Thinking of buying an Airport Express or Extreme, need advice.

Discussion in 'Mac OS X Server, Xserve, and Networking' started by ShadowXOR, Oct 11, 2010.

  1. ShadowXOR macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Location:
    Washington
    #1
    Here's what I'm going to be running:

    Xbox 360 - I use Xbox Live constantly, it's important to be able to host, have all ports open, low ping, and a perfectly smooth experience. This is my number one priority. I use it for gaming, Netflix streaming, and it's basically my entertainment hub.

    PS3 - Rarely used, but would like to have a solid online experience when I do.

    Wii - Also rarely used, but would like to have as few connectivity problems as possible.

    iMacs (3) - We have three iMacs, two upstairs near where the router will go, and one downstairs. Used constantly for online gaming, web browsing, solid experience required as well here and a very close priority to the 360.

    iPhones (2) - Just needs to work.

    Sometimes I have friends who come over and use the WiFi but at most it would likely be one more device at a time.

    Obviously these aren't all connected at the same time, we have a fast 16MB internet connection and the most that we'll be running at once would likely be the 360, and all three iMacs with maybe an iPhone or two.

    We recently bought a high-end Netgear router that has nothing but issues. It's a dual-band 2.4/5.0GHz. I'm no networking pro but I know what I'm doing, I've tried WEP, WPA, WPA2, turning off all security measures, opening ports, DMZ mode, etc. and no matter what I'm having issues. My old G Netgear had less issues than this but couldn't reach downstairs which is why we bought the new one, to hopefully extend range, which it KIND of did. But everything that worked previously fine, didn't with the new one. The 360 even with all ports open has major issues which it never did previously.

    The iMac downstairs worked fine for a while but now has issues with lag, and sometimes not accepting the wireless key even though it's right. Note it worked fine far away, we've now moved it much closer and are still having issues, we're hoping the new Apple router will fix this. Sure it's downstairs, but it's right at the bottom and I don't feel it's THAT far away. Maybe I'm wrong but I feel we should have connectivity.

    As you can tell by everything I've written I'm very frustrated (routers are always a nightmare) and really want to get this fixed. Any help would be fantastic.

    I feel that most likely an Express would work but I wanted to check. How much better is the range on the Extreme? I'd obviously like to save money but ultimately the setup needs to work. Do you feel I would benefit from the Extreme? I really have no need for dual-band and only got this one because it was a good price and thought it would solve our problem, but instead we just have issues with both bands.

    So for my situation Express, or Extreme, and what would I be giving up by going with the Express, if anything? Thanks for the advice, and the more detailed the better for my decision weighing process. Really appreciate anyone who makes it through this wall of text.

    EDIT: Great point pugu, I only use wireless, nothing hard-wired. And we don't really use internal file transfers, we mainly all just use the internet for a variety of bandwidth intensive purposes.

    And in-case the first Airport Express didn't do it, could I buy a second to use downstairs as a repeater?
     
  2. pugu macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 20, 2008
    Location:
    London, UK
    #2
    We have an Extreme but it only does wifi. We also have a totally over the top D-Link Gigabit 24 port Switch but it works great. I have found that no matter what router I have the hard ports seem to take priority, so if you're doing a big file transfer WiFi is useless. Off-loading this to the OTT switch has helped a lot with getting big files to the PS3 and so on. So I'm not suggesting you buy an OTT switch like me, just sharing my findings as you seem to be interested.

    We tried the 5gHz on the Extreme but it was rubbish and slow. Despite being in a very WiFi crowded street using 802.11n over 2.4gHz works great. We had a problem with a flat mate on the top floor getting drop outs but moving the switch to a top shelf helped improve this.

    So I'm very happy with the extreme, but like all WiFi it takes a bit of moving around to find the sweet spot. I imagine the Express would give a similar performance although I only have the older (not n) model which was also very good when it was in use.

    P
     
  3. ShadowXOR thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Location:
    Washington
    #3
    Thanks for the info! We only use WiFi as well, so no hard-wire is needed, and we don't really transfer files internally, we mainly just use the internet for a variety of bandwidth-intensive purposes. We're in a crowded street as well and my current router's 5GHz signal is definitely terrible.

    And in-case the first Airport Express didn't do it, could I buy a second to use downstairs as a repeater?
     
  4. ShadowXOR thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Location:
    Washington
  5. SidBala macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2010
    #5
    What kind of "issues" are you having? Chances are that your issues may be inherent to your location/building etc and that neither the airport Express nor the Extreme will solve them.

    Also, exactly which router do you have right now? Having "dual-band" doesn't always mean it's better. There are plenty of dual band routers that are horrible and also plenty of single band routers that are fantastic.

    Even if you are connected on low signal strength, the connection should still be able to sustain more than the 16mbps you got on your internet.

    If you want to use it for hosting games, then you should not use wifi at all. Even the greatest wifi routers will lag compared to a wired connection.

    netflix, youtube, downloads etc are more tolerant to lag, but I would advice you against doing downloads over wifi. P2P on wifi can easily kill weak routers.

    These usually don't affect the router's performance that much, unless if it is underpowered. There is probably something else that is wrong with your setup.


    Again, what issues specifically, are you having with routers?
     
  6. Lyshen macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Location:
    California
    #6
    It sounds like you may need a repeater for your wifi network... to extend the signal for your entire dwelling.
     
  7. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #7
    Yes, but at a serious cost in throughput. If there is *any* way to get an Ethernet cable downstairs, you could configure the two Airport Expresses as a roaming network and have seamless automatic handoff from downstairs to upstairs (wireless devices in the house could use whichever AE had the best signal, mobile devices would switch as needed).

    A.
     
  8. jwilson25 macrumors regular

    jwilson25

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2009
    #8
    I have an Extreme with X360, PS3, Wii, MacBook, Windows 7 Media Center, Windows 7 Laptop, Buffalo NAS, 2 iPhones and an iPad, all of them have worked flawlessly. I have had no issues with Xbox live whether joining a game or hosting one. I use the PS3 a lot of PlayOn media running through my Win 7 MC and no issues with that either. One thing I can definitely say is that wireless router I had before (NetGear RangeMax) had a spotty connection to the Apple stuff but pretty good to Windows clients. The Extreme has flawless connection to all the Apple stuff and works great with the MS stuff too.

    One caveat to my setup is that my house is Cat5e wired, so a bunch of my stuff is wired, but I wanted to more comment to the Xbox Live performance in my post as well.
     
  9. dXTC macrumors 68020

    dXTC

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Up, up in my studio, studio
    #9
    In a two-Airport-Express setup, the second Express must connect via WiFi. The first (master) Express's single Ethernet port would be connected to the modem to get Internet. There is no LAN port on the Express; it's a WAN port only.

    Additional caveats to this setup: Any computer connecting wirelessly to the second Express will have its network throughput halved, and any WiFi device that uses G only will cause every other device on both Expresses to fall back to G.

    An Extreme and an Express could be configured via Ethernet (Extreme LAN port to Express WAN port). This eliminates the half-throughput problem, gives solid Ethernet connections to any nearby Ethernet-enabled device if desired (the iMacs would be best connected this way, but if that's not to your liking, so be it), and as long as any WiFi-G devices connect directly to the Extreme, all WiFi devices can remain at top speed due to the Extreme's Simultaneous Dual Band.
     
  10. Mr Kram macrumors 68000

    Mr Kram

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2008
    #10
    another difference is that the express will only host 10 users, the extreme 50. the extreme can also accommodate a usb hub to connect multiple printers/hard drives. the express can support airtunes.

    i personally use an extreme as my main router and i have two expresses in other locations of the house set up as WDS.
     
  11. matspekkie macrumors member

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2010
    #11
    airport

    I have both an airport extreme (dual bandwith) and an airport express.
    For me these devices work flawless. i have the extreme setup as router wifi access and the express as wireless expander and for streaming music. My findings are the extreme is supreme in routing and latency have it setup wide band in the 5 ghz. also use tunnel 6to4 routing. connected devices wifi are macbook, pc laptop, appletv, iphone, server wired. My general findings: extreme offers really good routing performance, wifi transfer speed, low latency. airport express: range seams to be about the same, transfer speed is lower (no GHz port only 100 Mbs, i get wireless transfer speeds with extreme above the limit of the 100 Mbs ). In short the extreme is the way to go if you can spare the money. the express is a good generic wifi router for who does not need extreme performance great for music streaming and extending your wifi range. Oh did i mention do work great as a couple!!!
    mat
     
  12. Alrescha macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2008
    #12
    This is true if you have two Airport Expresses, and no other devices. The original poster has a Netgear router he isn't using :)

    For a roaming setup, you would have a device acting as the home router and two (or more) Airport Expresses in bridge mode providing the wireless networking. There is no loss of bandwidth.

    A.
     
  13. dXTC macrumors 68020

    dXTC

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Up, up in my studio, studio
    #13
    I had overlooked the OP's mention of the Netgear router. Mea culpa.

    I'd follow Alrescha's advice, then: Internet into Netgear router, then via Ethernet to the two Expresses in bridge mode if possible/practical. Sure, the two Expresses could be connected via WiFi, but that may run into problems if the Netgear router's WiFi is as flaky as is claimed.
     
  14. ShadowXOR thread starter macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2008
    Location:
    Washington
    #14
    Thanks for the info guys, and I plan on selling the Netgear, I don't just mean the performance is unreliable downstairs, my Xbox 360 that is practically next to the router is extremely flakey over the wireless and I'm not new to this. My current plan is to buy an Express, if it works, fantastic, if not buy an Extreme to use the Express as an extender?

    Also, is now a good time to buy an Express/Extreme or will they be replaced soon? They aren't on the Buyer's Guide.
     
  15. dXTC macrumors 68020

    dXTC

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Location:
    Up, up in my studio, studio
    #15
    I'm with you on the Netgear. My first ever router was a Netgear, and it never was very reliable. This was disappointing, as I have a couple of small Netgear hubs that still work great. I had a D-Link after that, and it was rather good, a pleasant surprise considering its price.

    I second the recommendation of a refurb Extreme in your case (coupled with an Express as an extender); it gives you a bit more flexibility and perhaps stronger signal than an Express would give in the same position. Also, as Mr Kram points out, the Express has a 10-client limit, and you may begin to hit that limit with just a couple of additional devices.
     
  16. macbug macrumors newbie

    macbug

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2006
    #16
    I also recommend the Extreme: I'm very happy with mine, use it for time machine backups, internet access, etc. The new dual radio Extreme with the guest feature is pretty awesome too. Highly recommend.
     

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