Airport Express vs. Extreme

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Surely, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. Surely Guest

    Surely

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #1
    Here's the scoop:

    I currently have an Airport Express. I'm thinking about getting an Airport Extreme. Reason being I am moving, and will be getting a new IP, with speeds up to 10 Mbps.

    From my research, it appears that the Express, at 802.11g, can handle speeds up to 54 Mbps. And the Extreme, at 802.11n, can handle 248 Mbps.

    However, we will be using two laptops: my MacBook which supports 802.11n, and the laptop my wife's work is giving to her, which most likely won't, and will be b or g. From my research, if you combine the Extreme connection with n and g, it will run slower, at something like 130 Mbps.

    Based on my upcoming new internet connection speed, is there even any point to getting the Extreme? It appears that the Express, at max 54 Mbps, can handle the 10 Mbps internet speed.

    Am I missing something? What is the point of having the Extreme, is it only useful if your IP offers speeds that are greater than 54 Mbps? And yes, I know about the larger range, multiple ports, and the ability to plug an external HD into it. I'm talking strictly connection speeds here.

    I went to the Apple Store yesterday, told the Apple rep the same info, and she recommended the Extreme. After researching, I'm not sure if she's right or not. She usually has given me good info (info I've ended up agreeing with), so that's why I'm posting my question. Thanks!

    Wow, 40 views and no one has any answers? That sucks for me.

    Thanks for looking....
     
  2. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Location:
    Holocene Epoch
    #2
    I still have a number of "g" devices in the house (a Dell desktop, my work laptop, the Wii, etc.) so I'm actually running a Linksys WRT54GL for "g" connections on the 2.4 GHz band, and getting a new AEBS (actually a Time Capsule) exclusively for "n" connections for the Macbook, :apple:TV, etc. on the 5 GHz band. So the "g" connections will have their own dedicated router and won't slow down the "n" network.

    Should work fine, except maybe that I'll glow in the dark after a while... ;)

    Edit: After re-reading your edited post, it looks like you don't have anything connecting to anything else except the internet (no shared drives, media, printers, etc.). For internet only, your existing "g" wireless router will already probably perform every bit as well as you'd get from an Airport Extreme, except in some cases some people report better range from 802.11n.
     
  3. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #3
    It's true, both easily exceed today's internet connections. These devices are capable of such high speeds for home networking purposes (such as transferring files from your desktop to notebook wirelessly).

    You'll get slightly better range with airport extreme, but that's about it. You'll lose most (if not all) of the speed increase associated with 802.11n because you're using a g device on the network.
     
  4. Surely thread starter Guest

    Surely

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #4
    Thank you EricNau and John.B for your responses.:cool:

    I went back to the Apple Store today, and approached the same employee with my new info (speeds of 802.11g vs. n). When I asked her why I would need an Extreme for a max 10 Mbps internet connection when 'g' is clearly well over 10 Mbps, she told me that it would still make a difference. :confused:
    She told me that the difference between an Express and an Extreme is that the Express is like a thin straw and the Extreme is like a thicker straw, and it can suck more milkshake through it at a time. It didn't make sense to me, especially since the origin speed can only go as high as 10 Mbps. How could it suck any faster than 10 Mbps? She basically just told me to accept it because it's just "hard to wrap your head around it". Huh? I said thanks, and decided to research more.

    I see now, based on E's and J's explanations, that I would really only need the Extreme if I was planning on networking some shared drives, media, printers, etc. Just for internet use, the Express works just as well as the Extreme, but with less of a range.
     
  5. davidleon macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    #5
    The Apple Store employee is correct; there is a real-world difference. It is not night and day, but if you use your bandwidth at the limits, you'll notice a difference. As far a Web browsing, pages load slightly more quickly - with a snap - but again, not a night and day difference.

    I had my MacBook Pro with 802.11n connected to the Express base station, and I noticed an Internet speed boost when I switched it to my 802.11n-only Extreme base station. Now, my Express base station is used for connecting to 802.11g devices only: iPhone, printer, and other 802.11g devices. The Express base station acts as a hardwired bridge to my 802.11n-only Extreme base station that handles my 802.11n MacBook Pros. It works well.
     
  6. Surely thread starter Guest

    Surely

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #6
    So what you're telling me, is if I got an Extreme, I can use that for my MacBook that has 802.11n, and I can use my Express for all 802.11b/g devices? Can I use the Express for my wife's 802.11b/g laptop for web browsing, so she doesn't slow down my Extreme connection? The Apple Store employee told me thatyou can't set it up that way, that the Express could only be used to extend the range of the Extreme wireless network. It can't act as a separate network connection point.
     
  7. EricNau Moderator emeritus

    EricNau

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2005
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    #7
    You could, but it would be an overly-complicated network topology. ...I wouldn't do it.

    Besides, there's only one N connection in your home, so that extra speed will never get used (remember, both routers are plenty fast for your internet connection).
     
  8. paragonj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    #8
    I may be incorrect about this, as I am interested in trying to set up a similar system using a Time Capsule and an existing Linksys WRT54G router, but have not done it yet. Based on my research I believe that you can do exactly this, as long as you physically connect the Airport Express and Airport Extreme with an ethernet cable. Here's the key points for this as I understand.

    1) Connect Extreme WAN port connected to modem
    2) Connect Extreme LAN port to Express WAN port
    3) Use DIFFERENT SSIDs for the two devices.
    4) Set the Extreme to operate at 5 GHz, leaving the Express alone at 2.4 GHz
    5) Turn OFF DHCP on the Express, so that all of the IP addresses and networking originates from the Extreme.

    Hopefully I'm not wrong about this, somebody please let me know if I am!

    Edit: I am unsure if AirTunes would work in this scenario....anyone know?
     
  9. Angrist macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2005
    Location:
    MI or NJ
    #9
    If you're only connecting to the internet and not shuffling a lot of data from machine to machine on your network (sounds like thats the case), then make the decision between the two based on the "other" features.

    Do you forsee the need to connect a wired device to the internet? Old PC, video game console, etc. Then you probably want the Extreme.

    On the other hand, if you want to stream music from iTunes to a stereo system ... get the Express. (Airtunes is great BTW)
     
  10. davidleon macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    #10
    paragonj:

    1. Yes
    2. Yes
    3. You need to have two network names for the 802.11g/n devices to log on to. For example, the Extreme can be set to "Network 1", and the Express can be set to "Network 2".
    4. Yes
    5. Yes, you need to set the Express to act as "bridge."

    You are able to use AirTunes with your Express if you have the Express connected to the Extreme with an ethernet cable (hardwired.) It may appear to be complex, but the setup works well.

    For more information, see Apple's Designing AirPort Networks Using AirPort Utility:

    http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/Designing_AirPort_Networks_10.5-Windows.pdf
     
  11. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Location:
    Holocene Epoch
    #11
    My advice to the OP is that he probably doesn't need a second wireless router based on his current needs.

    However I disagree with this assesment:
    This is in no way overly-complicated. Its actually is very simple for initial setup and very flexible for anyone who wants to do some additional configuration via the Airport Utility.

    First, connect the Airport Extreme to your cable/DSL modem and get that working (and secured, WPA2 is your friend :D) on 802.11n at 5 GHz, then plug the Linksys "g" router's Internet connection to one of the three Airport Extreme's LAN connections and point a web browser to the default IP address to configure.

    If you were using an Airport/Airport Express (or another Airport Extreme) for the "g" network it would be even simpler because you could configure everything from inside the Airport Utility itself.

    All very ably documented here (pdf), especially pgs. 48-49.
     
  12. dual64bit macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2004
    #12
    You could use multiple devices to broadcast on dedicated signals to improve range/speed.

    I have an airport express AND airport extreme (N), they are setup with WDS (using the same SID), Extreme is configured for N only, the other (express) is configured as G only. This works well.

    For more information on setting up WDS with airports, see this article:
    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=107454

    I know this means the linksys is going out the window, but it may be where it belongs anyhow :)
     
  13. paragonj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    #13
    David,

    Do you know if you can use the AirTunes from both your B/G computers and N computers in this setup?

    According to the PDF you linked to, there is the following line....

    "In the previous illustration, an AirPort Express is connected to the 2.4 GHz segment of
    the network, so that 802.11b and 802.11g client computers can stream music to AirPort
    Express using AirTunes."

    This would imply that you can't use AirTunes with 802.11N computers, which would be the computer I would want to stream from. This is kind of disappointing, and seems to be the only real limitation of this network topology. Do you know if that paragraph is incorrect?
     
  14. davidleon macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    #14
    paragonj:

    The document appears to be correct. However, if you have an Extreme 802.11n network (Network N) and an Express 802.11b/g network (Network BG), you can connect to Airtunes on Network BG by logging on to Network BG with your 802.11n Mac. You're correct in that you won't be able to use AirTunes while connected to Network N, but you can just join Network BG from the AirPort menu in the Menu Bar to access AirTunes.
     
  15. paragonj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    #15
    Ah!!! That's a simple enough work-around. Not quite ideal, but not horrible. Maybe Apple can come up with a way to fix it so that Network N computers can use AirTunes without having to drop network speed, that would be nice.
     
  16. davidleon macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    #16
    paragonj:

    Mea culpa, you CAN access AirTunes via Network N (the 802.11n AirPort Extreme network.) Apparently, your 802.11n Mac can "see" AirTunes on Network BG over the "bridge." The workaround also would work.
     
  17. Surely thread starter Guest

    Surely

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    #18
    Thanks. I ended up coming to that conclusion as well after reading all the advice in this thread and researching it to confirm.

    However, once I do need a more sophistimacated network, I will utilize the above bridging advice to take full advantage of the Airport capabilities.

    I guess I need to figure out what else I can do with my Best Buy gift cards....:D Such problems I have.....
     
  18. Sunnzy macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2007
    #19
    Do you mean turn off DHCPD, as in, the daemon distributing the IP addresses?
     
  19. Mindflux macrumors 68000

    Mindflux

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    Location:
    Austin
    #20
    If only "N" is enabled on the Extreme, and the Express is b/g, you cannot bridge the two if you use the 5GHz band for "N" on the extreme.
     
  20. paragonj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    #21
    To both of you....

    This link shows you how to set up the bridging. The end result is that there will be two separate SSIDs, but the networks will be totally interconnected without compromising N speeds. See page 48.

    http://manuals.info.apple.com/en/Designing_AirPort_Networks_Using_AirPort_Utility.pdf
     
  21. Mindflux macrumors 68000

    Mindflux

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    Location:
    Austin
    #22

    Bridging is fine, but when the routers are set to talk on totally different frequencies.... they won't talk. (this is assuming you are bridging them over wireless)
     
  22. paragonj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2008
    #23
    They won't talk over the air...but they don't have to because they are connected with a cable in step two.

    2) Connect Extreme LAN port to Express WAN port
     
  23. Mindflux macrumors 68000

    Mindflux

    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2007
    Location:
    Austin
    #24

    Yes, yes I see that now. Nifty.

    How the hell is the airport express 190 bucks (on amazon)? I paid less then that for my Extreme.
     
  24. HiRez macrumors 603

    HiRez

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2004
    Location:
    Western US
    #25
    Speed falls off with distance from the base station so even though the theoretical maximum speed of 802.11n (or even 802.11g) might be far faster than your internet connection, it could be important if you work some distance from the base station. And the range of the Extreme is considerably wider than the Express. I wouldn't use the Express to cover more that one room or maybe two adjacent rooms. I noticed that its power (and speed) drops off quite quickly as you get more than 15 feet or so away from it.

    Really sucks that Apple didn't include AirTunes on the Extreme, that was a major ball-drop there. Many people (including myself) will have the Extreme set up where their cable connection comes in...which just happens to conveniently be right next to your tv and stereo receiver/speakers. Would have been perfect for AirTunes.
     

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