The BiPAC 7404VGP won't win any awards for its style. Billion has eschewed a fancy case in favour of function in this device, unlike rival Netgear which has started to make its routers stand out visually. The model comes in a blue square case that is reminiscent of the back office hardware produced by enterprise vendors like Cisco.
But do you really care what your router looks like as long as it works?
On the front of the router are lights displaying the status of the device's various network ports, such as ADSL broadband, Wi-Fi, four ethernet ports and telephony.
On the back of the router are those ports. They look sturdy and are clearly labelled. Also on the back sits the small antennae providing Wi-Fi access. There is also an on-switch, a still-useful feature some manufacturers don't bother with anymore.
At 210mm by 148mm by 36mm, the 7404VGP is a little larger than some routers on the market, but most people will probably tuck it away behind a desk somewhere, so it probably doesn't matter. The extra size can also be explained by the substantial functionality of the model.
Billion went all out with this model and packed it full of features. For starters it's an ADSL2+ router, allowing speeds of up to 24Mbps. We were able to sync our ADSL2+ connection reliably at around 16Mbps. You won't be able to get ADSL2+ speeds with all Internet service providers though; most are still limited to a maximum of 1.5Mbps due to their dependence on Telstra's broadband network.
ADSL2+ support is fast becoming standard in the Australian market though, so Billion put a few other treats in to keep customers satisfied. For starters the router supports Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, with two ports dedicated to this increasingly popular technique of cheaply making calls over the Internet with a provider such as Engin or mynetfone.
The VoIP support means you won't need an external device to use VoIP -- you can plug your normal old telephone right into this router and just make calls. In actual fact, you can plug two! Your non-computer-literate mother won't even know she's calling her friends over the Internet.
In case your VoIP line temporarily stops working for any reason (or you just don't want to use VoIP), the router also includes a normal telephony port to make calls over the normal public switched telephony network (PSTN).