, as long as your DSLAM is capable of the faster speed. Next, the wizard interface allowed us to configure the wireless SSID and encryption settings.
The BiPAC 7300N's wireless settings are flexible; you can select exclusive transmission modes for 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11 draft-n networks, or you can use a mixture of all of them, which is what most of us will probably do. Oddly enough, mixed mode actually produced the fastest speeds in our tests. However, there are some limitations: in 802.11 draft-n mode, you can't restrict the bandwidth to 40MHz only, but must use the 20/40MHz setting. Furthermore, you can't select a WPA/WPA2 mixed mode encryption setting — you must use either one or the other. If you have really old devices, you can also use WEP.
The 802.11 draft-n mode of the 7300N should work with most current draft-n wireless cards; we used it with a Linksys WPC300N (version 2). We connected to the wireless access point at the maximum speed of 300Mbps and didn't experience any drop-outs throughout our test period. The router also worked well with our Netgear Digital Entertainer HD EVA8000, although transfers were slower than we're used to.
Data transfer rates to our Linksys-equipped notebook from 10m away reached 5.52MBps in 802.11g + 802.11n mode, which is faster than the Belkin N1 Vision Modem-Router (F5D8632au4A). The Billion was slower than the Belkin when transferring data while simultaneously streaming data to our EVA8000, averaging 4.29MBps as opposed to 4.41MBps. Surprisingly, the Billion was faster in 802.11g + 802.11n mode than it was in dedicated 802.11n mode, in which it recorded an average rate of 4.93MBps. These results show that the Billion is competitive when a mixture of 802.11g and 802.11n devices are used on the same network, so it's a good choice if you want to upgrade your current network but still retain some 802.11g devices.
Because it's an ADSL2+ modem, it's natural to assume that cable users are left out of the loop. However, the 7300N can be configured to run with a cable modem, too. This will be handy in situations where you need to move from one type of connection to the other and don't want to invest in two sets of hardware. To use the 7300N with a cable modem, you have to select EWAN mode and plug the modem into the first Ethernet port on the switch.
Overall, we found the Billion's Web interface to be very to use, although we did have to disable the DHCP server in order to effectively change the Billion's IP address to suit the rest of our network. It also possesses some advanced features for its price, such QoS, VLAN, a configurable firewall, and it also supports VPN passthrough.
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