AC Router: More Expensive = Better?

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by hymas, Oct 25, 2014.

  1. hymas macrumors member

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    Pearland, TX
    #1
    Hi all, I'm able to get performance blast by Comcast, which is 50mbps up to 105mbps (although I'm not sure when the higher rate ever kicks in).

    I am looking for an AC router and the price gap between I assume an economy versus a premium version is substantial. I've seen some from $50 up to over $200. Is there really a significant difference to justify the higher price? Or is this situation similar to HDMI cables, where a digital signal is just that, and paying premium prices for cables such as Monster is considered wasteful according to some people. An AC router should be an AC router, as its a standard, right??
     
  2. MisterMe macrumors G4

    MisterMe

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    #2
    Buy an Airport Extreme and forget about it.

    Look. You do not purchase "a AC router," you purchase a specific model AC router from a specific manufacturer. I once labored under the same misperception as you. Because Apple Airports used the same industry standard PC cards as every other reputable manufacturer, I felt no compelling reason to buy an Apple Airport. Linksys routers are readily available at my local Office Depot. After a brief flirtation with Siemens, all my subsequent routers were high-end Linksys routers. I don't buy junk.

    It eventually dawned on me that I was renting my Linksys routers. That is because, they appeared to have issues after 18 months. Then about four years ago, I learned that Apple Airports just worked for years. There is more to an electronic device than just one card. I had not applied that basic fact to my router purchases.

    I vowed that if and when my current Linksys router bit the dust that I would replace it with an Apple Airport Extreme or whatever Apple router replaced the Apple Extreme. That day came. I made good on my promise to myself. I am happy with my purchase. It has not been 18 months yet, but I expect to give years of reliable service beyond the 18 months that I grew to expect from Linksys.
     
  3. waw74 macrumors 68030

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    May 27, 2008
    #3
    the protocol is standard.

    the transmit power, and reliability of the electronics/software are not.

    by going with a router from a bigger name manufacturer (typically more expensive) you will normally get better, more stable, more configurable software, and higher transmit power.
     
  4. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #4
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11ac

    There are multiple 802.11ac standards as you can see on this chart from the link above. Those $50 AC routers you see are typically older AC1200 class devices and hence the lower price. Pretty good explanation of all this here.

    [​IMG]

    Then for consumer routers the next common step up is AC1750. See some test results here. The current Apple AC routers are AC1750 models. AC1750 models are IMO the sweet spot for price/performance right now.

    Then the newest consumer routers are AC1900. Test results here. The issue with AC1900 is there are no client devices that support it (at least that I have seen), so you will only see the benefit if you are doing AC1900 wifi between one of these routers and a compatible AC1900 access point.

    A wifi router is really just a small computer, and you will find the more expensive higher end models have more RAM and faster CPUs, so that is part of what you are paying more money for. For example, if you are using the router for VPN access, having a more powerful CPU and lots of RAM can really help.

    Nothing really wrong with Apple's routers if you just want something basic. Other and cheaper models in the AC1750 range are much more full featured and include things like QOS and SNMP support.
     
  5. Abazigal macrumors 604

    Abazigal

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  6. kwijbo macrumors regular

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    #6
    :rolleyes:

    Back to the OP, Weaselboy nailed the technical aspect of AC. The question is what are your priorities in a router? Apple networking products are like other Apple products, they excel at ease of use and simplicity, aren't always near the top in absolute performance and are expensive.

    Your Comcast connection isnt enough to saturate even Wireless-N so unless you do heavy transferring within your network absolute performance probably isn't at the top of the list. I'm guessing futureproofing is somewhat of a concern so from that perspective give AC a shot. Take a look here if you want to read some reviews (Airport Extreme is 6th): http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/rankers/router/ranking/AC1750?rank=6&clear=1

    Airports are very easy to set up however are limited in advanced network functionality. Examples: only 3 LAN ports, if you need more you'll have to get a switch, max of 50 users, limited administrative functionality, potentially some issues with Windows machines on same network. Of course if these may or may not apply to your situation.

    Any of the other highly ranked routers from SmallNetBuilder should perform as well or better than an Airport as long as you keep the firmware up to date.

    If you want to save a few bucks/need the functionality of a different brand I think you'll be happy with any of the aforementioned routers. If simplicity and ease of use is the most important aspect for you I'm sure an Airport will be great for you. Good luck
     
  7. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #7

    There are no issues with Windows PCs. The 50 user limit is far above what other routers can handle at the price point and if spread across multiple APs it can handle more.
     
  8. kwijbo macrumors regular

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    Jan 28, 2012
    #8
    Sorry, I worded that incorrectly. The issue is with file sharing it seems:

    http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/wire.../32158-apple-airport-extreme-80211ac-reviewed

    And yes the 50 user limit is an edge case for the vast majority of home users however the OP didn't detail his intended usage so I was trying to cover all bases.

    That said, buying more APs is hardly an ideal solution and when adding Airport Expresses at $100 each it makes more sense to just go with a more robust solution from the beginning.
     
  9. hymas thread starter macrumors member

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    Pearland, TX
    #9
    Thanks to everyone for their responses.

    My primary need is simply streaming movies from like Netflix or downloading them off the iTunes store. And also because I like fast internet for whenever I am just surfing the net. I just want to be sure to maximize the speed I am paying for through Comcast and to have good range. So you're saying with my 50 Mbps (105 when blast kicks in) that a N router would suffice and that an AC would be overkill because my speed isn't high enough anyways? I was only considering AC because my phone is AC and a future MacBook Pro I plan to buy would be AC as well. I don't plan to use any of the advanced router features, I just want to set it up and go. So basically, I want the fastest speed possible to maximize the Internet plan I purchased. I just didn't want to create any bottlenecks anywhere with my hardware.
     
  10. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #10
    In general yes, but aside from the 50Mbps Internet speeds, any transfers inside the network among AC devices would be faster with AC wifi of course.

    Also, consider this article showing newer AC routers tend to have better N performance due to better antennas and radios etc.

    Unless you just absolutely cannot afford it, I think an AC router would be the way to go.
     
  11. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #11
    The storage issue could be due to a number of factors and I can give many accounts of where it works fine. It is possible they did not configure filesharing properly. At my school, for my Eagle Scout project we installed a central Extreme and eight Expresses. It works great and was very affordable. The system serves 140 daily clients without a problem and it was about the same as Ubiquiti's UniFi system in terms of cost. The plus side to the Express over the standard UAP is the dual band capability. The UAP Pro was not out yet and therefore we went with AirPort and couldn't be happier.
     
  12. robgendreau macrumors 68040

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    Jul 13, 2008
    #12
    Whether you get those ac speeds, even with a more expensive router, depends on a bunch of factors. If you want guaranteed high speed, use ethernet. Wifi depends on a lot of factors.

    And as weaselboy noted, the price depends on features. Even aside from the wifi speed, there are things like USB ports, and whether they are USB 2 or 3.

    I don't like Airport Extremes, though I have one. They are easy to set up if everything goes to plan...but so are most routers. But when things aren't as nice you are stuck with their crippled Airport Utility. In addition, they have no provision for external antennas, which can improve your reception quite a bit. I think you can do much better for the price. Read the reviews at smallnetbuilder.
     
  13. takeshi74 macrumors 601

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    #13
    All depends on what you need/want from your router.
     
  14. UncleSchnitty macrumors 6502a

    UncleSchnitty

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    #14
    I took t-mobile up on their offer (another family member has tmobile not me) and got the TM-AC1900 for free from them. Now the firmware that comes on it is cheapened but you can flash that to the stock or merlin. Keep in mind that they are giving out this $200 router (its an Asus RT-AC68U with mobile badging and firmware) for free. For me the router has been great. Just an idea, idk if you have access to t-mobile or not.
     
  15. kwijbo macrumors regular

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    Jan 28, 2012
    #15
    +1

    I mentioned the N routers just in case you didn't want to spend more than $50 or so. But in the interest of future-proofing and max performance as you mention, definitely go for an AC setup. Another thing to consider is your internet connection could very well be 150+ Mbps in the near future. Verizon has 300 and even 500 Mbps close to large cities so its probably the best choice given your situation.
     
  16. hymas thread starter macrumors member

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    Pearland, TX
    #16
    Hey guys, I decided to go with the AirPort Extreme router and Motorola Surfboard SB6141 modem. The rumors are true, this combo works flawlessly and was a breeze to setup. I'm on the 105/20 Mbps plan on Comcast and I'm getting 110-120 Mbps down consistently!

    However, I have a few questions.

    Would it be best to leave the default automatic network settings, or create a separate 5ghz band for AC devices?

    What is your experiences with N devices slowing down an AC network? Some websites says it slows it down, others say they have no effect.

    If I have my iPhone 6 on the AC band and my apple TV is on the N band, how does streaming work from an AC device to a N device? Or does it even matter?
     
  17. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #17
    Unless you are having a specific problem you are trying to work around, just leave it on automatic. N devices will not slow down AC devices. Your router has simultaneous dual band capabilities that solve that issue, unlike some older routers that could not to simultaneous dual band (that is what you are reading about).

    Streaming will be limited by the slowest device in the chain, in this case the N speeds of the ATV. N should be plenty for streaming though.
     
  18. osofast240sx macrumors 68030

    osofast240sx

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    #18
    Did you purchase this modem on your own? Or lease?
     
  19. hymas thread starter macrumors member

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    #19
    I purchased it. Comcast wanted to give me an old gateway.
     
  20. osofast240sx macrumors 68030

    osofast240sx

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    #20
    nice! I just got the 6183 I know it's a bit overkill but Time Warner's upgrade to 200 MB per second is only $10 more minus the six dollars for the lease so my bill doesn't change but a couple of dollars. It was just too hard to pass up now I just have to get my time capsule and I should be all set. Since my dad has the exact same service and a 6 generation AirPort Extreme i'm thinking about getting a 6141 for him.
     
  21. osofast240sx macrumors 68030

    osofast240sx

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    #21
    Question on your modem are your power and Internet light on. In my manual it says that my power and Internet indicator light should be green but they are just white.
     
  22. Weaselboy, Nov 5, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2014

    Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #22
    I think they are on, but just washed out by the bright blue of the other two LEDs.

    See this (11/2 11:14 AM post).
     
  23. Altemose macrumors G3

    Altemose

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    #23
    We own our own modem and AirPort. We use a SB6121 that we own at home and a Netgear gateway at school.
     
  24. hymas thread starter macrumors member

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    Sep 10, 2014
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    Pearland, TX
    #24
    Awesome, bud! I thought about getting that one because it was sitting right next to the SB6141 at Best Buy. Only thing is the SB6141 was like 88$, and the 6183 was 129$, so I just went with the 6141. I wish we got 200 Mbps down here. We have the extreme tier which is 150 Mbps but it's like $144/mo. The 105 Mbps plan I'm on is only $34.99. Not sure why there is a huge price increase (over 100$) for only 45 Mbps more!?

    ----------

    Weaselboy is right. Mine actually glow white, but because the blue lights are so much brighter they can appear as if they aren't lit.
     

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