AirPort Express - Buy Or Not?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Fakensta, Sep 2, 2013.

  1. Fakensta macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    #1
    ***I apologize if this is the wrong section, I am new to these forums.***

    So here is my issue:

    My current ISP is Time Warner Cable and my family and I have our devices connected to a Belkin router. The problem is there are about 7-8 devices connected to it, including my laptop and iPhone 5. You can all probably guess that the connection that I get on my phone is pretty below average. When watching youtube videos for example, the videos would stop loading constantly and the only way for me to fix this (most of the times, not all), is to turn off the HQ option, which makes the videos look like a complete mess. And even when browsing the web, sometimes I would have to refresh the page or enter the link again because it takes FOREVER to load. At the university I attend however, the connection is FLAWLESS so it's not a hardware problem (just throwing it in there, haha).

    I was thinking of purchasing an AirPort Express and to use that as a router in addition to the Belkin one I have in order to connect my devices. My question is, will it be worth it for what I do? Mostly I am on my laptop/phone browsing the web and little gaming here and there. I should also note that the current setup is in the living room and I am usually in my room, a good 30-40 feet away. Will the AirPort have good signal coverage?

    To recap: basically I want to buy an AirPort Express and use it mostly for browsing the web, watching videos, and light gaming. Will the AirPort Express be worth it for my needs? Bear in mind, if I do purchase it, most likely I will be the only one connected to the network (good connection on my phone hopefully?), whereas everyone else opted for the Belkin router.

    Thanks in advance for the advice/feedback!
     
  2. Richdmoore macrumors 65816

    Richdmoore

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    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #2
    The first thing I would do is to run a Internet speed web site with your laptop on wifi when other people are doing their normal Internet use. After that, I would go to the router and using an Ethernet cable connect the laptop up that way as well and run the speed test again. (This is checking to see if your speed problems are poor wifi signal, or simply too many people using the Internet bandwidth.)

    I am going to assume you already did this, and are positive it's just the wifi signal that is the issue. If it is simply too much use of the Internet by everyone, upgrade your time Warner plan to a better (more expensive) one.

    I don't think apple's airport express can extend a non apple wifi wirelessly. I can think of three options:

    Relocate the existing router to a better place in the house. If it is the far corner of the house, see if you can put it more centrally located position to get more coverage.

    Get an AirPort Extreme (latest gen), let it do all the routing. The latest gen has beam forming, which helps aim the wifi signal to where it is needed (increasing range). It may help enough that you get good coverage in the entire house.

    Get an AirPort Express/extreme, place it where you have signal problems, and run an Ethernet cable back to the belkin router to extend the network that way. If you can't run a wire back, look into Ethernet over power adapters to connect the two devices. Be sure to disable the routing function on the "remote" router to prevent double nat issues.
     
  3. Fakensta thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 2, 2013
    #3

    Hey Rich, much appreciated for the response. I do believe that the issue is because of too many people connected. I ran a speed test just now with and without the ethernet cable. DOWN/UP was 15.92 mbps / 0.75 mbps, respectively without ethernet. With ethernet I was getting in the 30 mbps for download. To provide further information, at night, when everyone is asleep, when I use my phone, the speed is much faster (youtube videos work without buffer on HQ, etc, etc).

    I was told by an Apple representative that if I buy a AirPort Express, it should be better since I will be the only one connected to this AirPort, as no one else will be using up the bandwidth since they are connected to the Belkin router. Or is this wrong?

    And regarding your option #3, that was what I was planning to do. I was going to hook up an ethernet from modem to Belkin router (as it currently is) and then another ethernet from Belkin to AirPort, and use this AirPort for WiFi while others use Belkin for WiFi.
     
  4. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    California
    #4
    That is wrong. No matter how many or what kind of router you use, everybody is sharing that same connection to the Internet through the one Time Warner cable modem.

    The only thing that might help is to find a more advanced router than the Apple routers that include QOS (quality of service) settings. This allows you to configure the router so each device connected gets only the amount of bandwidth you want to allow it. You could set it up so you get more bandwidth on your devices than others in the house, for example.
     
  5. Richdmoore macrumors 65816

    Richdmoore

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #5
    I have had to deal with network issues from time to time. The biggest thing I learned is make sure where you buy has a good return policy, just incase it doesn't work. That being said, apple makes great routers, but wifi can get weird.

    (My brother had constant dropouts when upgrading his router, after returning 3 routers we discovered an ancient wifi usb dongle on an old pc was actually jamming the wifi signal intermittently, very weird, but once we figured it out easy to fix.

    What you want to do should be easy however. Simply hook up the airport via Ethernet cable. Try to place it somewhat away from the other wireless router (as best you can) to help prevent interference issues. Hook the laptop up to the main wifi, and run the airport utility app (win/Mac/ios) to configure. The key is to select the option to run the airport express in bridge mode.

    (I use an airport express in bridge mode to convert hotel Ethernet to wifi all the time.)

    After that, simply hook up via the airport express wifi.

    If necessary, you may need to manually select the wifi channel, but normally the airport automatically looks for the best one.

    Hopefully the range will be good enough, if not I would swap the airport express for a more powerful (and expensive) AirPort Extreme and try again.
     
  6. Richdmoore macrumors 65816

    Richdmoore

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    Location:
    Troutdale, OR
    #6
    Wouldn't the greater speed on Ethernet (vs wifi) indicate that it is the wifi part choking vs the Internet connection itself?

    I agree that wifi should be faster that his Internet connection, and initially it sounded like it was simply too many people using the Internet bandwidth up all at once, except the Ethernet connection is fast even with the same wifi load. That points to a crappy/overloaded wifi routing to me.

    I have never thought of belkin routers as quality devices (and I owned a few over the years until each one died.) It could be the belkin router is simply struggling with handling all the wifi devices on it's network, especially older units that were developed before every laptop, phone & tablet came with wifi built in.

    I still think a separate airport express in bridge mode is worth a try, provided he can return the airport if it doesn't work.
     
  7. Fakensta thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    #7
    Thanks for both the feedback. I'm still looking more into this issue before making a verdict. Before this many devices in my house were connected, my Wi-Fi (namely on my phone) was fine.

    My major concern in all this is more that my phone's (iPhone 5) Wi-Fi is affected more significantly than my laptop's Wi-Fi. The main reason (and it might sound ridiculous to some people) that I am considering an AirPort Express is so that my phone can have better signal/bandwidth/connection usage. As mentioned earlier, when I use my phone at the university I attend, the internet there is amazing. Of course this may be a whole different story but has gotten me to believe that rather than a possible hardware issue in my phone (which I have heard about affecting others), that the source could be an overloaded router that's being used by many devices in my house.
     
  8. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #8
    I agree that may be part of the issue, but he says when nobody else is on at night he gets full speeds, so I do think the sharing is the main issue. Hard to say which is most at fault.
     
  9. Fakensta thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 2, 2013
    #9
    Is there any other experiments I can run to narrow it down even more as to what the source of the issue is?

    If this is of any help, recall that I am mainly considering purchasing an AirPort because my phone gets poor speed, I.E. youtube videos. On my laptop, even when everyone is connected, surfing the web and watching videos load fine without having stopping to refresh or buffer. Again, the purchase would go more towards my phone rather than laptop.

    Even though I gained speed when using a plugged ethernet rather than wireless, my laptop is fine both ways. It is the phone that lacks.

    I was hoping that maybe a router by Apple, even with Time Warner Cable, would have a more "compatibility," if you will, with my iDevice.
     
  10. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #10
    What make/model laptop is it? So you are saying the iPhone 5 wifi slows even if the laptop is just on and connected to wifi even without necessarily downloading anything?

    I have another idea. I suspect your Belkin router does not support "simultaneous dual band" wifi. So if say your iPhone5 connects at wireless N 5Ghz and is flying along, then another older device connects at 2.4Ghz... everything on the wifi network will drop back to the slower 2.4Ghz. I may be that this is what is going on with you. The new Airport Express does support simultaneous dual band, so might help your situation. Cn you get one somewhere local you can exchange it if it does not help?
     
  11. Fakensta, Sep 3, 2013
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2013

    Fakensta thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 2, 2013
    #11
    My laptop is one that I received from my uncle from Japan and is a Panasonic model on Windows 7. As for the Belkin router it is this one.

    Here are the specifics to how devices are setup in my house:

    [​IMG]


    I have sketched a very brief outline of where the computers are in the picture shown. L=Living Room, G=Grandparent's, M=Mine, A=Aunt's.

    Currently the modem and Belkin router are setup in my living room, above a computer. We use two ethernet cables with one connected to the living room computer and then another to a laptop in my grandparent's room, which is in the room adjacent to the living room. These two basically use wired connection rather than wireless all the time.

    Then we have another laptop in my aunt's room, adjacent to the living room as well. And then there is the laptop that I use which is in my room, which is the room across my grandparent's room. Both of these laptops are on wireless mode most of the time.

    Now for the handheld devices, we have an iPad 4, iPhone 4, and iPhone 5 which are of course also on Wi-Fi. If I can count, I believe that is a total of 7 devices so far. Even my aunt feels that her iPhone 4 has been slow in terms of connectivity.

    All of these devices are connected to the same network and same Belkin router that is currently in the living room. I notice that as soon as the devices are not being used, especially when both the computers in the living and grandparent's room are shut down, my phone loads much faster. In fact, this happened last night for verification.
     
  12. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    #12
    That Belkin router does not support simultaneous dual band wifi.

    I guess we need to define "being used". If these other devices are connected to wifi but not actively downloading anything, and when that occurs you still have slow DL on your iPhone, that points to the simultaneous dual band scenario I mentioned in my last post, and a new router that does support simultaneous dual band would likely help.

    But if by "being used", you mean these other machines are actively downloading, that is more likely just a function of you all sharing the same data pipe to your Internet provider.

    You could kill two birds here by getting a newer router that has simultaneous dual band and also can handle QOS controls, then give your devices higher QOS priority. Something like this Asus model would do both.
     
  13. Fakensta thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 2, 2013
    #13
    My grandma uses the computer in the living room and my grandpa uses the one in grandparent's room. Being the elders that they are, most of the times, they are streaming videos/movies on the computer as they have nothing else to do and so I might think this would consume a fair amount of connection.

    As for my aunt, she also watches videos/listens to music from time to time on her devices.
     
  14. Weaselboy Moderator

    Weaselboy

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    Location:
    California
    #14
    Yep... especially if they are streaming vids, that will eat up all the bandwidth in a hurry. What speed are you paying TW for 15/2? I still think if you got a router that can handle QOS and use that to ration out the bandwidth a bit, it would help. Heck, with a 15/2 connection you could have five of you at 3mpbs each and still get a pretty good experience with QOS enabled at the router level.
     
  15. Fakensta thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 2, 2013
    #15
    I honestly have no idea haha. When it comes to bills and all that, including TW, I am not the one paying for it. I'm just a college student if you were wondering and not too tech savvy either.
     

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