Benefits to replacing AirPort Extreme with a mesh network?

DJinTX

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 15, 2010
518
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Here’s my home setup:

AirPort Extreme (AC) - 2000 sq ft home - L shape floor plan, we have the following— 1 AirPort express connected to some powered speakers, No cable TV, stream everything (Netflix, Sling, AppleTV+, Disney+), 150gps Comcast internet). We have 3 echo dots, 2 smart light bulbs and one smart plug, 1 nest cam (about to add 1 more nest cam), nest thermostat, Xbox one S. 2 iPhones, 1 iPad.

I’m wondering if I replaced the AirPort Extreme with a Mesh or a stand-alone WiFi-6 router if I would see improvements given all the vmconnected devices we have. Sling seems to buffer at times and connecting to nest doorbell from work after it rings takes awhile. Mesh sounds good but would I see real world improvements with it? Or only marginal gains?
 

cmaier

macrumors G5
Jul 25, 2007
14,901
9,621
California
I had a setup with an AirPort Extreme, with cat6 to a second airport extreme (an older one), and a airport express wirelessly connected.

I replaced it with a mesh system from AMPLIFI, and saw about a 2x performance improvement in most places, until a set of firmware updates caused the AmpliFi to randomly start dropping connections and causing lots of problems.

I replaced all that with some routers from Synology, in a mesh configuration, and performance has been rock solid and around 2x the AMPLIFI (so around 3x-5x as fast as i was getting with the airports).
 

Soba

macrumors 6502
May 28, 2003
269
290
Rochester, NY
Here’s my home setup:

AirPort Extreme (AC) - 2000 sq ft home - L shape floor plan, we have the following— 1 AirPort express connected to some powered speakers, No cable TV, stream everything (Netflix, Sling, AppleTV+, Disney+), 150gps Comcast internet). We have 3 echo dots, 2 smart light bulbs and one smart plug, 1 nest cam (about to add 1 more nest cam), nest thermostat, Xbox one S. 2 iPhones, 1 iPad.

I’m wondering if I replaced the AirPort Extreme with a Mesh or a stand-alone WiFi-6 router if I would see improvements given all the vmconnected devices we have. Sling seems to buffer at times and connecting to nest doorbell from work after it rings takes awhile. Mesh sounds good but would I see real world improvements with it? Or only marginal gains?
I echo @cmaier 's response. I replaced my Airport equipment over a year ago with Velop (and later Orbi) devices and saw a major improvement in performance on both wireless and wireless devices. I have 500mbps Internet service and even the wired gigabit Airport could not keep up with it.

The Airports were amazing devices in their day and were extremely easy to use. It is such a shame that Apple has ceded this market. But they are obsolete and I strongly recommend you replace them.
 
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DJinTX

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 15, 2010
518
29
So my expectation, which may be inaccurate is that a mesh network overall is better than a single router, would you agree? I know they have more hardware and therefore more expensive but if they are that much better at supporting a multi-computer, multi smart device household that streams everything, then it’s likely worth it. With so many devices and connected smart accessories and security cams all competing for bandwidth, it seems like mesh is a better solution for solid WiFi and minimizing deadzones and bottlenecks.

your thoughts?
 

acorntoy

macrumors 65816
May 25, 2010
1,419
1,269
Extreme is still the most reliable router I’ve ever had with the longest amount of time without software/hardware work needed.
In a new house I’ve set up an Orbi and while fast and connection is strong but one of the satellites is at least a monthly problem if not weekly where it’ll just go down and I have to reset the whole system. Have switched the satellite around too so I know it isn’t just a single device problem.

tldr; Airport is obsolete although with new third party hardware comes third party problems.
 

DJinTX

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 15, 2010
518
29
Extreme is still the most reliable router I’ve ever had with the longest amount of time without software/hardware work needed.
In a new house I’ve set up an Orbi and while fast and connection is strong but one of the satellites is at least a monthly problem if not weekly where it’ll just go down and I have to reset the whole system. Have switched the satellite around too so I know it isn’t just a single device problem.

tldr; Airport is obsolete although with new third party hardware comes third party problems.
I agree with you and this is exactly my worry and hesitation to switch. I absolutely never have issues with my Airport Extreme. The only time I even reboot it is if I have had issues with my cable modem and I have to reboot that as well. I just feel like a hard reboot of both is a good recipe. I had a Linksys WRT54G router as my first router back in 2005. It worked for a brief period of time without issue, then began needing frequent reboots. Then after a thunderstorm fried it, I upgraded to Airport extreme 802.11N, and then to 802.11AC, and never looked back. If we didn't have so many smart devices needing bandwidth I wouldn't even consider switching. I'm not sure what I will do. Maybe relocate the Extreme so it is closer to our two Nest Cams. Unless I find a good mesh solution. If only Apple had a stealth Mesh program in the works I would be super happy.
 

DJinTX

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 15, 2010
518
29
I have been researching this like crazy for answers, comparing WiFi 6 routers and WiFi 6 mesh, vs AC mesh systems. Some people have really good things to say about Eero mesh and Nest (google) mesh, but then I read that it doesnt seem like much improvement over a single AC router. Both of these of course are AC, and I feel like putting in an AC mesh system to replace my AirPort Extreme (AC) would not feel like an upgrade. WiFi 6 options sound good but are still very expensive. If I wait for an affordable WiFi 6 option (mesh or router) I also wonder which will feel more robust or if there is a significant difference in these two different types of system that would be better for my specific situation. I’m not finding many helpful comparisons/reviews on this. I need more definitive info.
 

Soba

macrumors 6502
May 28, 2003
269
290
Rochester, NY
I have been researching this like crazy for answers, comparing WiFi 6 routers and WiFi 6 mesh, vs AC mesh systems. Some people have really good things to say about Eero mesh and Nest (google) mesh, but then I read that it doesnt seem like much improvement over a single AC router. Both of these of course are AC, and I feel like putting in an AC mesh system to replace my AirPort Extreme (AC) would not feel like an upgrade. WiFi 6 options sound good but are still very expensive. If I wait for an affordable WiFi 6 option (mesh or router) I also wonder which will feel more robust or if there is a significant difference in these two different types of system that would be better for my specific situation. I’m not finding many helpful comparisons/reviews on this. I need more definitive info.
Wi-Fi networks will behave differently in just about every environment you install them in. It's the nature of the beast because you are subject to many environmental factors that you cannot control. Performance and reliability depend not only on your equipment, but on other networks around you and on other sources of interference, which can vary depending on time of day, network traffic patterns, and a host of other factors.

Also, that point aside, everyone's home is different in terms of size and layout. A reviewer's home is probably not going to match yours, so comparisons to your situation might not be very helpful.

Pick equipment that meets your needs from a feature standpoint and purchase it from a store with a good return policy. If the system doesn't meet expectations, you can take it back. A real-world test in your home is worth more than a hundred online reviews.
 
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DJinTX

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Sep 15, 2010
518
29
Wi-Fi networks will behave differently in just about every environment you install them in. It's the nature of the beast because you are subject to many environmental factors that you cannot control. Performance and reliability depend not only on your equipment, but on other networks around you and on other sources of interference, which can vary depending on time of day, network traffic patterns, and a host of other factors.

Also, that point aside, everyone's home is different in terms of size and layout. A reviewer's home is probably not going to match yours, so comparisons to your situation might not be very helpful.

Pick equipment that meets your needs from a feature standpoint and purchase it from a store with a good return policy. If the system doesn't meet expectations, you can take it back. A real-world test in your home is worth more than a hundred online reviews.
Very good point. It’s more work that way but better result. I think I’m going to wait on WiFi 6. D-Link announced prior to CES 2020 they are coming out with a two piece WiFi 6 mesh option for $270 that looks pretty good. And if they do, then likely other companies will bring something similar and perhaps better. My internet through Comcast is only 175mbs but I figure the increased speeds of this mesh will benefit all my intranet traffic and simultaneously I will know my router is good to go for many years to not be a bottle neck.