router upgrade from AEBS-n?

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by albireo13, Apr 17, 2018.

  1. albireo13 macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2014
    I've been using and Airport Extreme-n Wifi router for many years now. It has been very reliable and I loved the plugnplay setup! Now, I am getting a new Mac 27"- 2018 with 802.11ac and think it's time for a router refresh.

    My setup:
    router in TV/living room
    4K smart TV and my Mac in same room, connected via Wifi to router (minimize cables)
    ipads and iphones either upstairs or in finished basement

    I know I should use cable connection for the Mac and the TV (same room as router) and I may still do that but, my wife isn't too keen on the idea of running cables in the room.

    So, I am considering upgrading router to the AEBS-ac, the .ac version of the Apple router. I know it's not the fastest out there but, at least it doesn't look like a big, black alien spider sitting in my living room!
    I also like Apple's ease of setup of the Apple router.

    Question: Is the newer AEBS-ac worth the upgrade from the AEBS-n? Will I see a difference?
    Are there better options/router models that are just as easy to setup?

  2. techwarrior, Apr 17, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018

    techwarrior macrumors 65816


    Jul 30, 2009
    Will you see a difference? That is a tough question to answer, results will vary.

    First, your internet speed is a function of the service level with your cable company. Your download speeds will never be greater than the slowest link in the chain, and for most of us, that is the ISP link.

    802.11ac uses both 2.4 and 5Ghz frequencies. 2.4 has longer range that 5Ghz, so in remote areas of the home, the best signal may be 2.4Ghz. The speeds for 2.4Ghz on an AC router may not be any better than on the current AEBS, but could be significantly faster when connected to the 5Ghz AC signal. But, those speeds would tend to only make a difference when transferring large files between devices on your network. And for small files, it should make 0 difference.

    Regardless of the type\frequency of signal, the data flows at the same speed. But, larger files pulling more data than the bandwidth of your signal will cache data, thus appearing to slow things down. Think of a 1 gallon water bucket. It will fill faster with a 2" hose than a 1" hose provided the water pressure is equal to, or greater than that needed to fill a 2" hose. But, if you fill it with a trickle of water, it will fill at the same speed regardless of the size of the hose.

    The shorter range of the 5Ghz AC signal will be "enhanced" by the beam forming properties of the radios in the newer AEBS. Beam forming detects the general direction of the client and focusses the signal in that direction to improve distance and throughput. But, that only goes so far. You may find is some areas, performance is no better, but in places close to the router, it may be significantly better.

    As for speeds, consider this example:

    ISP - (100Mbps)
    802.11n - (150-400 Mbps generally) - your current AEBS, and the AC router for clients at greater distances.
    802.11ac - (up to 1300Mbps) - the AC router

    If the ISP service is 100Mbps, the fastest internet download speeds will be is 100Mbps, regardless of WiFi type. So, even clients connecting at AC 1300Mbps speeds will see no better than 100Mbps internet download speeds.

    Both AEBS have 1000Mbps Ethernet ports, so if transferring files between hard wired devices, or from a WiFi to hard wired device, it will be no faster that 1000Mbps. But, two device on AC Wifi could conceivably transfer files at close to 1300Mbps. If you have a USB Drive connected to the BS, or buy Time Capsule, and use the BS for Time Machine backups, it will likely be faster using the AC router.

    Airport devices are several years old, and while the technology has improved a bit beyond Airport capabilities, the advances are incremental. Next-gen WiFi (802.11ax) is due to hit the markets in the next year or two. AX promises to be significantly improved in speed, range, and contention avoidance (what slows most WiFi networks, particularly in dense urban areas).

    No telling if Apple will jump back into the game. Rumors are they re-assigned AP engineers to other products and discontinued dev work on new AP products, but perhaps that will change now that new standards are emerging.

    All this to say, if your current needs are satisfactory, you may want to wait.
  3. albireo13 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2014
    Rethinking my strategy now.
    My AEBS has 3 GB LAN ports on it. I can do the following ...
    1. turn off wireless and use it as just a router
    2. connect TV and my Mac to it via cable
    3. get a wireless access point and add that to the last LAN port

    Thus I can keep using the AEBS and just buy a nice AP.

    What do you think?
  4. belvdr macrumors 603

    Aug 15, 2005
    No longer logging into MR
    That's exactly the model I use, in pretty much the same way. I now have all my gear separate:

    Cable Company -> Personally owned cable modem -> router -> multiple APs

    I find separating it out has provided me additional stability and performance.
  5. albireo13 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Apr 10, 2014
    Great. Any recommendations for an AP that has good range and at least 802.11ac?

    I'm hoping to get by with just one AP
  6. thisismyusername macrumors 6502

    Nov 1, 2015
    I also use that same strategy (Fiber ONT -> Wired only Router -> separate Switch -> old router acting as just a wireless AP). Everything is in the basement except my wireless AP which is upstairs so I can get away with having only 1 for the entire house.

    My AP is only wireless N but I plan on eventually replacing it with an Ubiquiti AP (, however, I'll probably wait for 802.11ax which is what's going to finally replace AC. AC is pretty old at this point and N is still good enough for me. If I had to buy an AP today, I'd get either the UniFi AC Lite or UniFi AC Pro.
  7. getrealbro macrumors regular

    Sep 25, 2015

    And unlike the new Airport Extremes-ac, those clunky old Airports-n support SNMP. So for $10 you can use PeakHour 4 to monitor the traffic through the old Airport Extremes and Expresses to determine whether you really need ac speeds.

    FWIW I run an old Airport Extreme-n as my main router in the living room, with an Ethernet link to an Airport Express in the bedroom wing. PeakHour 4 provides real time and historical graphs of the internet traffic, and the traffic to/from the Airport Express which serves the devices in the bedroom wing: iMac, AppleTV, iPad, iPhones, Dish Hopper 3, Vizo TV, etc.. And since the iMac and my MacBook support SNMP I also monitor the traffic to/from them.

    -- GetRealBro
  8. hobowankenobi macrumors 6502a

    Aug 27, 2015
    on the land line mr. smith.
    I don't have one but:

    If I were looking for a new wifi router that had to look sexy and be easy to manage, and be easily extendable, amplifi would be at the top of my list.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 23, 2018 ---
    I do have 2 UBNT Unfi AC lite APs, and they have been rock solid.

    Just took them down for a firmware update, after 159 days untouched.

    My only real gripe is that the controller/config software can be run from a computer OR a mobile device.

    Not you have to pick. Minor annoyance.

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