Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi Base Station: Fastest AP, yet!

It’s a myth that Apple products are bought only for their premium branding, ease of use, and design. The Apple Airport Extreme Wi-Fi (802.11ac) base stations are not only beautiful, their performance is at par with the best in the market – yes, they’re that good! The only (small) issue maybe the slightly higher price – but people are (generally) ready to pay that premium for Apple products.

If you are looking for an Access Point to beautify your home connect all your (by now overflowing) Wi-Fi devices to the network/Internet, at the highest speeds possible (over the wireless medium), this wireless base station may just be what you need. Please note: Apple Airport Extreme doesn’t come with an inbuilt modem – you’ll have to buy that separately in order to connect the Internet WAN cable from the service provider (Chances are, you have that already).

Highlights of Apple Airport Extreme Base Station:

  • Simultaneous Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi base station (that is also compatible with the older 802.11 a/b/g/n standards) – Gigabit Wireless AC connectivity (up to 1.3 Gbps) is the fastest Wi-Fi connection available now! It’s three times faster than ‘N’ APs.
  • 6 Antennas located on the top and 80 MHz wide channels make sure that the range and speeds are just excellent. Beamforming enables wireless signals to traverse around obstructions and focuses more power towards your 802.11ac devices (if you have ‘ac’-enabled devices connecting to the Wi-Fi network).
  • H: 6.6 inches; B: 3.85 inches; Vertical design – better off standing on something, like a table.
  • Works with any Wi-Fi device – Computers, Phones, Tablets, etc. (Not just Apple manufactured ones).
  • 3 x Gigabit Wired Ports – To connect switches or wired-network (based) devices to the network. You can use these ports to connect gaming consoles/movie streaming devices (that require that extra speed/performance), directly over the built-in gigabit wired ports. Remember: Wired networks are always faster than wireless networks.
  • USB port: To connect an external hard-drive to the base station and share its contents directly with everyone (or) to share a USB-connected printer with everyone (Over the wireless network).
  • Theoretical maximum wireless users: 50. Practically, to achieve best speeds, you may not want to connect so many devices simultaneously. (Remember: Speed with which each device can connect to the Wi-Fi network decreases with increase in the number of devices connecting to the network).
  • Security: Password (WPA/WPA2); Mac Address Filtering.

Advantages of Apple Airport Extreme Base Station:

  1. Easy set-up. Just input a password and you are ready to connect!
  2. The Airport Extreme increases the speed of not only 802.11ac devices, but also of older 802.11n devices. This is because of the extra antennas and higher power rating.
  3. ‘Back to my Mac’ enables remote access to Mac computers from anywhere, over the Internet.
  4. You can set-up a guest network (a separate network with a separate password) that gives your guests access to the wireless network, but only to the Internet (external network). This prevents guests from accessing the files on your computers/hard-drives (internal network).
  5. The gigabit wireless network (for connected 802.11ac-enabled devices) will give speeds/performance that is almost equal to wired networks.
  6. Needless to say, Apple devices add to the decor and will give a premium look to your home.
  7. Approximate coverage: 3500 – 4500 sq. feet; 2 floors below + 2 floors above. (Please note: This is a rough figure, the actual coverage may vary according to the number of devices connected to the base station, number of obstructions the wireless signal has to pass through – like walls and glass panels in between, type of wireless adapters in devices, etc.).
  8. If the cable is unplugged or power is down, the device will auto reboot once things become normal – manual interference is not required. Useful, if you are going to place it in your parent’s place or if your children are going to use the network in your absence.
  9. Apple Airport Extreme will recognize and work together with Apple AirPort Express Base Station (which has a lower configuration, with only 802.11n connectivity). You can either set-up a new network or extend the existing network by using the bridge mode (with both of them on the same network).
  10. Mostly, you will not find any dropped signals, reboots or buffering issues that are common with cheaper access points.
  11. You can connect a USB hub to the USB port of the base station to connect more than one USB device – like an external hard-drive (&) USB-printer.
  12. If you want to limit the Internet/Network usage for kids, you can prevent access to certain (Apple) computers/devices, or you can allow them to access the network only during certain times of the day.

Limitations & Tips:

  1. Due to its design, you cannot mount the Apple Airport Extreme on the ceiling. But you can place it anywhere (like on the table or on a special wall-mounted stand made for it). Try to keep it vertical – as far as possible – because the antennas in this access point are optimized to give the best performance in that position.
  2. While you can get best speeds/gigabit wireless connectivity with 802.11ac enabled devices, very few devices in the market come with ‘AC’ Wi-Fi adapters. USB-based Wireless AC adapters are available (to upgrade existing laptops/computers to Wireless AC), but they cost additional money and occupy one USB port (on the computer). Most of the wireless devices you may buy in the near future should be 802.11ac compliant, anyway.
  3. Comes with USB 2.0 port, not the latest USB 3.0 port (which is faster).
  4. To install this device, you need the Airport Utility software (freeware) that is available on Mac Computers, iPad, iPhone or Windows systems. There is no Android app for setup/maintenance.
  5. You have to use the default IP address, you can’t change the IP address to suit your network settings (applicable more to small business).
  6. Doesn’t come with built-in modem (but chances are, you already have a modem provided by the ISP). Tip: If your modem supports the latest DOCSIS 3.0 standard, your Internet speed will increase.
  7. The guest network can only use the 2.4 Ghz channel (which is generally more crowded and prone to interference). Tip: For your main network, try to connect using the 5 Ghz band as much as possible for better performance (especially if the wireless adapter in the client/computer supports it).
  8. The advertised gigabit speeds are theoretical. Practically, you’ll get around 1/3rd of it (this is common for all Wi-Fi access points, not just this one). Also, the speed decreases with every additional device that connects to the wireless network, and increase in the distance between base station and client device.

Price (USD)/Buy From (US): Amazon product page for –

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