Changing from Airport Extreme to Synology RT2600ac: Thoughts

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by Ledgem, Mar 13, 2018.

  1. Ledgem macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #1
    I own two Airport Extremes, a fifth generation and the latest sixth-generation, with the two operating together to extend my wireless network via a Powerline network adapter. This setup worked beautifully, with the sixth generation Airport Extreme sharing a disk (used for Time Machine) and a USB printer over the network.

    Then the sixth generation AE developed faulty ethernet ports and somewhat erratic performance. If Apple were still developing their own routers, I'd have replaced it. But knowing that they have shut down their networking division, I found myself in the market for a replacement.

    I settled on the Synology router, as it seemed to have the highest number of reviews claiming it to be very Apple-like.

    I set it up recently. Unboxing it, I was wowed (and a bit saddened) by how huge it was. The Airport Extremes aren't that large, and the vertically-oriented 6th generation certainly has a very small footprint, but this was even larger than the routers I've used before the Airport Extremes. And having to screw in antennas - haven't had to do that in years, as the Airport Extremes don't have that, either. The power adapter had a mini-brick, which was also a let-down compared to the Airport Extreme's simple plug.

    Once it got going, I was pretty impressed. There are iOS apps (which are nice, but not as full-featured for setup as the Airport Utility app), but I did the setup on my computer and was really impressed. Router control panels have changed a lot since the last time I used a non-Apple router, I guess; it felt more like I was working in a computer's desktop space than doing a web-based settings pane. Really sleek.

    The Synology has a lot more options than the Airport Extreme did. It's both a blessing and a curse; just as an example, getting IPv6 working with the Airport Extreme was fairly straight-forward and basically involved reading about two things, but I found myself on a web forum discussion and following the troubleshooting of others to get it working on my end, as there were a lot more options to sort through. But I got it working, and then it was on to funner things; setting up my router to allow me to use my home connection as a VPN when I'm away from home; setting up SNMP (network monitoring heuristics, which Apple had included in their routers but stripped out in the sixth generation); and a bit more.

    Setting up my Time Machine drive involved having to re-format the drive. Whereas computers would recognize the drive easily with the Airport Extreme, here they would recognize the drive, but then I'd have to log in to the router's account (or, a user account I made on the router specifically for Time Machine access) to access the drive. It was a one-time login, but a small inconvenience that I didn't face with the Airport Extreme.

    I hit a snag with the printer sharing, though. It was a pretty seamless process with the Airport Extreme: just plug it in, maybe check an option to share it, and every computer seemed to know what to do with it. With the Synology, though, despite enabling Bonjour printer broadcasting, my computer couldn't see it. After spending close to an hour trying to troubleshoot it, I ended up connecting the printer to my computer. That's one I'll have to solve later.

    I'm the type who used to love tinkering with my electronics, customizing everything, learning what every setting and option was... and the Synology brought me back to some of that. No doubt, it is far more powerful and customizable than the Airport Extremes are. At the same time, those days that I enjoyed those activities were the days when I was in college, and even before. I had a lot of time back then. Now I'm working, I have a family, and problems like the printer represent frustrating time sinks rather than fun challenges that involve more learning. I don't regret going with the Synology RT2600ac router - in fact, I'm so impressed that I'm considering buying into their other products, when I have need of them - but it rekindled my sadness over Apple's decision to shut down their router division.

    Long story short, the Synology RT2600ac (and probably other modern routers) is a pretty amazing piece of technology, and my guess is that the Airport Extremes are going to start looking dated pretty quickly over the next few years. But as advanced as the Synology is, and as amazing as its user interface is (particularly compared with routers from the past... possibly even present), the Airport Extreme still wins for ease of use and trouble-free setup, at least for Mac users. If Apple ever reopens their router division, I'd consider switching back.
     
  2. interstella macrumors regular

    interstella

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2013
    Location:
    Suffolk, England
    #2
    I also changed from an Airport Extreme to the Synology RT2600ac a few weeks ago when the Airport WiFi started playing up. I agree entirely with your assessment of the Synology unit. I've used an Synology NAS for the past 3 years so I'm familiar with their Linux based OS and find it very easy to use and this was a big factor in choosing a Synology router to replace the Airport. I use the NAS for Time Machine and also run a Plex server for DVD's etc. I used to have problems with TM but Synology appear to have improved their OS such that Time Machine has been very stable for the past year or so.

    I'm a bit puzzled by the problems you've had with your printer. I use an Epson WF-3520 and simply connected this to the router via the router password (I've not touched the "add printer" option in the router control panel) and it just worked and I can use it with my iMac, MacBook and iPhone with no problems. I'm not sure if there is actually any advantage to setting it up as a network printer using the router OS? I've not set-up IPv6, nor have I configured a VPN (I would like to) as I have satellite internet which currently does not support IPv6 and does not allow port forwarding so my options here are a bit limited. I've also had trouble using "back to my mac" which worked fine with the Airport but I suspect this requires port forwarding with non-Apple routers though I don't really need to use this regularly so haven't spent a lot of time trying to make it work and of course this could be due to the router firewall at the remote location.

    I like to have DHCP reservations for my devices and I have occasionally had trouble getting the synology unit to accept the IP that I have assigned to it though it always works in the end. I've no idea what causes this problem but eventually the system will accept the new IP.

    Overall, I'm happy with the RT2600. As you say, it is a bit big and it's a bit disappointing (given it's size) that it needs a separate power supply but that's really quite a minor point. For anyone looking to replace a dying Airport this router is a good choice.
     
  3. Ledgem thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #3
    Thanks for sharing your experiences, too. Nice to know someone else is in the same boat!

    My printer is a standard USB printer without any ethernet or wifi functionality. It looks like your Epson is a network printer. I'd guess that might explain part of the difference. A standard USB printer can be used like a network printer if it's shared; if connected directly to my computer, then I can enable sharing, and it would be accessible as long as my computer were available... but modern routers can also act as the sharing device, turning any USB printer into a network printer. I'm just not sure why the Synology can properly see and identify the printer, but then can't print (test page doesn't work) or effectively share it.

    It just goes to show that the big benefit of Apple-designed peripherals was the way that the technology really catered to Macs and iOS devices. The Synology allows you to do all of these things, but we need to manually enable services that the Airport handled on its own.
     
  4. interstella macrumors regular

    interstella

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2013
    Location:
    Suffolk, England
    #4
    It never occurred to me that you may not have a WiFi printer! It could be worth opening a ticket with Synology through the Support Centre app. They can sometimes take quite a while to reply but if you let them they can remotely (and securely) access your router for troubleshooting etc.
     
  5. Ledgem thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #5
    I may need to do that.

    On top of that, I just found out that none of my machines have been making Time Machine backups to the drive held by the router ("time capsule"). One machine made a one-time backup, but nothing for the rest... trying to force it just yielded a "could not find the volume" error. So, another reason to contact support...

    Still loving logging into the router for management, as the display is beautiful and works really well. But it's a darn good thing it still impresses me, because I seem to be logging into it quite a bit. It's really a shame that Apple shut down their router division. I'm impressed with Synology when I think about what managing routers used to be like many years ago, but this experience really drives home just how good a job Apple did with their own routers.
     
  6. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #6
    OP:

    You might also investigate the "mesh" type routers before making your choice.
     
  7. interstella macrumors regular

    interstella

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2013
    Location:
    Suffolk, England
    #7
    Your Time Machine problem is similar to what I had when first using a Synology NAS. Hopefully they'll sort out the problem with the Router OS soon. I would bet you aren't the only one having trouble using the router with Time Machine!
     
  8. Ledgem thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #8
    Doing a net search reveals that there were problems, but it seems to sporadically crop up over the years. In my particular case, I had enabled the "hibernate" function for disk devices on the router's configuration. It would seem that Time Machine couldn't wake the drive; after disabling "hibernate" it now seems that Time Machine on the network is working OK... for now.

    I'll report it to Synology. But I guess it's an example of how there are a lot of customizable options, but some of the functions don't work well together (or aren't working as intended) and we end up getting into trouble with them.
     
  9. mcdj, Sep 10, 2018
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2018

    mcdj macrumors G3

    mcdj

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2007
    Location:
    NYC
    #9
    I just got an RT2600AC to replace my Airport Extreme. Everything is working except external access. My Diskstation, Plex, SABNZBD, Screens for Mac...none are accessible outside of my LAN. I'm no network expert. Diskstation has a "router setup" which informs me that there is no UPNP router connected...yet UPNP is enabled on the router. It also fails the port forwarding tests. I manually set up a couple of port forwarding rules, or so I though, but nothing works. Is there a tutorial for dummies somewhere specifically and step by step for the Synology router? Most tutorials just say "forward the ports you want to open" which is totally vague for someone without a lot of knowledge.

    In the past I would just use my external IP followed by the port number to access the service, like SABNZBD. It worked so well on the AEBS that I don't remember how I set it all up.

    EDIT: NM. Just discovered my ISP has me in some kind of double NAT situation. They’re issuing me a public IP address soon to solve the issue. I guess they have some kind of super modem for my entire hi rise building. We all have the same public IP. I wondered why I didn’t need a modem.
     
  10. MickG macrumors newbie

    MickG

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2006
    Location:
    Santa Barbara, CA
    #10

    This is an OUTSTANDING review and extremely helpful. BRAVO and thank you. It provided more useful information than anything else I've found on the internet so far! Ledgem, you should have your own column somewhere. :)


    I'm curious if you have any updates since writing it?


    I finally gave up on my all-Apple network with 3 extremes, attached USB drive for TM backups, and an otherwise reasonable stable network last Saturday when we installed (initially) a NightHawk router (R8000) with the wireless turned off, and let Ubiquity units (Ubiquiti Networks Unifi 802.11ac Dual-Radio PRO Access Point), along with a cloud key, all wired handle wireless distribution. I'd heard great things about Ubiquity and they look very cool, but so far I've not been thoroughly impressed with their range. We tried to replace 3 extremes (with the first two in the chain having a wired connection) with 2 Ubiquity and it's simply not enough. 2 more arrive today and we're hoping that will cover the house even better than the Extremes did.


    Still, I sure miss the easy of the Apple software/hardware marriage. My network buddy who installs much larger networks whom I hired to assist and advise me, was also impressed with the Apple interface. But what can you do now that Apple's abandoned it? I think we need a memorial service at least...


    Meanwhile, the Nighthawk (R8000) was not nearly as user-friendly as I'd hoped. I sat on the phone with Netgear just to get confirmation that this model actually supported Time Machine over the USB 3 port or not. After checking and getting back to me with the proper AFP Server link (all of the tech notes I found on the web about enabling TM were SMB links, so it was odd I had to call to get the AFP address…), I finally got it to work, but it still seemed buggy.


    I decided to order the Synology router because I’d heard so many better things about it and playing nicely with Macs. Setting it up was about twice as fast and easy as the Nighthawk. Didn’t even install the antenna fins because we were going to turn off the wifi on it anyway. TimeMachine was much easier to set up and configured way more quickly than the NightHawk. I want to learn more about all of the other ways I can monitor and manage traffic on my home network, but that will take time to learn. I've been with Apple routers from the very first UFO unit, so this is a big switch for me.


    I’m testing a WD NAS to see what the best situation for a TM backup is and that one was super fast and preconfigured a TimeMachine partition out of the box. Just have to figure out how to rename it.


    But on the whole, I might very well become a Synology router fan. I’ve known about their RAIDs forever, but had no idea they were making quality routers as well.


    Thanks again for the excellent information you wrote here.
     
  11. Ledgem thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #11
    Thanks for the kind comments. I've been working away from home for the past few months so, aside from remoting in to the router to run updates, I haven't gotten to do much with it. I do notice some improved stability with the newer updates, though. For example, I use an SD card for the router to log to, but I would have times after rebooting the router where the SD card wouldn't be readable, forcing me to physically eject it and then reinsert it. I haven't noticed that issue lately - hopefully it's not just luck! I'll probably stick with Synology for my router needs at present, but that thought still doesn't take away the sadness of Apple discontinuing their line of routers entirely.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the Nighthawk, too. I believe that one received good reviews, but user-friendliness is relative... and for those of us coming from Apple's routers, it's usually a question of just how bad it's going to be. That's rarely captured well in most online reviews.
     
  12. MickG macrumors newbie

    MickG

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2006
    Location:
    Santa Barbara, CA
    #12
    I'm curious about the logging function and why I (seemingly) had to manually enable that. I've been having all kinds of network issues that I cannot locate and we think that there may be a device on my network that's borking the internet randomly. I keep hoping the log files will tell us where the smoking gun is, but just realized they filled up their space and stopped logging 24 hours ago! Ack!

    I'm sad to lose the simplicity of the Apple hardware, BUT it's kinda cool to have SO much more control over the network and be able to see each and every device on it in a reasonably coherent interface. I don't know if there is a way to IM you, but I'd love to ask another question or two about it. I'm loathe to post an email address here...

    Right now, my Synology router with the Ubiquity APs and a Netgear switch looks great, but I can't get it stable until I find out what's causing these internet outages.

    Mick
     
  13. Ledgem thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #13
    I think the private messaging functionality on these forums has been relabeled as "start a conversation," but I'm not 100% sure about that. Either way, I'd guess that others might have a similar question, so unless it's a more personal/private discussion to be had, it would be beneficial to have it here. Otherwise, I'm happy to respond to private messages when I get the chance.
     
  14. steve23094 macrumors 68020

    steve23094

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2013
    #14
    There are some great features in the 2600. You might want to make sure everything else is working first before tinkering but when you get a chance look at Threat Prevention, Safe Access and the logging features. Their implementation of these are often only found in business class devices.
     
  15. MickG macrumors newbie

    MickG

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2006
    Location:
    Santa Barbara, CA
    #15
    Yeah, we're still having the intermittent internet outages that once grad school started April 1st, I haven't been able to spend more time trying to find the smoking gun. I think I'm closer, but not quite there. :-(

    That being said, unless it turns about to be the cause if this problem, I LOVE the new Synology router AND the Synology NAS I just got. Moving from Apple and Drobo, to Synology and Synology has been enlightening.

    The Synology router (RT2600ac) has taught me more about my home network than ever before. I can see why Apple hides most of this stuff, but it's been a fascinating journey to learn and see all that's going on. The interface is more user-friendly than NightHawk, but it still much like a best case Win10 experience. It's cool. It still works and even if the terminology is less familiar to me, a lifetime Apple user, it's industry standard and ultimately good to learn. I have so much more power than ever before to control what does and doesn't go on, on my network. Still learning.

    What has been a delight is the Synology NAS (DS418)! As part of our Apple support and repair business, we paired with DROBO because they had the most Mac-like interface and user-friendly experience. But over the 10-15 years or so, there were so many experiences with hardware failure (enclosures and bays!), corruption, and this very, slow, slow, SLOW data movement. Most issues need 24-36 HOURS to repair the data when I drive or BAY died. Time Machine backups became easily corrupt and we gave up completely using them over USB, Thunderbolts, or ethernet to do them. The DROBO FS (the NAS) was always too slow to do much of anything, so I mostly just used it as a safe storage vault for family movies, music, photos and disk images of my work, personal, and family HDs.

    But here's the thing, I bought the Synology DS418 along with four, 4TB WD RED NAS drives and set the whole thing up in 20-30 minutes and it BLAZES! For the first time in my life, I feel like I'm FINALLY seeing network drive speeds that others would speak of, but I never personally experienced in the real world! It can even copy and DELETE large TimeMachine sparsebundles images in 1-6 hours!!!! These are large, over 500GB images and I copied them from a USB drive that used to be connected to my primary Airport router for TM backups. I'm seeing 80-100+ MB/s speeds! Copying a sparsebundle!

    Yes, you heard that right. :):cool::)

    But remember how long it used to take to try and delete one of those from a TimeCapuslue, or (God forbid) the FINDER?! It just deleted one 300GB file off itself while I was typing this! That's insane. I usually just had to reformat the drive with any measure of one of these beasts on it. And, as far as I can tell so far, there has been no corruption of copied sparsebundles. My MBP just picked up the old one in the new location on a brand new USB drive attached to the NAS on the 3.0 port on the front and added the data from the past week.

    I figured the NAS itself, internally would be fast, but I was happily pleased how fast it could send and receive large files through that USB port. I can't remember the exact speeds, but the whole operation was SO much faster than anything that had EVER happened on my network before that I can't accurately quantify that. I will never buy another DROBO again. I know mine was old, but you never know how bad a situation is until it gets better.

    Lastly, Synology's tech support has been UNREAL. I'm going to sound like I work for them, but I swear I'm fully retired from tech! Just a happy end user. A guy named Lars in Seattle has been helping me with long detailed replies to my detailed questions and descriptions of the issue. I'm seriously going to call the company when we're done and rave about this guy. He's been surreally AWESOME. I've never had such excellent support for a truly wearing issue like these intermittent internet connectivity drops. Together we have worked through this and I have hope that as soon as some of my grad school deadlines ease up next week, I'll have more time to finish the hunt for the ghost in my machine.

    So, it's odd to say this, given the major problems I've had on my network, but I'm really happy I moved to Synology from Apple and DROBO.

    BTW, I can't remember which forum I read that turned me on to this beautiful app, but I wanted to share it here as well. One of the theories a couple of high-end network tech pals have suggested it bringing down my network is a rogue device on it that overwhelms. While that seems less likely now that I've removed so much from it trying to test, I did discover Radio Silence, a beautiful app that was very easy to read and interpret its results. I've known and sporadically used since the late 90's Little Snitch. A very fine, very robust app. But it has gotten so robust that I've found its data hard to grok.

    Radio Silence will blow your mind in its simplicity.

    All it does it monitor the apps on your mac that are chatting across your LAN and beyond. If you find something that is hammering away across the network, you can block it with a single click The demo is fully featured so you can test it out and it will likely shock you how much AppleTV can hammer all of your devices, or HP printers, or even just Apple chatting constantly with the mothership. I wrote to the developer from Helsinki and he seems a really nice guy. Anyway, I highly recommend this app. I've shown it to our entire Mac repair shop (my old shop I sold 3 years ago) and they all loved it too.

    Ledgem, thank you so much for starting this thread so long ago! Just goes to show ya that these solutions can live a long time. And Steve23094, I'm about halfway there learning what it can do. Hope what I've written here inspires you as much as it has me!

    In Gratitude,

    Mick
     
  16. Ledgem thread starter macrumors 68000

    Ledgem

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2008
    Location:
    Hawaii, USA
    #16
    @MickG thanks for the write-up - I have a Drobo (non-network version, USB-C connector) that I've been pretty pleased with, but was thinking about going with Synology for my NAS and future DAS units, as well. I went with Drobo because it seemed more user-friendly, and I've been quite happy with my unit. Hearing your experience with what sounds like Drobo NAS vs. Synology NAS was helpful.

    I'll be returning home in a few months and will be able to tinker with my router more then. I've only been logging in to keep it updated, and I see they've made quite a few changes over the past year. Here's hoping that some of the features that seemingly weren't working properly are now more seamless. Synology seems like a good company; hopefully my earlier experiences were just representative of growing pains.
     

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15 March 13, 2018