Extreme overkill (AirPort mesh)

EugW

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 18, 2017
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I've mentioned this before but now that I have an all-Extreme WiFi network, I thought I'd post an AirPort Utility screen grab.

Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 7.34.43 PM.png


My final AirPort Express died, leaving a small gap in my network, but instead switching to a true third party mesh network I decided to add one more AirPort Extreme to my setup to hold me over for a while longer. I've gotten some used/refurb'd ones relatively inexpensively so it does make sense, esp. since the cheaper mesh systems out there don't really turn my crank, and the higher end ones are expensive. My last 802.11ac AirPort Extreme cost me all of US$55 on eBay, shipped. One AirPort Extreme is definitely not good enough for this big L-shaped house. I can get by with two 802.11ac units, but having three AirPorts is much better, and four means strong signal almost everywhere.

I put my Rogers Hitron CODA-4582U cable modem in bridge mode, with one AirPort (Basement) as the router. Using the cable modem as the router was a less stable setup, plus it sometimes seemed to have odd incompatibilities with AirPorts. All the other AirPorts are used as simple WiFi bridges, on a wired Gigabit backbone using a 24-port Zonet unmanaged switch as the main switch. Overall, this AirPort setup works as a sort of mesh system because Apple devices will seamlessly roam from AirPort to AirPort as long as they have the same SSID. (Apple devices don't do this non-Apple access points unless it's a true mesh.) My non-Apple devices don't roam properly, but almost all of them are stationary devices so it doesn't matter.

Overall it's uber stable, fast, and not too expensive (if you are lucky enough to have existing hardware and/or you can find good deals on used equipment).
 
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DogHouseDub

macrumors 6502
Sep 19, 2007
358
751
SF
Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 4.04.02 PM.png


I hear ya, my friend. I also hit eBay to build this out - didn't pay more than $50 for an Extreme or $25 for an Express. I use the Expresses only for Airplay. All together, for three Airplay2 connections and 4 access points, I think I'm ~$425 (I paid full MSRP for the first Extreme). The Bedroom Extreme is on the other end of the house, connected via Powerline adapter. It all works great when it's working. Unfortunately, it seems to require a periodic restarting of hardware.

Just today, I had to put every device back to factory settings and build the system back out. I did do things a little different this time: 1, removed the Powerline adapters between all but the most distant Extreme. They were adding an extra level of complexity that made troubleshooting a PITA. At the end of the day, I don't think they were improving throughput the way I expected; 2, I set all the Expresses to Join only, as I don't need them to extend anything.

I'm hoping things remain stable this go round, but find myself scoping out Orbi and Ubiquity every time this happens.
 
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EugW

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 18, 2017
9,031
6,411
View attachment 825448

I hear ya, my friend. I also hit eBay to build this out - didn't pay more than $50 for an Extreme or $25 for an Express. I use the Expresses only for Airplay. All together, for three Airplay2 connections and 4 access points, I think I'm ~$425 (I paid full MSRP for the first Extreme).
Heh, that's great. :eek:

I'm in the same ballpark for 6th gen Extremes. I paid US$51 for one a couple of weeks ago, and US$56 for one this week (plus shipping). I'm up to four 6th gen Extremes too now. :cool:

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 10.12.03 PM.png


I've been aiming for the 6th gen Extremes because of the fact they are the only ones with 802.11ac. It's great to be able to get 400 Mbps with my MacBook at multiple spots in the house, with those strategically placed AirPort Extremes. What they don't have is an audio output, so I'll eventually pick up an Express specifically for that purpose, since I have a stereo system hooked up to some in-ceiling speakers.

The Bedroom Extreme is on the other end of the house, connected via Powerline adapter. It all works great when it's working. Unfortunately, it seems to require a periodic restarting of hardware.

Just today, I had to put every device back to factory settings and build the system back out. I did do things a little different this time: 1, removed the Powerline adapters between all but the most distant Extreme. They were adding an extra level of complexity that made troubleshooting a PITA. At the end of the day, I don't think they were improving throughput the way I expected; 2, I set all the Expresses to Join only, as I don't need them to extend anything.

I'm hoping things remain stable this go round, but find myself scoping out Orbi and Ubiquity every time this happens.
You should consider adding an Ethernet drop. I tried powerline but it was just too flaky. Some days it'd be decent and other days I'd get big problems. Basically I found it OK some days for surfing, but couldn't rely on it for video streaming.

Because of the difficulty of running Ethernet inside the house, I actually drilled holes in my exterior wall to extend the network to the outside of the house, and then back in again. It's so nice to have a solid Ethernet backhaul everywhere. The only thing caveat is you need to get outdoor rated cable which is a little more expensive.
 
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EugW

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 18, 2017
9,031
6,411
BTW, in this large L-shaped house, I can get full coverage with just 2 AirPorts. However, the problem is that coverage is not fast in the places I do my work. To get that full coverage I need to put the 2 AirPorts in relatively central locations, but those strategic spots are a fair distance away from my main working locations. In that setup, the connection reliability in my main working locations is actually good, but the speeds are pretty mediocre.

The setup as above now gives me 500+ Mbps with my MacBook at my desk in my home office, and 300+ Mbps at other places in the house I might actually do real work.
 
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EugW

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 18, 2017
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I use 3 6th gens and have great coverage throughout a 1 story 3,000 sq. ft. home. I have multiple Airport Express units for Airplay. View attachment 826154
Wow. 9 AirPorts. Now you need just one more to make it an even 10. ;)

I also hit eBay to build this out - didn't pay more than $50 for an Extreme or $25 for an Express. I use the Expresses only for Airplay.
I've been having trouble finding inexpensive 2nd gen 802.11n A1392 Expresses up here in Canada. People are wanting much more money for the A1392, asking as much as the Extremes. The older A1264 one is available for not too much, but I would mainly prefer the newer A1392 one, not only because it is newer with some more WiFi features, but also because it has dual Ethernet ports. I also wonder if A1392 is more robust. Both my 802.11g Express and my 1st gen 802.11n Express died, likely due to heat in that compact package, whereas all of my Extremes have been fine so far. BTW, my 6th gen Extremes all run much cooler than my 5th gen Extreme, I guess because the 6th gen has a fan.
 

HeadphoneAddict

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2007
982
815
I've mentioned this before but now that I have an all-Extreme WiFi network, I thought I'd post an AirPort Utility screen grab.

View attachment 823921

My final AirPort Express died, leaving a small gap in my network, but instead switching to a true third party mesh network I decided to add one more AirPort Extreme to my setup to hold me over for a while longer. I've gotten some used/refurb'd ones relatively inexpensively so it does make sense, esp. since the cheaper mesh systems out there don't really turn my crank, and the higher end ones are expensive. My last 802.11ac AirPort Extreme cost me all of US$55 on eBay, shipped. One AirPort Extreme is definitely not good enough for this big L-shaped house. I can get by with two 802.11ac units, but having three AirPorts is much better, and four means strong signal almost everywhere.

I put my Rogers Hitron CODA-4582U cable modem in bridge mode, with one AirPort (Basement) as the router. Using the cable modem as the router was a less stable setup, plus it sometimes seemed to have odd incompatibilities with AirPorts. All the other AirPorts are used as simple WiFi bridges, on a wired Gigabit backbone using a 24-port Zonet unmanaged switch as the main switch. Overall, this AirPort setup works as a sort of mesh system because Apple devices will seamlessly roam from AirPort to AirPort as long as they have the same SSID. (Apple devices don't do this non-Apple access points unless it's a true mesh.) My non-Apple devices don't roam properly, but almost all of them are stationary devices so it doesn't matter.

Overall it's uber stable, fast, and not too expensive (if you are lucky enough to have existing hardware and/or you can find good deals on used equipment).
I have a similar setup in a 5K sq/ft house, but it appears tonight that my 3rd hardwired Airport Extreme has bit the dust.

I use three Airport Express for the optical digital output in a couple of rooms and as wifi-extenders, where I have an extreme on each of the 3 floors. I still have a 5th Gen Airport Extreme in the storage closet that I can move into it's place.

It might be time to buy a Linksys mesh network, with one as my primary router in the basement and extender in the kitchen right above it, and then move the Timecapsule to the 3rd floor as just a hard-wired access point and for backups.

Screenshot 2019-03-13 22.10.06.png
Screenshot 2019-03-13 22.10.06.png
 
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EugW

macrumors G3
Original poster
Jun 18, 2017
9,031
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I have a similar setup in a 5K sq/ft house, but it appears tonight that my 3rd hardwired Airport Extreme has bit the dust.

I use three Airport Express for the optical digital output in a couple of rooms and as wifi-extenders, where I have an extreme on each of the 3 floors. I still have a 5th Gen Airport Extreme in the storage closet that I can move into it's place.

It might be time to buy a Linksys mesh network, with one as my primary router in the basement and extender in the kitchen right above it, and then move the Timecapsule to the 3rd floor as just a hard-wired access point and for backups.

View attachment 826244 View attachment 826244
I was considering the Linksys, but it has more limited flexibility compared to other brands, and some people have reported some flakiness and/or mediocre performance. After looking at what's out there, I didn't see much point in going from a multi-Extreme setup to a Linksys. It seems the upgrade path is more like UniFi, in terms of performance, configurability, and stability. And stability is big one for me. The AirPort Extreme network is 100% stable for me, at least if the router is also an Extreme. (I've had problems with third party routers and Extremes as access points only.)

It seemed that unless the household got more Android and/or Windows mobile clients, the better bang for the buck for the near term is to continue with the multi-Extreme setup, keeping it going by buying a cheap one (or two) off eBay. Later on I'd make a bigger jump, to a higher end third party mesh system.
 

bubsdaddy

macrumors regular
Mar 5, 2008
165
61
The Woodlands, TX
I have found most of my Airports on Craigslist and Ebay so I don't have a great deal of money in my setup. I have 2 A1264 AEs in a drawer. The reason the A1392 is being sold at a higher price might be due to the ability to use Airplay2 after a recent firmware upgrade.

Wow. 9 AirPorts. Now you need just one more to make it an even 10. ;)


I've been having trouble finding inexpensive 2nd gen 802.11n A1392 Expresses up here in Canada. People are wanting much more money for the A1392, asking as much as the Extremes. The older A1264 one is available for not too much, but I would mainly prefer the newer A1392 one, not only because it is newer with some more WiFi features, but also because it has dual Ethernet ports. I also wonder if A1392 is more robust. Both my 802.11g Express and my 1st gen 802.11n Express died, likely due to heat in that compact package, whereas all of my Extremes have been fine so far. BTW, my 6th gen Extremes all run much cooler than my 5th gen Extreme, I guess because the 6th gen has a fan.
 

HeadphoneAddict

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2007
982
815
I was considering the Linksys, but it has more limited flexibility compared to other brands, and some people have reported some flakiness and/or mediocre performance. After looking at what's out there, I didn't see much point in going from a multi-Extreme setup to a Linksys. It seems the upgrade path is more like UniFi, in terms of performance, configurability, and stability. And stability is big one for me. The AirPort Extreme network is 100% stable for me, at least if the router is also an Extreme. (I've had problems with third party routers and Extremes as access points only.)

It seemed that unless the household got more Android and/or Windows mobile clients, the better bang for the buck for the near term is to continue with the multi-Extreme setup, keeping it going by buying a cheap one (or two) off eBay. Later on I'd make a bigger jump, to a higher end third party mesh system.
Well, when I run out of Extreme's I don't know where to go next, if I don't want to be on eBay buying used "unsupported" Apple routers. I really wish Apple had just stayed in the game.

What it this "higher end third party mesh system" you speak of, if the Linksys Mesh isn't good enough?
 

HeadphoneAddict

macrumors 6502a
Sep 16, 2007
982
815
My eyeballs turned into little swirly spirals by the time I got to the 1st chart... Apple is so simple in comparison:

Set up 3 GB TimeCapsule Airport Extreme in basement, dual band 2.4/5 Ghz for compatibility + guest access.
Plug into cable modem in basement (Xfinity wifi off).
Plug ethernet cables from my two NAS and one 8 port switch into the TimeCapsule.
Ethernet cables leave switch to go to all parts of the house (pre-wired).
Plug in second Airport Extreme to ethernet jack on main floor, and another Extreme to ethernet jack on top floor.
Set those Extremes to bridge mode as access point only, with a unique SSID @ 5Ghz only.
Plug Smart TV and ATV and Xbox into the back of each of those Extremes.
Set up an Airport Express in kitchen & family room to extend the basements dual band 2.4/5 Ghz TimeCapsule
Connect ethernet output of the family room Express to my Perfectwave DAC with ethernet input.
Set up Airport Express in master Bedroom to extend whatever SSID I want.
Connect bedroom Express's optical output into headphone DAC/amp by desk.
Program in some fixed IP addresses for some devices like my NAS, cameras, or Macs for remote access.
Open up some ports to the outside for certain software (security and cameras) or music servers.
Done.
 
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MickG

macrumors newbie
Mar 14, 2006
20
3
Santa Barbara, CA
I've mentioned this before but now that I have an all-Extreme WiFi network, I thought I'd post an AirPort Utility screen grab.

View attachment 823921

My final AirPort Express died, leaving a small gap in my network, but instead switching to a true third party mesh network I decided to add one more AirPort Extreme to my setup to hold me over for a while longer. I've gotten some used/refurb'd ones relatively inexpensively so it does make sense, esp. since the cheaper mesh systems out there don't really turn my crank, and the higher end ones are expensive. My last 802.11ac AirPort Extreme cost me all of US$55 on eBay, shipped. One AirPort Extreme is definitely not good enough for this big L-shaped house. I can get by with two 802.11ac units, but having three AirPorts is much better, and four means strong signal almost everywhere.

I put my Rogers Hitron CODA-4582U cable modem in bridge mode, with one AirPort (Basement) as the router. Using the cable modem as the router was a less stable setup, plus it sometimes seemed to have odd incompatibilities with AirPorts. All the other AirPorts are used as simple WiFi bridges, on a wired Gigabit backbone using a 24-port Zonet unmanaged switch as the main switch. Overall, this AirPort setup works as a sort of mesh system because Apple devices will seamlessly roam from AirPort to AirPort as long as they have the same SSID. (Apple devices don't do this non-Apple access points unless it's a true mesh.) My non-Apple devices don't roam properly, but almost all of them are stationary devices so it doesn't matter.

Overall it's uber stable, fast, and not too expensive (if you are lucky enough to have existing hardware and/or you can find good deals on used equipment).
Perhaps it has already been said, but while I don't have a technical suggestion, I think that this is the most clever Subject heading I've seen in a long time. Haha! I guess you could say many of us have Extreme Prejudice too. ;)

I do, however, have 2 brand new Airport units that I have no use for, now that I've moved to a Synology router and Ubiquity APs. I was trying to hang on longer, but finally took the plunge.
 
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jammybastard

macrumors regular
Apr 26, 2010
119
16
In Trasnic
Thhis is an inspiring thread, but I can’t even get my two AP Express’s to re-pair with my Extreme after a power outage let alone consider adding any more to the network.
How do you keep the wireless Express units config’d and connected?
I’ve been running to Express’s wireless off the Extreme base station for years but everytime they lose their connection I feel like I have to conduct a voodoo ceremony to get them re-connected.
 

MickG

macrumors newbie
Mar 14, 2006
20
3
Santa Barbara, CA
Thhis is an inspiring thread, but I can’t even get my two AP Express’s to re-pair with my Extreme after a power outage let alone consider adding any more to the network.
How do you keep the wireless Express units config’d and connected?
I’ve been running to Express’s wireless off the Extreme base station for years but everytime they lose their connection I feel like I have to conduct a voodoo ceremony to get them re-connected.
The real answer moving forward is that Apple is no longer in the wireless network business. Maybe one day they'll return, but in the meantime, all this equipment can do is age and become obsolete. I've been an Apple-only wireless network since the old UFO units, and now have gone with a Synology router that I've come to love (because you can do SO much more with it than you ever could with an Airport and Airport Utility--Apple likes to seal off these options to keep you from poking around under the hood) and 4 ethernet connected Ubiquity wireless access points.

The Synology router (which, BTW, will actually still sync up with Airport units as extenders, at least on digital paper) is not particularly beautiful, but the Ubiquity units are gorgeous, sleek, flying saucers.

All Apple network hardware is now gone but this new system is the most Apple-like I could design. Synology's support system is pretty awesome (all written, but still very good, especially if you get "Lars") and their software interface to the router is much more

Good luck! I didn't want to leave the Apple hardware setup, but now that I've mastered the new one, I realize how much more control I have over things. Either way, we don't really have a choice.

Apple is telling us to move on...
 

Jackrhodes2107

macrumors newbie
May 1, 2020
1
0
image.jpg

So can someone help me figure out how to extend my AirPort Express from my AirPort Extreme instead of from my time capsule?
 

Anonymous Freak

macrumors 603
Dec 12, 2002
5,258
617
Cascadia
So can someone help me figure out how to extend my AirPort Express from my AirPort Extreme instead of from my time capsule?
1. Try a new thread instead of reviving an old thread.

2. AirPort base stations decide on their own which to connect to based on signal strength and other factors. Mine would regularly switch which way they connected to each other, sometimes extending piggy-back on another, sometimes both connecting directly to the main. About the only way to 'guarantee' that it will extend the extension is to place the Express where it *CAN'T* reach the main Time Capsule, but can reach the Extreme.

Also, I'd upgrade to a newer / non-Apple mesh-supported system. Apple doesn't support the AirPort base stations any more, and hasn't provided security updates in a while - they are almost certainly vulnerable to some form of attack.
 
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