Billion BiPAC 7800N
20th October 2010
The Billion BiPAC 7800N is the second router we've reviewed from Billion, we were suitably impressed with the 7300N and were hoping from more of the same from Billion.
The 7800N came in a fairly average sized box, containing all of the usual bits and pieces you would expect for setting up. Two different quick start guides seemed a little over the top, but hey we're all for helping people set up their routers correctly.
Billion haven't got a track record of making pretty routers, and the BiPAC 7800N continues the trend, the 7800N won't be winning any design awards in the near future. However, the biggest surprise to us was the size of the router itself - width and depth are fairly average but in height terms this is a chunky router. There's a comparison shot below next to an iphone 3G to give you some scale, but imagine one of the later Harry Potter books and you won't be too far off. The antennae when attached make the router wider again, although it's interesting to note that in this age of hidden aerials Billion has opted to put 3 external antennae on in a good configuration for signal reception. Read on to find out of this made a difference in our speed tests. So looks-wise the 7800N is big and not too pretty, but given that Billion are targeting it at office environments then this is perfectly reasonable.
Setting up the router was relatively easy, just plug in and open your browser and it defaults to the configuration screens and a wizard to help set up your system. One of Billion's unique selling points is that their routers work for both ADSL and Cable connections, making it both a wireless modem router and a wireless broadband router. Note that the router comes by default set for ADSL and you'll want to read the guides to set it up correctly for your cable modem if that is what you need.
The rest of the configuration screens are pleasant to look at and contain perhaps the most options we've seen in any router configuration. If you want to permanently assign an address to your NAS, no problem. Remotely managing your network, no problem. If you do purchase a 7800n you would be well advised to spend time working through the options to get the most out of it. That said, for the less technical out there, the default options (other than security) are pretty good. Our only complaint on the config is that the menu structure is a little confusing, there seem to be Basic and Advanced options in a number of menus as well as those being main menu sections. This is a minor complaint though for the flexibility of setup you get with the 7800N. Even the english is pretty good, not always the case from router manufacturers.
So, what about features? As mentioned above the router works for both ADSL (including 2+) and cable connections, and sports a 4port Gigabit ethernet switch. It is of course wireless N (300Mbps) and has all of the standard security features you would expect. There are Quality of Service (QoS) controls and a firewall built in, however there are no USB ports, so if you're planning on sharing a printer it will need to be network-enabled. It also has the biggest on/off button we've seen yet on a router, handy if you're remotely supporting someone through resetting it.
Not that you'll need to do much resetting, Billion pride themselves on the stability of their kit, and although we didn't have the kit for long enough to give you a lifetime style report we encountered no problems at all during the time that we had the router, and are pleased to report it didn't run as hot as many of its smaller competitors.
In speed terms we put it through our realworld tests (wireless desktop to cabled NAS and wireless desktop to wireless laptop) and you can see below the comparison with our benchmark Linksys WAG160n.
The BiPAC is slightly slower with an average of 5617 KBits/sec vs the Linksys 6772 KBits/sec in our TCP tests. We also noticed a lot more inconsistency of speeds with the Billion as packet-size varied. Of course both of these are single band routers and you would expect to see higher rates on dual-band routers. We did see some slow tests for UDP traffic on the 1.05 firmware, however this did not appear on a retest with an alpha version of 1.06 firmware.
Price-wise you tend to pay a slight premium for Billion routers with this one currently having a street-price of around ©120. However, this is a trade-off for the flexibility of the dual connection types and the increased stability you get from Billion.
Overall, we would say that for a simple home setup, or someone desperate to squeeze the last drop of speed out of their router this is probably not for you. However, for a complicated home setup or a small office this is a great bit of kit with all the configuration options you could want and a rock-solid connection. For small offices we are happy to award this router our BestRouter Approved status.