Extreme Networking [u]

Extreme Networking

Since my second year of college (which was 5 years ago) (crap, I’m getting old), I’ve been using an AirPort Express base station for my home wireless network. Recently, I’d noticed my household was beginning to stretch its limits.

Between several Macs, an iPhone, iPod touch, TiVo, XBox 360, Wii, etc etc and so forth…things were getting crowded for the little AirPort Express, which supports a maximum of ten clients. Also, the AirPort Express just wasn’t transmitting enough to reach the places like the kitchen and bedroom.

A couple days ago I picked up a dual-band AirPort Extreme for our cozy little home. This was quite the upgrade for our network, as we had never realized the 802.11n capabilities of our computers. So now I am running simultaneous 802.11n and 802.11g networks. The iMac and MacBook Pro run on the 5GHz n network and everything else runs on the 2.4GHz g network.

I was curious how well syncing app data from Mac clients to iPhone clients (think 1Password) would work, since the different spectrums appeared as different networks to the Mac. I’m happy to report that the AirPort Extreme allows devices on both networks to interact with each other as if they were on the same network. Everything is absolutely seamless.

It took a grand total of about ten minutes to set up the g and n networks from the unboxing to being up and ready to go.


I even noticed quite the improvement in download speed on the 802.11n network. As illustrated in the image above, I tested my MacBook Pro on both the 802.11g and 802.11n networks using Speedtest.net. The speed difference was just under 7.5 Mb/s! I had never seen results come in above 16.3 Mb/s.


Needless to say, I am very pleased with upgrading to the dual-band AirPort Extreme. It’s a little spendy compared to other dual-band base stations from D-Link and Linksys, but I much prefer to use AirPort Utility to manage my base station than a web browser.


I’d recommend this even to Windows users, but it’s a no-brainer for a Mac house.


Update Oct. 24, 2009: Sure enough, I bought my AirPort Extreme on Saturday, Oct. 17 and Apple goes ahead and updates the darn hardware on Tuesday, Oct. 20. Well, my local-ish (it’s 40-minutes away) Apple Store finally got the new ones in. And thankfully, Apple has a policy where if they update the hardware you just bought within 14 days, you can exchange it.


Since only 3 days had passed, I was golden. I stopped there last night with the now-old-generation Airport Extreme all boxed in its original packaging with the receipt, and the guy helping me did a flat-out exchange. I had been told when I called earlier that I would be charged a 10% restocking fee, but looking at the new receipt, that didn’t happen.


There isn’t much different about this one and the one I picked up last week. In fact, externally, they are identical. Apple says the antenna has been re-engineered. So instead of being a 2x2 antenna it is now a 3x3 antenna. Apple claims this allows 50% better performance and 25% greater range. I ran Speedtest.net again and I had marginal improvement in download speed at 23.02 Mbps, and upload of 0.97 Mbps.


I doubt I’ll realize much difference, but I figured if I am going to have this router for around 5 years or more, I might as well take advantage of getting the latest and greatest since I had the opportunity.


Also, make sure to actually use the disc in the box to install a new version of AirPort Utility. I had v. 5.3.2 from Snow Leopard, but this new base station requires v.5.5, which Apple has not pushed through Software Update yet.


If you’re considering purchasing an AirPort Extreme, flip the box to see the bar code label and look to make sure the part number is MC340LL/A. That’s the freshly re-engineered one.