Airport Extreme vs. Express

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by fivepoint, Jan 4, 2008.

  1. fivepoint macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
    IOWA
    #1
    Currently, I am borrowing a friends Airport Express to run wirless internet throughout my house. It works perfectly, and the range is just enough to not cause any problems.

    I want to return the Airport and start being a little more self-sufficient! I am trying to decide between buying my own Express or making the jump to the Extreme.

    What do you guys think? I have two computers in the house. Soon to be a brand new iMac, and an older 800mhz 15" iMac. I do currently send music (over airtunes to our living room surround sound system. But I would also like to eventually use time machine over the network if possible.

    What choice do you think is best for me?
    What specs should sway my decision?
     
  2. saxman macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    May 13, 2004
    #2
    If cost is an issue and you use Airtunes a lot, then the airport express is probably you best option. You wouldn't be able to take advantage of the 802.11n speeds with the 800MHz iMac on the wireless network. Plus, and this is probably the bigger issue, time machine backups to hard drives attached to the airport extreme are not supported.

    Many people have had some luck with backing up with TM to an AEBS hard drive, but there is a reason Apple pulled the feature. Also there are problems with the AEBS firmware since it's release last January. If you go over to Apple's discussion forums you will see lots of frustrated users. Having said that, I have a hard drive attached to my AEBS on older firmware and it runs great most of the time - but requires some fiddling. If the AEBS could stream music, it would be a no brainer, but since it doesn't, in your case, I would lean toward the APEX
     
  3. tdhurst macrumors 68040

    tdhurst

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #3
    ask yourself...

    Ask yourself these questions:

    Do I want to hard wire at least one computer to the router?

    Do I have all 802.11n compatible devices and do I want to take advantage of the increase in speed?

    Do I not care about airtunes?

    A yes to any of those questions would imply that you need to purchase an extreme, a no to all would mean express.

    I currently have one of each (albeit the old extreme), as I answered yes to the first one and no to the third.
     
  4. dcv macrumors G3

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    #4
    Sounds like the Airport Express is sufficient for your needs. You've already stated that you don't have any problems with the range. You only have 2 macs, one of which is older and therefore you wouldn't be able to take advantage of the 'N'-only mode of the Airport Extreme. The Express also gives you the option of using AirTunes, which you say you already enjoy. Plus it's around half the price of the Extreme. And from what I've heard, TimeMachine backup over airport was a feature that never quite materialised.

    If you were to get rid of the older iMac, or have more (newer) macs/wireless devices such as Apple TV etc and want to be streaming video I'd say go with the Extreme.

    Might be worth waiting a couple of weeks just in case the Expresses get an update.
     
  5. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
    IOWA
    #5
    Thanks for the input guys.

    "If you were to get rid of the older iMac, or have more (newer) macs/wireless devices such as Apple TV etc and want to be streaming video I'd say go with the Extreme."

    This comment might be the kicker... I am sure that within 2 years or so I will have all 'new' macs, and I have definite plans to get an AppleTV after 3-4 months.

    I did not realize that streaming video over the Express would be a problem! Is it too slow?
     
  6. tdhurst macrumors 68040

    tdhurst

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #6
    nope

    No, streaming video over an express can be done (say, between shared iTunes libraries) or to an AppleTV.

    I think you'd be happy with either, but I wouldn't buy one based on what you're going to need two+ years from now. I would imagine wireless technology will be faster and cheaper by then.
     
  7. dcv macrumors G3

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    #7
    I haven't tried with an Apple TV (yet) but I have found it quite choppy opening movies on another mac over my Express network either just from Finder or using something like CyTV with VLC. I'm thinking of "upgrading" from my current 2 Airport Express setup to maybe a single Extreme, (or possibly Extreme + keep one of the expresses just for AirTunes). My issue however, is more of a range problem as I live in a split-level flat where one Express doesn't give enough coverage. I'm having to use two Expresses, set up in a Wireless Distribution System, whereby the signal is repeated and extended. It's more likely my setup/flat layout that's causing the choppiness, than the capability of the Express.

    If you only had "newer" devices you could operate the Extreme in wireless-N only mode instead of B/G/N, which is meant to be significantly faster for media streaming.


    For what you originally mentioned and the fact that you use AirTunes, the Express should be sufficient. If they were to bring out a new N-version of it then it'd be perfect!
     
  8. tdhurst macrumors 68040

    tdhurst

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #8
    yep

    Yes, but to take advantage of N speeds, all devices must be N compatible. That rules out computers with original Airport (802.11b) cards and not as new Airport Extreme (802.11g) cards.
     
  9. dcv macrumors G3

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    #9
    Indeed, that's what I was getting at by the "newer" devices comment... just probably not making myself very clear :eek: I meant the Apple TV and new iMacs, MacBook Pro etc would all work on an N-only network. Course if your friends come round with their G-laptops they're screwed!
     
  10. tdhurst macrumors 68040

    tdhurst

    Joined:
    Dec 27, 2003
    Location:
    Portland, OR
    #10
    yep

    Yeah, my friends and all are having the same debate. Half of us have powerbooks, the other have new MBs and MBPs.

    I don't see anything wrong with future-proofing your purchase, though.
     
  11. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
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    #11
    So... Lets say I choose the Airport Extreme.

    Are the following statements correct?

    - If I set it up as a 'N-only' router, I will have very fast speeds, but it will not be able to send a signal to the old 800mhz iMac.

    - If I set it up as a 'b/g/n' router, my speeds (even to the new iMac or to an AppleTV) will be slower, but with full compatibility for the 800mhz iMac.


    If this is true, my question is why. Why wouldn't your new iMac and Apple TV use the 'N' connection and the old 800 Mhz iMac use the old b connection? Can't it do both at the same time?
     
  12. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
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    #12
    Can anyone tell me whether or not this is true?
     
  13. dcv macrumors G3

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    #13
    ^As far as I know, yes, that's true.

    For all your current devices to work you would operate it on the 2.4GHz frequency band, which is compatible with 802.11 b/g/n devices and will give up to 54 Mb/s speed.

    If you ran the router in 802.11n only mode it would be faster and you could operate it on the 5GHz frequency band, which suffers less interference (since most cordless phones, microwaves etc operate on the 2.4GHz band); however any wireless b/g devices (such as your old iMac) won't be able to connect to the network on this frequency band.


    (hopefully what I've said is correct!)


    See Apple's page on 802.11n technology here :)
     
  14. fivepoint thread starter macrumors 65816

    fivepoint

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Location:
    IOWA
    #14

    Thank you for the clarification!

    One more question...
    If I have a Airport Extreme pumping out an 'N' connection, can I extend the network with an Airport Express? Or are they completely incompatible once you do that?
     
  15. dcv macrumors G3

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    #15
    At the moment there is only a 'g' Airport Express - so connecting it will make it a g/n not n-only network.

    But who knows, perhaps we'll see an 'n' version of the Express this week??
     

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