Airport Extreme vs. Airport Express

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by bankshot, Nov 27, 2006.

  1. bankshot macrumors 65816


    Jan 23, 2003
    Southern California
    (aka "Boy, do I feel stupid!")

    This is more of an observation than a question.

    I've had an Airport Express for 2 years now, used exclusively for playing music on my home theater system. Wireless access was handled by my trusty old D-Link access point, running 802.11b with WEP (in)security. I couldn't upgrade to 802.11g or WPA since the iBook didn't support either. Thus, wireless was completely turned off for the Airport Express because it was wired on ethernet anyway for less chance of music dropouts.

    Earlier this year the iBook finally died, out of warranty and out of repair program eligibility. When we got the Macbook in May, I hardly gave wireless a thought. Just configured it to join the existing D-Link network and forgot about it. In the back of my mind, I had this notion that because the Airport Express is cheaper than Airport Extreme, its wireless access point features must be quite limited in comparison. I was thinking that maybe it only works as a wireless extender, not a standalone access point. Otherwise, why would anyone buy the Extreme, when it doesn't have the music features of the Express, and it costs more?

    So, six months later, after slowly transferring several large files and thinking about the relative insecurity of WEP, I had an epiphany. The Airport Express does have some access point capability, right? What if it's enough to replace the D-Link for my purposes?

    So I proceeded to poke around in the Airport Admin Utility. Sure enough, everything I needed was there: 802.11g, WPA2, etc. I set it up and joined the new network -- huzzah! No problem. Transfers are about 6 times faster now, and I get better security too. The D-Link is now enjoying retirement. For six months I stupidly crippled myself with a slower, less secure network. Duh! :rolleyes:

    So that brings the question: who buys Airport Extreme these days? Ignoring for a moment the fact that there are many cheaper third party access points, why would someone buy the Extreme over the Express? I was shocked to see how much they have in common by comparing the tech specs on Apple's website. About the only extra things the Extreme has are:

    • External antenna connector
    • Modem
    • Cisco LEAP support
    • LAN port
    • No Airtunes

    I can't find much else there. How many people pay the extra $70 but don't need/use any of these? The Express is a pretty damn good deal in comparison -- especially at the $88 it was on Friday! Couldn't pass that up, got myself a second one for music in the garage when I'm working out there. :cool:

    Edit: I suppose maybe the main thing is the LAN port, allowing the Extreme to act as a router for wired machines too? Even then, I'd guess most people are either using wireless only, or would need more than one port for wired connections.
  2. Rojo macrumors 65816


    Sep 26, 2006
    I have often wondered what the big difference between Extreme and Express was myself. Glad I'm not the only one.

    I feel even MORE stupid for having bought both. First the Extreme, because I too thought the Express must not be good enough -- and I wanted the best (that's what I get for not really paying attention). Then the Express, when I realized I wanted AirTunes and also the ability to take it with me anywhere (which has been really useful!). While it's also helped me to extend my network, that's not really as necessary to me -- and I realized I could have bought JUST the Express to begin with.

    Ah well.... :(
  3. California macrumors 68040


    Aug 21, 2004
    Thanks for the opinion. I could not figure this out either and recently bought both. However, I got the Extreme very reasonable so not complaining.
  4. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    I think the Airport Extreme was also originally intended to be able to work as a business device... it allows for more simultaneously connected users than an Express. But unless you operate a coffee shop... ;) it's pretty irrelevant. I have an Extreme, but it was purchased quite a while before the Express came out. At the time, I decided to pay more for Apple's product over a third-party router primarily because it has a print server. Although, to be honest, I haven't even hooked my printer up since I moved. :eek:
  5. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    I bought the Extreme for the LAN port -- my Vonage adapter and four DirecTiVos are still wired. (FWIW, I plugged my Extreme's LAN port into an 8-port switch).

    I really really really want another Express for music in my backyard, but I don't want to buy anything else that's not at least pre-N.
  6. Rojo macrumors 65816


    Sep 26, 2006
    Sure, sure... that makes sense.

    Though I wish Apple would market the two more differently. I think a lot of people don't realize that the Express can fit most individuals needs, and instead they get an Extreme because they assume its "better" by being more expensive -- even though its advantages are useless to most. Perhaps the next versions can make it more clear that Extreme is better suited for businesses or super-large households (rename it Pro?) and Express the individual user.
  7. PlaceofDis macrumors Core

    Jan 6, 2004
    the Extreme has the Lan port, which is very usefull if not all your machines are wireless. and it also supports more than 10 users. the Express can only have ten connections at once to put it simply. if you're in a business environment or a huge family/network then the extreme is better.

    that being said, i don't know why they don't just upgrade the express and make two versions of it and close the price difference too.
  8. QuarterSwede macrumors G3


    Oct 1, 2005
    Colorado Springs, CO
    The extreme as allows the AE to be used as a WDS expanding your network. It can also be done with a hacked Linksys WRT54G wireless router but it's a total pain to use.
  9. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    I bought my Extreme before the Express existed. :) Some of my computers do not have wireless cards, so nowadays I'd have to decide between spending on an Extreme or on a wireless card for those machines.
  10. OldSkoolNJ macrumors 6502


    Jul 10, 2006
    The Extreme allows up to 50 simultaneous users and the Express is 10. Beyond this the differences you listed are the differences. Now "in my opinion" I think there is something to be said about quality also. NOw before peopel start throwing things back and forth about their personal experiences with different routers and even the airports I do realize everyone has their own experiences. Trust me I know! I however have been through a Linksys , a netgear (router and a pc card) and some other brand I cant remember. The setups are never straight forward (and I am not someone who knows networking) and alot of my customers I have sold to as well as myself can usually set an airport up easily and successfully. I also went through those other routers with in 2 years (yes with surge protection and all) and meanwhile my father had an original Airport Base Station for 4 years wityh out problems. So I went for it and havent had a problem since. Sure some do fail because they are electronics after all but failure rate verse the other brands are ( many many) miles away from each other. I know I have seen them first hand.
    Now personally I went with the Base Station for the purpose of hooking up a switch after the base station for the three Ethernets I needed and to be able to add an antenna. I then got an Express for Music and boost range. I then later on added two more Expresses for music in different rooms. ( i hooked up one also as an extender and one not as I know some problems can arise from having too many broadcasting at once.) I have been running this setup for a while with out any problems at all. I also set this all up myself and I am the one who had to call tech support for the other brands or bribe the techs from my store to set them up with beer.
    However on the same not even as an Apple Eployee I think they could use a refresh. Either a price drop or just bump the specs. I am pretty positive we will see one or the other or both sometime in the next year.

  11. jne381 macrumors regular

    Feb 27, 2006
    Grand Rapids
    I bought an Extreme just a couple of weeks ago. I bought it because I have a Quicksilver that did not come with a wireless card, and if it did, it would only be 802.11b. I do however have friends that come over to my place to study, and they need to hook into the internet from their laptops somehow. The extreme also gives me the ability to have a network connection to my new MBP as soon as I buy it. Not to mention a connection to my iTv when it comes out.

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