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Apple once again delivers with an incredibly powerful wireless router

  • Jun 7, 2010
Rating:
+4
Although I generally consider myself a "power user" when it comes to home computing and electronics, I've always kinda considered networking devices as a second class citizen.  I felt like it either worked or it didn't, and I could never justify the additional cost of more expensive routers when they seemed to have the same basic feature set as significantly cheaper routers.  For example, my previous router was an Airlink101 Wireless N router that I picked up at Fry's for $15.  It seemed like it worked "well enough", but recently I found that I had begun compromising my behavior...
  • Our house isn't that big, but I found there were "dead" spots where I couldn't get on the WiFi
  • Some devices would drop signal now and then
  • I ran into some limitations when opening ports for outside access.
  • Wireless speeds were not as fast as they should have been for a Wireless N device.
I realized I no longer had the time or patience to be continuously troubleshooting the network, so I decided to take the plunge on the Apple AirportExtreme Base Station.  There were a few features that really stood out at me from the specs alone.

Simultaneous Dual-Band Wifi

From what I understand, this increases the range and speed for environments with mixed Wireless devices.  I had also purchased the Apple AirportExpress to use to increase the range of the network, but I found that out of the box, the AirportExtreme was able to cover everywhere in my house, so the additional device wasn't necessary.

Guest Networking

I hadn't really thought about this as a feature I'd need, but now that I know I have it, I'll definitely use it.  If you have "sketchy" friends coming over who need to use your network, you can put them on the "Guest Network" so they have access to the internet, but not to any of your computers or documents on your local network.

USB Port

Once again, a feature I never thought I needed in the past, but now that I have it, I'm  making full use of it.  You can connect a printer or hard drive (or both if you use a hub) to share your device across your network.  If you like, you can even make those devices available from outside your network should you need to print or access files remotely.  Before, I had a dedicated computer that was always on in order to share files and the printer, but now I can save energy by turning off the computer and sharing the devices directly from the router.

Advanced Port Mapping Rules

I have multiple computers on my network, and sometimes I need to access them remotely.  Most routers allow you to map a port (like FTP) to a specific machine.  But what if you want to FTP to more than one machine -- on my old router, I needed to do some fancy footwork to make this happen, but with the AirportExtreme, I could just create a different EXTERNAL port that maps to FTP on another machine.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably don't need this feature, but if you have run into this issue, you'll find this implementation is excellent!

Easy to Configure

I'm not sure if other routers have this option, but when I set up this router, I told it was upgrading from another device.  The AirportExtreme looked for my existing router and was able to import my Wireless security settings.  This is really only a one-time step, but it was really nice to be able to ensure that I wouldn't need to reconfigure all the "clients" on my network.  Apple does require you to use their "Airport Utility" software (pre-installed on all Macs, downloadable for PC's) to setup the device which is kind of a pain if you are used to using a Web-based client.  But I think this approach is what made the "upgrade" process so smooth since it could access the passwords saved to my computer.  Also, it's nice to just plug in the device and let the software look for your router, rather than having to remember what the IP address is for the different routers.

The AirportExtreme was definitely a departure from my usual router buying habits due to it's higher cost ($180 currently on Amazon), but the added functionality and ease of use was worthwhile.  It resolved the issues I set out to fix from the beginning and that's all I can ask.  For most people, the $15 routers will work fine, but if you find yourself having to troubleshoot your router more often than you'd like, then additional cost is well worth it.

PROS:
  • Easy to install
  • Great WiFi speeds
  • Great WiFi range
  • Advanced Port mapping
  • Guest Network
  • Printer and Hard Drive sharing
  • Easy to expand with AirportExpress
CONS:
  • It's more expensive than the cheapest WiFi routers, but also more feature rich
  • No web management interface

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June 08, 2010
Whoa, I had no idea that this type of technology and these features existed! My wifi setup's working fine for me, but if I ever need these features, I know that they're out there. Thanks for sharing!
 
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More Apple AirPort Extreme Base Sta... reviews
review by . July 14, 2010
... but after reading a batch of earlier reviews, I find I'm out of my league! I have nothing technical to add. I bought the AirPort Extreme at an Apple Store in a mall, hoping to get fewer delays and faster loads than I was getting from my DSL through my small, simple NetGear router. And that's what I've gotten, so I'm highly satisfied. But I should have purchased though Mother Amazoo; I'd have saved fifty bucks.
Quick Tip by . June 07, 2010
Kinda pricey for a wireless router, but the AirportExtreme has several features I hadn't seen in other routers I've used.
review by . May 09, 2010
posted in Ubergizmo
There is a lot to like about the Airport Extreme - It offers lightening fast connections via dual bands, a USB port to offer network flexibility, and the ability to join and amplify an existing network. In my case it works well but not perfectly (I will admit I have not tried to use it to expand an existing network).      The features that I like      - The N-band is lightening fast. One example is my Apple TV with 160GB Hard Drive - MB189LL/A which now downloads …
About the reviewer
Andrew ()
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I'm a technology early adopter. I thoroughly enjoy geeking out with the latest hardware, software and electronics. I probably have as much fun setting up, tweaking, and configuring systems as I do actually … more
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Wiki

The new AirPort Extreme is the perfect wireless solution for home, school, and small business. With higher speeds and greater range, the AirPort Extreme Base Station offers super fast wireless network access throughout just about any home, office, or classroom. And with simultaneous support for 802.11b/g and 802.11n bands, all your Wi-Fi devices can get the best possible wireless performance and range.

Apple Airport Extreme
At a Glance:
  • Simultaneous dual-band support for 802.11b/g and 802.11n
  • USB 2.0 port for sharing a hard drive or printer
  • Three Gigabit Ethernet ports
  • Easy guest networking


The sleek Airport Extreme has Ethernet ports and a USB 2.0 port. Simultaneous Dual-Band Support
Some Wi-Fi devices use the 2.4GHz wireless band, including iPhone, iPod touch, and devices using 802.11b/g. Other devices can use either 2.4GHz or the higher-speed 5GHz band, such as the latest 802.11n-based Mac computers and Apple TV. Instead of choosing one of the bands, AirPort Extreme operates simultaneously on both bands, and your multiband devices automatically use the best available band. This means all your Wi-Fi devices get the fastest possible wireless performance and the best possible range. In addition, AirPort Extreme reduces the possibility of interference from appliances and cordless phones that use the 2.4GHz band.

 

Even Faster Performance Than Before
Based on the IEEE 802.11n specification, AirPort Extreme uses a technology called multiple-input ...

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