Benefits of an airport extreme?

Abazigal

macrumors G4
Original poster
Jul 18, 2011
11,584
9,095
Singapore
What exactly are the benefits of an airport extreme router compared to other AC routers? I recently upgraded my home optic fiber to 500 mbps, and while the bundled asus router is pretty good, the range doesn't seem all that fantastic.

I am just curious what justifies its higher price tag? Performance, range, any hidden features which lets it play nice with my Apple devices over and above other devices? Thanks. :)
 

maflynn

Moderator
Staff member
May 3, 2009
63,831
30,346
Boston
The benefits are you have an apple logo and you get to use the apple airport utility app instead of configuring the router through a web page.

Personally, I think there are more downsides for getting an apple router then upsides.

The app to configure it is very limited, it hides a lot of details, you don't have access to make changes that may protect you more.
 

Menel

macrumors 603
Aug 4, 2011
6,193
1,028
Benefits of an airport extreme?

What maflynn said,

However; after years of doing friends&family IT support, Ive watched countless massive headaches with linksys/dlink/netgear/belkin etc which don't work the way the settings say. Or die, burn out due to being under engineered.

Every Airport installed has never died, just runs and runs.

I prefer due to the lack of headache, and I don't have any unusual network configuration.
 

drsox

macrumors 65816
Apr 29, 2011
1,470
36
Xhystos
What maflynn said,

However; after years of doing friends&family IT support, Ive watched countless massive headaches with linksys/dlink/netgear/belkin etc which don't work the way the settings say. Or die, burn out due to being under engineered.

Every Airport installed has never died, just runs and runs.

I prefer due to the lack of headache, and I don't have any unusual network configuration.
I agree. Having had most of the brands mentioned (plus USRobotics - the only other decent home Router), I too would endorse the Airport units - Extreme more then Express.
 

ABC5S

Suspended
Sep 10, 2013
3,395
1,596
Florida
Airport extreme is so much easier to set up over my linksys or netgear years past for me. Your decision OP
 

Abazigal

macrumors G4
Original poster
Jul 18, 2011
11,584
9,095
Singapore
Thanks for all the feedback.:)

I am currently using an Asus RT-AC56s. My biggest concern is range. It works okay in the living room where it's placed, but when I move further away, performance drops rapidly. When I am in the toilet (don't laugh), signal is barely non-existent.

And I agree on the interface. For some reason, I have always had some problems with setting up Asus routers via their web interface, which always takes me hours to iron out the kinks. That's the reason I don't even dare to update their firmware. However, this is usually an experience I need to suffer once every 2 years, and the only stuff I really change are the wifi names and passwords. I don't touch the rest like firewall.

One thing I noticed when researching on their specs. My router evidently comes with 128 mb of ram, while the airport extreme has 512mb. How significantly will this affect performance?

So basically, no complaints with their performance? :)
 

westrock2000

macrumors 6502a
Oct 18, 2013
524
22
My biggest satisfaction with the units is the ability to "extend" the network between the routers and how easy it configures for that. I have two of them in my house and I get good (enough) coverage anywhere in the house. The transition between the routers is seamless.

The express routers do not allow extending over CAT5 like the extremes do. So you loose some bandwidth and range due to them having to negotiate over the same wireless signal that you are trying to use. Where as the extremes do all that over a dedicated CAT5 wire.

And ya, you literally plug in the 2nd extreme to the 1st one and the utility comes up and asks you if you want to extend the network. You say yes, and 15 seconds later it's all done.

I did have an Extreme die during a power failure. The external power supply (5th generation) itself survived. But the router went dead. I subsequently added a backup battery to them to buffer from such things.

If I need to do anything technical like port forwarding from the Internet, I can do that on the ISP provided router. I let it handle all the DHCP stuff. The extremes are purely for wireless. I have a separate gigabit switch that handles all the CAT5 connections in the house.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
My biggest satisfaction with the units is the ability to "extend" the network between the routers and how easy it configures for that. I have two of them in my house and I get good (enough) coverage anywhere in the house. The transition between the routers is seamless.

The express routers do not allow extending over CAT5 like the extremes do. So you loose some bandwidth and range due to them having to negotiate over the same wireless signal that you are trying to use. Where as the extremes do all that over a dedicated CAT5 wire.

And ya, you literally plug in the 2nd extreme to the 1st one and the utility comes up and asks you if you want to extend the network. You say yes, and 15 seconds later it's all done.

I did have an Extreme die during a power failure. The external power supply (5th generation) itself survived. But the router went dead. I subsequently added a backup battery to them to buffer from such things.

If I need to do anything technical like port forwarding from the Internet, I can do that on the ISP provided router. I let it handle all the DHCP stuff. The extremes are purely for wireless. I have a separate gigabit switch that handles all the CAT5 connections in the house.

AirPort Expresses can be used in a roaming network over Ethernet.
 

westrock2000

macrumors 6502a
Oct 18, 2013
524
22
AirPort Expresses can be used in a roaming network over Ethernet.
Unfortunately they can not. It will not work in the LAN -> WAN port arrangement that the Extremes will.

Apple Website said:
Extend an existing Wi‑Fi network’s range.

If you already have a wireless network in your home and want to extend its range, AirPort Express can help. Just place it in range of your primary base station — an AirPort Extreme, AirPort Time Capsule, or another AirPort Express — and near the area where you want your wireless connection. Launch the easy‑to‑use AirPort Utility app on your iOS device or Mac, and you’re mere minutes away from long‑range Wi‑Fi enjoyment.
EDIT: I will add this link though that says it will
http://store.apple.com/us/question/answers/readonly/airport-express-as-an-extender/QCDDKCT2KKF99Y97C

It did not work for me last week. I returned it and went with the extreme. Worked perfectly.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland

Alrescha

macrumors 68020
Jan 1, 2008
2,157
315
My office has two Airport Expresses in a roaming configuration. They are both in bridge mode with a separate firewall. Works fine for us.

A.
 

mcaswell

macrumors regular
Dec 22, 2013
219
92
Though I like how easy it is to set up and maintain the Airport Extreme, and it's very reliable as well, I'm surprised and disappointed that Apple offers no way to monitor bandwidth usage, like pretty much (it seems) just about every other router can do.

There's an app called NetUse Traffic Monitor that can perform this function (with the only downside being it needs to be running on a computer that is always on in order to tally all the traffic), but unfortunately Apple decided to remove SNMP from the latest Airport, so that app will no longer work.

So, I'm sticking with my current Airport Extreme for the foreseeable future, and unfortunately will have to install a non-Apple router to replace it eventually.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
Though I like how easy it is to set up and maintain the Airport Extreme, and it's very reliable as well, I'm surprised and disappointed that Apple offers no way to monitor bandwidth usage, like pretty much (it seems) just about every other router can do.

There's an app called NetUse Traffic Monitor that can perform this function (with the only downside being it needs to be running on a computer that is always on in order to tally all the traffic), but unfortunately Apple decided to remove SNMP from the latest Airport, so that app will no longer work.

So, I'm sticking with my current Airport Extreme for the foreseeable future, and unfortunately will have to install a non-Apple router to replace it eventually.
If you are monitoring over SNMP from a Mac I would like to recommend iNet. I use it at the school and it does wonderfully.
 

Primejimbo

macrumors 68040
Aug 10, 2008
3,294
129
Around
What maflynn said,

However; after years of doing friends&family IT support, Ive watched countless massive headaches with linksys/dlink/netgear/belkin etc which don't work the way the settings say. Or die, burn out due to being under engineered.

Every Airport installed has never died, just runs and runs.

I prefer due to the lack of headache, and I don't have any unusual network configuration.
I have a second generation Airport, still running great. I can't remember the last time I had to reset it.
 

Notario

macrumors newbie
Jun 27, 2014
17
7
US & Int'l
I'm afraid I would have to agree with a negative view of the Airport Extreme base station.

I find the setup and software difficult and confusing (including the Airport utility), and am especially disappointed not to be able to use the wifi base station with a VPN service that would connect all of my devices. (See my other query/post on this topic - using it with a VPN.)

The Airport Extreme is a premium product, costing more than other wifi-base stations, which should imply greater ease of use.

But it's actually rather difficult to connect to devices like additional network disk storage and so on. For example, I have both Macs and a PC connected to the device, as well as a printer, but find I cannot use the printer from the PC, only the Macs. Presumably there's a remedy, but I've spent too much time on setting up the machine already.

Plug and play please, Apple!


The benefits are you have an apple logo and you get to use the apple airport utility app instead of configuring the router through a web page.

Personally, I think there are more downsides for getting an apple router then upsides.

The app to configure it is very limited, it hides a lot of details, you don't have access to make changes that may protect you more.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
I'm afraid I would have to agree with a negative view of the Airport Extreme base station.



I find the setup and software difficult and confusing (including the Airport utility), and am especially disappointed not to be able to use the wifi base station with a VPN service that would connect all of my devices. (See my other query/post on this topic - using it with a VPN.)



The Airport Extreme is a premium product, costing more than other wifi-base stations, which should imply greater ease of use.



But it's actually rather difficult to connect to devices like additional network disk storage and so on. For example, I have both Macs and a PC connected to the device, as well as a printer, but find I cannot use the printer from the PC, only the Macs. Presumably there's a remedy, but I've spent too much time on setting up the machine already.



Plug and play please, Apple!

Ironically, most find AirPort the simplest to work out. PM me and I can walk you through your issues if you want.
 

Notario

macrumors newbie
Jun 27, 2014
17
7
US & Int'l
Ironically, most find AirPort the simplest to work out. PM me and I can walk you through your issues if you want.
Thank you - I will indeed PM you.

Please let me qualify my critique:

- I have not actually done a side-by-side comparison with installation of a non-Apple router or base station. And after getting over the setup hurdles, it does seem to run reliably. But those initial setup hurdles seemed too high for an everyday user like me.

- In reply to the original poster's query regarding benefits of the Airport Extreme, the product does feature an "intelligent, powerful beamforming antenna array" that actively directs the base's wifi signal to each device rather than all around. I am not clear on whether this is unique to the Apple product, or to the new 802.11ac wifi technology that other vendors too would have.
 

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
Thank you - I will indeed PM you.

Please let me qualify my critique:

- I have not actually done a side-by-side comparison with installation of a non-Apple router or base station. And after getting over the setup hurdles, it does seem to run reliably. But those initial setup hurdles seemed too high for an everyday user like me.

- In reply to the original poster's query regarding benefits of the Airport Extreme, the product does feature an "intelligent, powerful beamforming antenna array" that actively directs the base's wifi signal to each device rather than all around. I am not clear on whether this is unique to the Apple product, or to the new 802.11ac wifi technology that other vendors too would have.
1. The idea is that the AirPort is easy to setup and maintain. What are you asking of your router?

2. Beamforming is not an Apple proprietary technology.
 

Notario

macrumors newbie
Jun 27, 2014
17
7
US & Int'l
1. The idea is that the AirPort is easy to setup and maintain. What are you asking of your router?

2. Beamforming is not an Apple proprietary technology.
Thank you regarding the WiFi technology.

I stand by my claim that the Airport Extreme TC is not sufficiently easy to set up, in the Apple sense of easy and friendly.

And the lack of support for a VPN, which many users need, is a major oversight and major drawback.

This is the world's biggest IT company by market capitalization. Surely one of its 98,000 employees could sit down and tweak the software to make this most promising product easier to use and to integrate a VPN.
 

priitv8

macrumors 68040
Jan 13, 2011
3,517
435
Estonia
I stand by my claim that the Airport Extreme TC is not sufficiently easy to set up, in the Apple sense of easy and friendly.
Did you try the Wizard? AFAIK it is quite capable of discovering the environment your AirPort will be installed in (e.g. behind another router), and will suggest you most of the configuration settings.
And the lack of support for a VPN, which many users need, is a major oversight and major drawback.
It does not exactly lack VPN. Back To My Mac is a VPN, although more complicated due to finely orchestrated VPN, IPv6, DNS and DNS-SD (aka Wide Area Bonjour) services, also rendered automatically, without you ever configuring anything. Just log in to iCloud, sit back and enjoy.
For those, who need assistance in setting up a home router, Apple did write quite a comprehensive book. Sadly they never updated it to version 6.x of AirPort Utility: Designing AirPort Networks Using AirPort Utility Mac OS X v10.5 + Windows
Fortunately, the general concepts are still valid.
PS I also would say that AirPorts handle QoS for media streams somehow internally, without the need to configure anything on user's part. At least I know the Router+Gigabit switch used within supports QoS and I've yet to see a problem in AirPlay with my setup.
 
Last edited:

Altemose

macrumors G3
Mar 26, 2013
9,089
444
Elkton, Maryland
Thank you regarding the WiFi technology.

I stand by my claim that the Airport Extreme TC is not sufficiently easy to set up, in the Apple sense of easy and friendly.

And the lack of support for a VPN, which many users need, is a major oversight and major drawback.

This is the world's biggest IT company by market capitalization. Surely one of its 98,000 employees could sit down and tweak the software to make this most promising product easier to use and to integrate a VPN.
That is perfectly fine to disagree with my claim. If the AirPort is not easy to integrate into your setup then that is unfortunate because normally it is one of the easiest. AirPort supports VPN passthrough from an outside source to say a server and also supports Back To My Mac. There are many uses for VPN so I must ask, what do you want your AirPort to be doing with VPN? If you just want access to the disk we can help with that.
 

mominsky

macrumors newbie
Jul 29, 2014
10
0
FYI, i picked up a Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 last night - took less than 20 minutes to get it set up to my liking, and is a fantastic router so far....im getting 1300mbps connected to my rMBP when sitting 5 or so feet away, and when upstairs (it is in the basement), i was getting 878mbps. I had recently picked up a Western Digital MyCloud NAS, and when moving all the stuff from my old USB3 external hard drive to it, it was god awful slow going over wireless N (i don't have a thunderbolt-->ethernet) - tried moving some stuff last night on the new router now that i have ac - it was ridiculously fast.

I know most routers work great at the start, and then start to go downhill - hoping this isn't one of them - but just thought i would mention it, considering i had spent the better part of 2 days deciding between an Airport Extreme and this router - happy i made the choice I did :). I didn't need any of the really crazy features routers have, but I really needed the additional ethernet port since the airport extreme only has 3.
 

yukyuklee

macrumors 6502
Jan 4, 2011
368
40
Boston, MA
I just bought a airport extreme firmware 7.7.3 and for some reason after setting up everything web pages load extremely slow ! Any remedy to this? Maybe its user error i never had trouble with any other routers I've had
 

yukyuklee

macrumors 6502
Jan 4, 2011
368
40
Boston, MA
I just bought a airport extreme firmware 7.7.3 and for some reason after setting up everything web pages load extremely slow ! Any remedy to this? Maybe its user error i never had trouble with any other routers I've had