better / cheaper option than Airport Extreme (5th gen)

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by truths, Aug 16, 2011.

  1. truths macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2011
    So the 5th gen of Apple's Airport Extreme came out a while back. Not much of a price drop, though.

    Are there better / cheaper options out there? ...that still provide (near) comparable features?

  2. Lennyvalentin macrumors 65816


    Apr 25, 2011
    Better, well that depends. Are you comfortable with manually configuring and tinkering with routers, installing custom firmwares like DD-WRT, or in need of special features like SPI (stateful packet inspection) or QoS (quality of service)?

    If so, you may want to go with one of the more expensive models (like, over $100) from a manufacturer like Dlink, Netgear or Linksys.

    Yeah, that's right. If you need the features of the AP Extreme then you need to spend pretty much as much money as an airport express to get anything that's really somewhat decent, so you won't be saving any dough unless you find something decent at a discount.

    It will also be difficult to find a simultaneous dual-band capable router like the AP Extreme for less than the price of said extreme. If you don't need this functionality then you can get away with spending less. I still wouldn't recommend going much under $100 though, it quickly becomes a crapshoot wether you'll get a good model or something that should be taken out back and shot...

    Cheap routers pretty much universally offer weak hardware combined with if not outright BAD resident software then you'll very likely to have stability or functionality issues when handling many connections (multiplayer online titles, file sharing and so on) or using certain programs like messenger or voice chat and so on.

    I've never owned a router that didn't need a "vulcan nerve pinch" every once in a while, because it stopped routing properly or outright hanged on me for no discernible reason. People say Apple routers are very stable on the other hand.
  3. reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Even the cheap-o $50 routers do the same thing as an AEBS, sans the USB port.

    I figure around $150 is the sweet spot to spend on a router. Any more and you're spending too much; any less and you'll be lacking in features. I've had my AEBS for about 4 years now, and its still going strong. However, since my requirements have changed, I feel myself wishing that I had taken that $200 and bought an awesome $150 router then went and spent $50 at the bar.

    AEBS is still a solid piece of equipment if: You require a router with a USB port, you have all (or mostly) Macs on your network, and you don't know anything about setting a router up and need a super easy configuration.

    The last point is kind of moot because pretty much all consumer routers will have a fairly simple setup process.

    As for recommendations, I'd go for anything by Netgear or Linksys/Cisco. I've had bad luck with D-link, and I don't know about any other brands.
  4. truths thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2011
    I've set up a variety of routers. Mostly without much issue... unless lightening is involved.

    I have no experience installing custom firm ware, though. I have no idea what SPI or QoS is (or at least didn't until looking them up now). I would like the network to be very secure, of course.

    I'd like a solid performer since this will be for 2 people and will also be used for streaming media.

    Mostly I don't have a week to research everything and compare models and was hoping someone could offer a couple specific suggestions if there's a better option out there than the pricey Airport Extreme. I don't necessarily like to default to Apple for everything in my life :)
  5. truths thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2011
    Yes, it would be for mostly / all Macs.

    AEBS is $175 at Amazon. So I guess taking the different to the bar would get me half as wasted...

    I'd like the USB port for future things, but from what it seems like to me, most printers now have wireless anyway and I can get hard drives that will connect with gigabit ethernet. I don't care about time machine back ups since time machine always seems to fail on me / is unreliable for me.

    So, it seems like a $50 cheapo router might be the way to go? How much of a sacrifice would that be for bandwidth, though? Seems like the cheap simultaneous N routers are more like $80.
  6. truths thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2011
    The current devices that will be using the network:
    2 macbooks (mid 2009, 802.11 a/b/g/n, says 54MBs/s is the transmit rate..)
    1 desktop running OSX w/ ethernet (not gigabit currently)
    (usually no more than 3 devices simultaneously)

    Future devices:
    streaming media to tv (need 5 ghz? perhaps apple tv, or other device)
    printer (wireless vs usb, not sure yet)
    some kind of NAS (maybe)
    a new macbook pro

    It does indeed seem like the AEBS is overpriced and also lacking in features (QoS and SPI, for ex).

    I am wondering if $80 inksys E2500 or Dlink DIR-655 are sufficient in order to keep price down?

    Or is there a better option that will allow for future expansion? The ASUS "black diamond"? or Linksys E3200? Are these worth the extra $40-50?

    Any further, specific thoughts on where to throw down the cash?

    Thank you!
  7. truths thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 16, 2011
    upon further reading it sounds like the dual band might be worth it since i am in nyc + will be using iphone on wifi at times. but still not sure about AEBS vs others.
  8. reebzor, Aug 17, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011

    reebzor macrumors 6502a


    Jul 18, 2008
    Philadelphia, PA
    Now that you've given more information about what you want/need we can give suggestions.

    From what I've gathered, you require:
    Gigabit ethernet ports
    Dual band 802.11n
    optional USB port

    Netgear WNR3500L - Does have guest network, but is not 5Ghz, only 2.4Ghz which isn't really a deal breaker. $99

    Netgear WNDR4000 - This will give you dual band, and slightly better performance overall but it will come at a price - $149

    Linksys E3200 - This is the cheapest Linksys that is dual band, and has gigabit ethernet - $159

    There are plenty more great routers out there. These are just a couple of suggestions. Take a look at the sites and find something you like.

    EDIT: I just wanted to add here beware of the cheap-o routers. If you are going to be streaming, you really are going to want gigabit ethernet. Most of the cheap-o routers will not have gigabit, and you will really notice the difference if you are streaming from a NAS or something.
  9. farmermac macrumors 6502a

    Jul 23, 2009
    Get a refurb, save 33% off retail and enjoy

    Ive had 4-5 routers and ultimately they would freeze and need to be reset. Havent reset my aex in over a year since I plugged it in
  10. claimed4all, Aug 17, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2011

    claimed4all macrumors 6502

    Sep 26, 2008
    Netgear WNDR3400. Its a great router, dual band, 5ghz, customization, guest networks, USB Port, Bandwidth Monitoring, DynDNS and so on. I have not had a problem since I have installed it 8 months ago.
  11. err404 macrumors 68020

    Mar 4, 2007
    My AEBS from 2007 is still going strong. It has been literally flawless the entire time. The integration with OS X is also very handy. For example if my cable modem drops out, I get an alert from the OS with the details.

    Speaking as somebody with plenty of experience configuring other brands, the Apple AEBS has been a much better experience. I'd much rather have a stable router than one with more features.

    I would not hesitate to buy another.
    However, due to the lack of a web interface, I would be hesitant to buy one for use in a PC centric network.

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