Wi-Fi at its finest with Apple hardware

Roman2K~

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 11, 2011
552
16
My little success story switching to Apple's AirPort products to handle Wi-Fi at home, FWIW.

TL;DR: if you're experiencing any pain with your current Wi-Fi access point, do consider investing in an AirPort Extreme or Express. Flawless signal and throughput, easy to configure yet featureful. Worth their price, and then some.

Back when I was still using my Internet provider's DSL modem + router + access point, throughput on my Wi-Fi devices was low and unstable when more than 5 meters away. It was 2.4 GHz 802.11g. I knew this frequency range was crowded, so as I have a homemade Linux NAS that's always on, I figured I would make it a 5 GHz 802.11n access point as well. I bought an ALFA AWUS051NH, compiled the right kernel module (driver), configured hostapd. Seemed easy, except I ran into a whole lot of troubles trying to configure country codes, enabling the 5 GHz radio, keeping it stable (the device would freeze periodically). I'm not one to back down from heavy, cumbersome configuration and troubleshooting, but the situation was a mess even weeks later. It comes down to drivers maturity, for sure, but there wasn't a lot I could do about drivers. Time spent learning online progressively turned into wasted time and energy.

Weeks of tinkering later, I finally gave up. While searching for alternatives, I realized all the MacBooks and iOS devices have always had the best signal and throughput of all the connected clients. That directed me toward the AirPort Extreme. After reading AnandTech's review, I was almost sold. The price was a barrier, 159€ is not cheap for a router + access point. Since I've never been disappointed by Apple's product, I eventually bought it.

Little did I know, this purchase turned out to be a lifesaver. Dead easy configuration with my iPhone, yet impressive array of features, all well organized, even more so on the OS X version of AirPort utility. Everything worked flawlessly on first try. Not only that, but it brought simultaneous 2.4 GHz (useful for the iPhone) and 5 GHz networks, both with a strong signal and high throughput. A couple figures: MacBook Air via 5 GHz 802.11n to the NAS (wired): 20 MB/s a few meters away, 16 MB/s upstairs. Very impressive. 6+ months later, not a single drop of signal, same throughput.

Today, I replaced that same ALFA adapter (this time as a simple client) on a Linux computer, with an AirPort Express. 500 KB/s with signal drops turned into 8.5 MB/s with stable signal (couple hours, but I don't see it dropping anytime soon). Again, configured with my iPhone seamlessly (just joining an existing Wi-Fi network, bridged, connected to the computer via Ethernet). What a relief!

I'm extremely pleased with both the AirPort Extreme and Express. Fantastic devices. I can imagine this sounds cliché, but it's Wi-Fi the way it should be. Configure and forget.

Anybody stuck with mediocre (if working) Wi-Fi should seriously consider putting the money into an AirPort. Both the Extreme and Express seem expensive but the time saved surely is worth more. Not to mention the usual Apple-level hardware quality. Both feel robust, built to last and look sleek.
 
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Seamaster

macrumors 65816
Feb 24, 2003
1,081
123
I agree. All my problems with wifi were solved when I bought a Time Capsule and demoted my ISP's wireless router to a mere conduit for broadband.
 

iMarvin

macrumors 6502
Sep 29, 2011
268
2
On the internet!
I totally agree, had problems with home sharing with my d-link. Switched it to a time capsule, everything works flawlessly and super fast.
 

NT1440

macrumors G5
May 18, 2008
12,176
14,210
Anyone think an airport extreme 802.11ac update is in the cards?
 

Roman2K~

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 11, 2011
552
16
I agree. All my problems with wifi were solved when I bought a Time Capsule and demoted my ISP's wireless router to a mere conduit for broadband.
I totally agree, had problems with home sharing with my d-link. Switched it to a time capsule, everything works flawlessly and super fast.
Excellent, both your experiences :).

Anyone think an airport extreme 802.11ac update is in the cards?
Though nobody knows for certain, it's safe to say that yes. I guess they'll come along with the first 802.11ac-compatible client device, like a newer generation MacBook Pro or iMac.
 

Abazigal

macrumors G5
Jul 18, 2011
12,076
9,832
Singapore
How does it stack up against other market routers like the asus rt n56u? :confused:

I am in the market for a new router but can't really tell what is good or what I am getting for my money. I know the asus router is more expensive, and up to an extent, I am willing to pay for better quality.
 

Zeke D

macrumors 65816
Nov 18, 2011
1,006
156
Arizona
How does it stack up against other market routers like the asus rt n56u? :confused:

I am in the market for a new router but can't really tell what is good or what I am getting for my money. I know the asus router is more expensive, and up to an extent, I am willing to pay for better quality.
I have found the TC gets better coverage than several D-Link and Netgear routers as well as my ISP's wireless N router. Plus the seamless interoperability with the Airport express made me fall in love.
 

Roman2K~

macrumors 6502a
Original poster
Mar 11, 2011
552
16
How does it stack up against other market routers like the asus rt n56u? :confused:

I am in the market for a new router but can't really tell what is good or what I am getting for my money. I know the asus router is more expensive, and up to an extent, I am willing to pay for better quality.
The RT-N56U has a Ralink chipset which are not the most Linux friendly (for custom firmwares). I would much rather go with a Broadcom one like the N66U which is supported by DD-WRT. See this list. The N56U also has only 2 channels (up to 300 Mbit/s) compared to the 3 channels of the N66U (up to 450 Mbits/s).

If you're willing to put that kind of money though, you would be better off with the AirPort Extreme.

I have found the TC gets better coverage than several D-Link and Netgear routers as well as my ISP's wireless N router. Plus the seamless interoperability with the Airport express made me fall in love.
What's TC ?
+1 about the interoperability with the Express. Setting it up was such a smooth experience, instant reward for the 99€.

Apple networking equipment is comparable to most other high-end consumer routers. In some areas they perform better, in others worse. It's all about the same.
I'm sure some alternatives must perform as well in raw numbers, but I doubt any of them can match the AirPort in terms of ease of use, and most importantly, reliability. My Extreme lasted 6 months and a half (and counting) up 24/7 with no signal loss or slow down. I've tried a bunch of wireless routers before, but none that could even hope to do half as well.
 

SpyderBite

macrumors 65816
Oct 4, 2011
1,262
8
Xanadu
I had a netgear n300 last 3 years before I replaced it with an airport extreme. The n300 still worked fine, I just wanted a dual band router since the number of wireless devices had multiplied since we first got the netgear.

I like the app configuration tool vs the traditional setup via ethernet cable.
 

Navdakilla

macrumors 65816
Feb 3, 2011
1,100
13
Canada
I totally agree, had problems with home sharing with my d-link. Switched it to a time capsule, everything works flawlessly and super fast.
Exactly what happened with me. Tons of problems with other routers, finally had some money and got a time capsule. Never looked back (mind you, my house ia mainly a Apple oriented house, so it works really well in that case)