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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Upgrading to Gigabit and Wireless-N

There are many WiFi-N routers on the market, but add the Gigabit requirement, and this choice drops dramatically. Add a further requirement for an embedded ADSL modem, and you're left with just a handful of candidates left.

With time, I accumulated devices with either Gigabit or Wifi-n connectivity (Bluray player LG BD390, Synology NAS DS109, Acer Liquid MT smartphone), so I  decommissioned my good ol'7402GXL for the Billion 7800N with WiFi-n and Gigabit capabilities.

There are several reasons -other than just using less power sockets- for preferring an ADSL router with embedded modem, but for sure, this decision reduces the available options. In Europe, this seems to leave Billion 7800NCisco WAG320N and Netgear DGN3500 as only possible candidates (all Broadcom BCM6358 chipset-based).
Although I didn't mind trying something different than Billion (just for a change), the unconvincing user reviews on the Cisco and Netgear models pleaded for staying with the brand that I know since 2008 for its reliability and for the quality of its technical support service.

The first  most striking difference in the 7800N compared to the 7402GXL, is the size, about 30% bigger (15.5cm x 23cm).  Next come the obvious addition of 2 antennas and the absence of USB connection for a 3G modem.
The interface is similar to the 7402GXL, except that there's no pre-defined firewall rules so you need to define your restrictions from scratch over the unique "allow all" initial rule.
The chipset is also different: Broadcom instead of Connexan. Apparently it gives a little less options when configuring from the Command Line Interface (like adding port forwarding...).
The Billion 7800N is not really a new router and not the cheapest neither (~130€), but considering its outstanding reliability, it's well worth the money.

The companion router
To be complete, the solution had to include a companion Gigabit+Wifi-N router, to play the role of Wireless range extender.
Since a modem was not necessary here, the choice was larger:
Buffalo WZR-HP-G300NH v2, Zyxel NBG4604, D-Link DIR 645, TRENDnet TEW-639GR and TP-Link TL-WR1043ND
It didn't take too long to opt for the later based on its reviews and price (~50€)


These two guys work perfectly together and all it takes to set up the TP Link router as a bridge is to switch off its DHCP while designating the other router as the primary DNS server. I gave the same Access Point name to both boxes but distinct and non-overlapping Wi-Fi channels. This way, when my netbook or phone leaves the coverage area of one, it automatically connects to the other.





One remarkable feature of this router is the excellent user interface, complete and well structured, with a detailed contextual help for every single option, explaining how and why to use them. Something that Billion leaves to Google.




More info:
Billion Bipac 7800N: http://www.billion.uk.com/product/wireless/7800n.htm
TP-LINK WR1043ND: http://www.tp-link.com/en/products/details/?model=TL-WR1043ND

Demo UI for 7800N: http://www.billion.com/edu/EWAN/7800N_GUI/
Demo UI for WR1043ND: http://www.tp-link.com/simulator/tl-wr1043nd/index.htm


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