"If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63."
Billion BiPAC 7800VDOX wireless router
Billion's all-in-one modem-router serves stacks of functions, including VoIP
- Stacks of features
- Good mid-range Wi-Fi performance
- Extensive VoIP features
- Slow short-range Wi-Fi
- No auto-firmware updates
- Poor NAS functionality
Billion's all-in-one ADSL2+ modem/router is a beauty if you are also heavily into VoIP. It has a built-in ATA and can accommodate two phones among other advanced features. Furthermore, its a versatile unit that can be used to distribute not only an ADSL connection, but also mobile broadband (via a dongle) and fibre connections.
Price$ 220.00 (AUD)
The Billion BiPAC 7800VDOX is an all-in-one wireless router that's designed to take care of all your home or small office networking needs. This thing has it all: from simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi, to a built-in ADSL2+ modem, and even support for the National Broadband Network. You also get extensive voice over IP (VoIP) features. It's a relatively simple networking solution to set up and use, although some networking experience will be required.
Ease of use
Because there are so many features crammed in to this unit, it can be intimidating to have to go through all of its configuration pages, especially if you aren't well versed in networking. Its interface is a playground for tinkerers and power users, and there are many settings that can be adjusted. For example, you can even tinker with signal-to-noise ratio values in order to get the best possible Internet connection. There is also a good amount of reporting so that you can see how much data is travelling though your Internet connection and over your LAN at any given time. There is a 'Quick start' setting that can be used to run through all of the necessary settings for getting the unit up and running, but it's not as glamorous as many other routers we've seen recently.
Physically setting up this unit requires that you plug in your phone line (if you use ADSL2+) and an Ethernet cable if you plan to configure it from a PC. After logging in to the Web interface (using 192.168.1.254) and running the Quick setup, you'll only need to enter your connection type and ISP login credentials in order to get online. The router will make a couple of audible clicks as it implements the changes and connects. You can then change the Wi-Fi and encryption settings to something that you favour and then move on to configure some of the router's other functions, including VoIP.
The 7800VDOX is designed with heavy VoIP usage in mind and it comes with an integrated ATA (analogue telephone attachment) that can be used to plug in up to two regular phones. Additionally, the router can be used to failover to the regular landline if the VoIP service is ever down, while defaulting to VoIP when the service is up. You'll need to enter your SIP (session initiation protocol) details in order to get VoIP up and running, and there are many presets for popular VoIP providers in a drop-down list, which can make the setup process that little bit easier. The router can manage your phone book and an answering machine can also be set up. Basically, if you rely heavily on VoIP, then this router is for you.
We used the 7800VDOX wireless router as our primary unit for well over a month and found it to be reliable for the most part. Its interface was very slow during initial testing, but this was fixed with subsequent updates to the firmware (we used version 2.23 for our tests). We didn't have any problems with our Internet connection dropping out and it also connected slightly faster than we are used to compared to our standard modem, a Billion BiPAC 5200S.
The wireless network also ran smoothly, but it supplied better results over a mid-range distance than it did from close distances. In our short-range test (2m away from the router), the Billion transferred data to our test laptop (equipped with an Intel Advanced-N 6300 adapter) at a rate of 9.94 megabytes per second (MBps) using the 5GHz network and 6.91MBps using the 2.4GHz network. Both results are lot slower than we expected out of a dual-band 802.11n router in our test environment.
The Billion put up more impressive results in our mid-range test (from 10m away). In this test, the 5GHz network recorded 9.54MBps, which is only a dash slower than what it got in our close-range test. Furthermore, the 2.4GHz network recorded a rate of 7.75MBps from the greater distance, which is almost 1MBps faster than what it achieved from close range. Multiple tests with different channels didn't supply much variation to these results; if anything, the Billion proved to be reliable. Its transfer rates in our mid-range test are competitive against other recent routers that we've seen, such as the Netcomm NF2, which put up 8.97MBps for its 5GHz network and 7.31MBps for its 2.4GHz network. Likewise, it was faster than the Linksys EA6500 when that router was run in 802.11n mode in our mid-range tests.
The Billion proved to be a good unit for streaming music and video to our Smart TV over a mid-range distance. We had no issues with stuttering or slow performance when playing standard- and high-definition files off a PC, nor when streaming video directly from the Web. The router supports DLNA and it has a USB port that can be used to plug in a hard drive and share media. Unfortunately, we weren't able to successfully stream content off attached drives to our Smart TV. The router showed up as a DLNA device in our TV's interface, and we were able to see the drive and all the files, but we were unable to browse files by folder and the majority of files that we tried did not work — including MP3, AVI and JPG formats. At first we thought it was a problem with user permissions, but some files actually did play off the drive (MP4). If there is one area in which this router can improve, it's in NAS.
To access files off an attached hard drive on a Windows network, you need to fire up a Windows Explorer window and type the IP address of the router in the location bar. You'll then need to enter the admin password, or enter the credentials of any other users that you have created. Only then will you be able to transfer data to and from a drive. You can't simply browse the network to navigate to the attached hard drive. This makes the USB port awkward to use for storage, but as far as USB ports on routers are concerned, it's a fast one, recording close to 10MBps when we copied data off it and onto a PC via Ethernet.
If you plan on putting this router in your living room or bedroom, you won't have to put up with very bright LEDs. Instead, this unit has a series of soft green and amber lights that are reasonably inconspicuous. What's conspicuous is the set of external antennas, which reside on both sides of the router. These are very stiff and quite easy to break when you initially try to place them in their upright positions. In fact, we did manage to break the right antenna when raising it, but luckily it was only superficial damage. The unit got fairly warm during use, so you'll want to make sure that it is always properly ventilated.
All up, the Billion BiPAC 7800VDOX is a good unit and worth purchasing if you have a need for an all-in-one modem-router that can also do VoIP. Other features of the Billion 7800VDOX include URL and keyword filtering, QoS, dynamic DNS and VPN support. It also allows you to plug in and distribute a 3G mobile broadband connection should your main Internet connection ever fail during a time of need.
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