Review: Billion BiPac 8900AX-2400

Leave it to the pros.

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Review: Billion BiPac 8900AX-2400
Supplier: Billion
Price: $399.00

If setting up your home network means running your router’s inbuilt wizard, switching on both the W-Fi networks and setting up their security passwords, this is not the router for you. It’s brilliant value, it’s feature-packed, and it’s speedy… but it’s also a typical Billion product. In other words, you need to know what you’re doing to get the most out of it. 

Billion rates this as a 2400Mbps router, but as usual this isn’t the throughput available to a single device. Instead 600Mbps is delivered via the 2.4GHz network, while another 1800Mbps is pumped over the 5GHz channel, using a 4x4 transmitter/receiver configuration. This makes it a dual-band router, not quite in the same speed league as some of the tri-band routers we’ve seen of late, which offer dual 5GHz channels. Still, there’s enough potential bandwidth here to keep most households happy. 

Four large moveable antennae surround the unit, and we’d suggest toying with their position to get the best reception depending on where your devices are located. It’s not the sexiest router on the market, that’s for sure, but Billion doesn’t waste precious dollars on cases that look like they belong in a modern art gallery. Four Ethernet ports on the rear are pretty standard, but the fact that three of them can operate as WAN ports is not. This means you can connect multiple broadband connections if reliability is of utmost importance; if one fails, the router will automatically fallback onto the next connection. A built-in VDSL2/ADSL2+ modem is included, which is nice at this price point. 

The single USB port is limited to 2.0 speeds, which is a bit of a shame if you’re considering hooking up an external drive to turn this into a limited NAS or file server. However, a nice touch is the ability to plug in a 3G/4G LTE modem to this port; by doing so, you can take this router anywhere that has mobile reception. It’s also another way to ensure redundancy in case your ADSL line goes down. 

Heading into the Billion interface revealed what we’d feared – it’s the usual plethora of options that will befuddle all but the most experienced network builder. There is a very simple setup wizard to get it up and running, but even activating each Wi-Fi network involves several settings that most users won’t be familiar with. Ditto with the Quality of Service section, which allows the router to give priority to certain devices on the network. While the intimidating interface will be a negative for novices, those who know what they’re doing will love it, offering a level of customisation that most consumer routers lack. 

As for speed, we managed to obtain 678Mbps at a range of approximately ten metres on the 5GHz channel, which is around 90Mbps slower than the best routers we’ve tested. Having said that, we didn’t toy with the more advanced Wi-Fi options, so are sure experienced users will be able to squeeze out more speed.

There’s no denying that this speedy unit is excellent value, and the exceptional range of options will keep network nerds happy. However, if you’re looking for a simple plug and play router, this probably isn’t the best option for you.

PROS
• Excellent performance
• Huge range of customisation options
• Great value for money
 
CONS
• Not quite as fast as the best
• Very intimidating interface
8 10
Verdict
Offering excellent performance and value, we only wish Billion could come up with a more user-friendly interface for network novices.
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