Review: Orcon Genius

When you name a product 'Genius', expectations are unsurprisingly high. does Orcon's ADSL2+ modem/router + VoIP live up to the hype?

NameADSL2+ modem router: Orcon Genius
At a glance:No gigabit ports,Only IPv6 capable after firmware update,Great ADSL performance,Available with integrated VOIP handset,Simple to set up
Summary:For the less technically minded amongst us, Genius makes naked ADSL and VoIP as easy as donning your birthday suit.
Rating:4/5
RRP:$99 setup if no-contract, monthly rental costs apply.
Contact:orcon.co.nz

When you name a product “Genius”, expectations are unsurprisingly high.

The idea behind the Genius is to replace your phone and modem/router with one single gadget. The Genius handles all voice calls using Voice Over IP, and plugs into a naked DSL connection to provide data. That means you have to ditch your existing phone connection to go Genius. It’s a way to avoid the costs associated with a separate phone line, which, in these days of Skype, Google Voice, mobile phones and excellent Voice Over IP, may not be ideal for your situation.

Of course, whether the Genius is a one-size-fits-all solution depends on how well it solves the dual problems of data and voice.

First impressions are great – the Genius is a curved wedge of shiny piano-black plastic that looks at home on top of a desk as well as underneath it. It comes with a stand that allows it to prop upright. The informational lights across the front of the device are all blue, clear enough to spot at a distance, without being too distracting. Whether you get the Genius Lite, which comes with no handset, or opt for the handset-included Genius, the complementary handset can be attached on the side using a USB connector, and continues the sleek arc of the overall design. You can also detach it, and it sits on it’s own thank to it’s own dock and stand.

Set up

Setting up the Genius takes just a few minutes. Putting it together is as simple as assembling a few Lego bricks.

If you’re installing the Genius and you haven’t previously had ADSL installed, it’s as simple as plugging one end of the supplied phone cable into your phone socket, and the other end into the back of the Genius. For those switching from ADSL, you’ll need to remove the line filter before you plug the Genius in using the supplied phone cable. Plug the Genius in using its AC adapter, and wait.

Within a couple of minutes – give it up to five, though mine took just over three – lights will indicate that ADSL sync is achieved, and that internet connection is enabled. You don’t need to enter your username and password or fiddle with any settings, unless you want to.

To use your Genius, you can now plug in devices, such as a desktop computer, via the supplied Ethernet cable for wired internet. To connect any wireless gadgets you have, use the obvious sounding SSID – the password to connect to this network is the serial number on the back of the Genius.

It really is that simple.

Beyond the basics

More advanced configuration is available by logging into the Genius as you would any other modem/router. Launch a browser and access the user interface by opening the address 10.1.1.1. You can then log in and locate the settings you want to adjust. We’d recommend, at minimum, changing the wireless SSID. If you want to alter the password, it’s very simple to do at the same time. Altering the admin login and password is also useful.

You can adjust a wide range of options, such as VPN passthrough, port forwarding, DMZ, NAT addressing and MAC address filtering.

Performance

Speeds from the Genius were excellent. The upstream and downstream rates as reported by the modem were faster than those from our previous modem on the same ADSL connection, and we gained some 200Kbyte/sec download speed after switching to Genius (from 1.3Mbyte/sec maximum, to 1.5Mbyte/sec). That could make a difference for gamers looking to improve speeds.

Specifications and features

In terms of technology, the Genius is good, but it’s not the most outstanding modem/router when it comes to features. You get ADSL2+ compatibility, and for wireless connectivity you get 802.11b/g/n – Orcon says there are two antenna within the Genius unit. The Genius is IPv6 “capable”, but will require a firmware upgrade for compatibility, Orcon told PC World.

You can connect up to four gadgets using the 10/100 Ethernet ports – no gigabit Ethernet here, sorry – and the USB port is suitable for storage, such as an external hard drive that can be shared between computers on your network. You could also use this slot to attach a USB mobile broadband dongle to add 3G capability to the Genius.

Not surprisingly, given that the Genius is designed to use VoIP and replace your standard phone line, there’s quality of Service (QoS) enabled, which helps ensure that call quality is high. The handset is a fairly standard cordless design, with colour screen, and you can connect an additional handset to the base unit. Any voice mail is delivered to your Orcon email inbox for playback. You get caller ID and call waiting included as part of the Genius plan.

Get your own Genius

You can rent the Genius as part of an Orcon contract, or on a month-to-month plan, from $70 per month. Plans of 24 months or longer get the Genius free. The Genius plan includes either 30GB data or free national calls and 5GB of data. You can get calls to landlines in other countries from $13 a month. Costs to mobile phones are listed on the Orcon site. Orcon doesn’t recommend the Genius if you run a fax machine, or if you have monitored alarms or medical devices.

Will it save you money on calls? As a value proposition, it competes well against a phone line costing $40 a month with phone bills on top when for $70 a month you can get 5GB broadband with free national calls.

Additional data costs $2 per gigabyte.

Conclusion

Overall, the Genius is a finely-tuned modem/router that will deliver great internet speeds and good call quality VoIP calls. If you’re the type who uses your phone line mainly for broadband, rather than phone, or you think you would save money by switching your calls to VoIP, then it should be on your shortlist.

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Tags broadbandNetworkingvoipiiNetADSLroutermodemreviewOrconBoB2orcon genius

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Zara Baxter

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