Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n – Best Wi-Fi router for home/small business?


Is the Apple Airport Extreme 802.11n Wireless router, the best option for home/small business? It depends on what you are looking for. There are definitely cheaper Wi-Fi routers available in the market that support many more features than the Airport Extreme. But the Airport Extreme does stand out for certain reasons like dual radio 802.11n operation, USB connectivity for sharing a printer/external hard disk, separate guest access network, 3 gigabit ports and many more such features.

More than everything else, it’s from Apple and it is the best wireless router released by this vendor, yet. The Apple Airport Extreme is intended to be used in both homes and small businesses for creating a wireless network (Wi-Fi) to which one can connect their laptops, desktop computers, ipad, Wi-Fi enabled phones, Wi-Fi music systems, Video streaming players, etc. Among other applications, you can share the Internet, printers, home/business server, hard-drive/NAS appliance and share files/music/video with all users over the wireless network.

Video Introduction (Unboxing, Set-up):

Main features of the Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi router:

  • Supports the IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi standard and is backward compatible with 802.11 a/b/g
  • 1 x USB port
  • 1 x WAN port (RJ-45, gigabit)
  • 3 x LAN ports (RJ-45, gigabit)
  • Number of recommended simultaneous connections: 50 (max)
  • Model No: MD031LL/A
  • LED indicator for connection available/not-ready
  • Dimensions/Weight: 6.5″ x 6.5″ x 1.3″/1.66 pounds
  • Radio output: 20 dBm (Internal antennas, nominal)
  • Security: 802.1x, RADIUS authentication, WPA2, MAC address filtering
  • Router features: DHCP, NAT, PPPoE, DNS proxy, IPv 6 to 4 manual tunnels, VPN pass through, SNMP

Further Information: Further information (features, technical specs) are available from the Apple web-page for Airport Extreme.

Advantages:

  • Simultaneous dual-band (2.4 Ghz, 5 Ghz) operation with automatic selection
  • Backward compatibility with 802.11 a/b/g
  • Separate guest network which provides only Internet access to the guests and keeps the local machines/external hard drives on a different network
  • USB based printers (supported models) can be connected directly to this router and shared with all the laptops/computers connected to it over wired and wireless medium
  • 2x range (coverage distance) and 5x throughput (bandwidth) when compared to older 802.11g network
  • Up to 50 people can simultaneously connect to the Airport Extreme
  • Compatible with both Mac and PC
  • An external hard disk can be directly connected to the USB port of this Wi-Fi router and shared with all the users of the network. It can also be accessed remotely over Internet using VPN
  • Sleek and stylish look, Royal white color
  • Simple and easy set up with Mac based devices (iMac, notebooks, ipad, iphone, etc)

Limitations:

  • The connectivity speed decreases with increasing distance between wireless router and wireless clients. It also decreases if many clients are connected simultaneously with the router. But this is common to all wireless routers/devices
  • Limited support for QoS features
  • To mount an external hard-disk with the Airport Extreme, one needs to format it with Mac based devices so that it is formatted with one of the supported file systems
  • This device does not come with ethernet or USB cables

Accessories (Optional):

H-squared Air-mount for Airport Extreme – It is better to mount the Airport Extreme to the wall or ceiling, for both reducing the clutter on the desktop as well as getting a more even coverage. This air-mount from H-squared is a quality product manufactured exclusively for airport extreme and is a must have for people wanting to mount it.

Tips:

1. If you have a dual-band wireless (Wi-Fi) adapter in your laptop/computer, you can get better performance when it is connected to the Airport Extreme. 5 Ghz is a cleaner channel and offers less interference/more performance than 2.4 Ghz.

2. There is only one USB port. But, you can connect a USB hub to extend the number of USB ports and to connect printers/external hard-drives simultaneously.

3. Use it with Time Machine and external hard-drive in Mac to get regular, automated backups.

4. You need to use the Airport utility software in Mac to configure this device. You can download this software for Windows machines, as well.

5. In case you are not able to configure this device from Windows machine, try to borrow a Mac device from someone (just for once), so that you can configure it easily.

Where to buy: If you live in the United States (US), you can buy the Airport Extreme Wireless Router from Amazon.

Other options to consider: Apple Airport Express Wireless Router;  Apple Time Capsule (storage + wi-fi router).

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