MSI has long pushed the boundaries of invention with its ever-evolving range of laptops but it has now pulled off a world first with the new MSI Creative 17.
Billion BiPAC 8800AXL ADSL2+ modem-router
This is an 802.11ac router with advanced support for ADSL2+, fibre, and 4G connections, but it's Wi-Fi speed and range are basic
- Reliable all-round performance
- Neat design
- Extra WAN port can become a fifth regular Gigabit Ethernet port
- 802.11ac speed was comparatively slow
- Range wasn't great
- Media serving feature didn't work for us
If the fastest 802.11ac speed doesn’t concern you, and if you don’t need a router to cover long distances, then the reliability of the Billion 8800AXL makes it worth considering. It’s also a good one to go for if you need something to distribute fibre and mobile broadband connections.
Price$ 185.00 (AUD)
The BiPAC 8800AXL is Billion’s 802.11ac wireless router product, which can be used to distribute an ADSL2+ connection, or even fibre or mobile broadband. It’s a neat little unit that’s easy to install and use, and it proved to be reliable in our tests, though not as fast as we were expecting.
Set-up and features
It’s a wireless router with a neat, vertical design that’s small and which features internal antennas rather than external, detachable antennas. Billion likes to tout it as supporting ‘triple WAN’, due to the internal ADSL2+ modem, plus an extra Gigabit WAN port that can be used to connect a fibre modem, plus a USB port that can be used to facilitate a connection though a 4G mobile broadband USB stick.
This versatility makes it an interesting proposition, as it means you can go from one form of connectivity to another without ditching your wireless router for another. It also makes it a useful product to use for distributing a mobile broadband connection in a kiosk, at a showroom, or anywhere else a fixed line isn’t present. A retail price of $185 makes it a competitive product considering all of this included functionality and you can even find it cheaper when you search for it online.
You can set it up easily through the ‘Quick Start’ option in its Web interface, which can be accessed by typing in 192.168.1.254 in your browser’s URL bar. This takes you through the Internet connection process, and then moves on to the 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless settings -- you can set network names and passwords on the same page, which makes it a quick process.
From there, you can go into the individual configuration pages to change things such as the wireless channels, or to enable DLNA after you’ve attached a USB hard drive to the router.
There are many advanced features to take advantage of, too, including parental controls, which work on specific URL or keyword triggers, and Quality of Service (Qos), which isn’t as user-friendly as it is on other consumer routers. You can also read a slew of stats on the Internet connection, the traffic going over the Ethernet ports, and you can also view Internet bandwidth via a real-time graph. Other features include VPN support, and the ability to share printers and USB drives.
You can use the two USB ports at the back of the router to share hard drives across your network, but they won’t show up automatically in Windows. In order to see them, you have to use the ‘Run’ box to type in the IP address of the router (\\192.168.1.254) and then the username and password. You can then map this drive for quicker access in the future. Transfers from a Seagate USB drive reached a limit just shy of 5 megabytes per second (MBps). From a smartphone, we accessed the drive using the free ES File Explorer application, which then allowed us to stream video files and music.
The router has a DLNA setting that can be enabled so that the router can serve media, but during our tests, the media serving function didn’t work for us on the devices that we tried, with none of the contents of our drive showing up. This was possibly a login issue, but we couldn't find a setting for it. For better media serving, you will want a dedicated NAS device. We had no problems streaming media from an Asustor NAS device (attached via Gigabit Ethernet to the router) to a WD TV Live media player using the 2.4GHz 802.11n wireless network.
It’s not exactly a refined product for the inexperienced user due to the way some of the configuration pages are set up, but the crux of the product, setting up Internet access and Wi-Fi, as we mentioned earlier, is mostly easy. And once it was set up and going, it proved to be a reliable performer throughout our month long test period, as we never experienced any Internet slow-downs (it synched at an expected 11Mbps with our iiNet ADSL2+ service), and Wi-Fi was solid as well.
That said, the Wi-Fi wasn’t as fast as we were hoping it would be, with its 802.11ac performance putting up numbers that were short of the mark set by other routers we’ve tested recently. The marketing rating for the Billion is 1600Mbps, which means it can do up to 300 megabits per second (Mbps) when using 802.11n, and up to 1300Mbps when using 802.11ac.
We tested in an area littered with 2.4GHz networks, so we limited our testing to the 5GHz band, which gives us the best performance in our test environment. In any case, we use 5GHz for all of our devices except for the WD TV Live that we mentioned earlier, which uses 2.4GHz and sits 3m away from the router. We performed big file transfers (think 1-2GB movie files) as well as small file transfers (think 3-30MB MP3 and FLAC files).
Big file transfers, which were conducted from our Gigabit Ethernet-connected Asustor AS-202TE NAS devices to a laptop with an Intel Wireless AC-7260 adapter, averaged 19 megabytes per second (MBps) from a close distance of about 3m. This is below the mark of 25.87MBps set by other recent low-cost 802.11ac routers that we’ve reviewed, such as TP-Link’s Archer D7.
Small file transfers averaged a similar speed of 18.64MBps from the same distance. It’s worth noting that our initial tests were slower when using the default channel bandwidth of 20/40MHz. The speeds we’ve reported here were conducted after we switched to 80MHz, which is supported by the Intel AC-7260 adapter.
From a distance of up to 15m away from the router, the transfer speeds were much slower. Both the large and the small file transfers couldn’t average much more than 4MBps, which is a lot slower than the high teens that the TP-Link router recorded from the same distance for the same files. The Billion performed much better when we edged closer to the router. From 10m away, its speed improved noticeably, giving us up to 13MBps.
Should you buy it?
As is the case with all routers, the speed you get from Billion’s 8800AXL will vary depending on your own environment and the obstacles that are present. In ours, it proved to be slower than competing routers we’ve seen from close and long range. However, if the fastest 802.11ac speed doesn’t concern you, and if you don’t need a router to cover long distances, then the reliability of the Billion 8800AXL makes it worth considering. It’s also a good one to go for if you need something to distribute fibre and mobile broadband connections.
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