Apple Airport alternatives

#1

Apple dropped the ball by discontinuing the Apple Airport WiFi routers. A fast and reliable internet connection is the backbone of all our computers, smartphones and tablets. We all have experienced how useless our smartphone becomes when the Airplane mode has been turned on. Rather than dropping the ball, Apple should have further developed the Airport products to "Mesh Technology. Like Google WiFi or Eero mesh network devices. What I think is a dangerous move to leave core function of Apple products in the hands of 3rd parties or Googles case competition.

For business-critical networks for businesses and offices, I use Peplink routers and WiFi Access points. But these networks require ethernet connections and are much more expensive.

One of my clients has a historic house that cant be hard-wired, so I gave the Google Mesh WiFi a try. These Mesh Hockey pucks are easy to configure. The WiFi range is a bit disappointing, and we ended up installing six units. Besides the base that has to connect to the modem, I was lucky to have two ethernet connections available to the office and media room. But the remaining three wirelessly meshed units barely make it to the next room while having to settle with a weak to medium strength connection according to the iOS app. So far the network has been stable, but I am not wildly enthusiastic about Google Mesh Wifi…

Last week I needed to replace an old Airport Extreme and Express for a family member that could no longer keep up with the internet speed after upgrading to 400/20 Mbs. Since I have good experiences with the Synology NAS devices, I decided to give the RT2600AC a try. I could not move the modem or router to a central location in the five-bedroom house and had to resort by mounting it against a wall in the home office located in the basement. The user interface and available options are well executed. The desktop connected with a network cable reached the maximum up and download speed as advertised by the ISP. Better yet the entire house and back patio now have a great WiFi connection. I particularly liked the option to allow firmware updates to be installed automatically and to schedule a reboot of the router. This router even has the opportunity to connect a 2nd internet connection or a USB cellphone modem for back-up.

I highly recommend the Synology RT2600AC router for home and small office use.

0 Likes

Router to Replace AirPort Extreme
#2

Thanks for the detailed and insightful post. I too am looking for eventual alternatives since my time capsule and the small airport expires are going to stop receiving updates. What do you think about Eero and why is this Synology router better in your opinion?

0 Likes

#3

I run my network off the back of a google wifi solution, I am really happy with it, but then I have a small house.

Those Ethernet ports are a genius move as it lets me “run” wired Ethernet anywhere I need it in the house without having to put holes in walls. I also enjoy the app, it has a lot of nice features.

I will agree that the wifi signal strength is a little week compared to other routers I have used over the years per unit, which is kinda to be expected since these things are little pucks and don’t have a pile of antenna sticking out every which way.

Since you are doing this for clients I assume that you know what you are doing, but if I may ask, what were the walls made out of and how were they constructed.

As a note of a thing which I find fascinating, generally speaking the construction of Australian and American walls are different in ways that I believe do effect the ability for a wifi signal

0 Likes

#4

I’ve had a 2600ac for a bit over a year, as an AirPort Extreme replacement, and am very happy with it. Good speed across our large house and much more configurable and with good reports. Of course everyone should research against their needs.

0 Likes

#5

I’m so sad Apple has left this area of the market. I suspect when my current Airport is done I’m going to miss Apple’s wifi with the same wistfulness I miss their laser printers with. It’s not just the loss of good equipment, it’s the seamless way the different Apple components communicate with each other and me.

I still miss my Apple LaserPrinter’s “It’s not my fault” error messages that told me when it was out of paper.

3 Likes

#6

Ubiquiti’s Unifi platform is a great solution that I use for family and business. It’s a little more hands on to setup but once it’s done, it’s rock solid. It’s also modular so you can easily add on and adapt as your needs change. I’m beaming internet across my parents property to a barn so my dad has WiFi up in his shop. They also have some mesh options, both a consumer and professional version, that don’t require a lot of Ethernet wires.

1 Like

#7

I added a Ubiquiti AmpliFi to our existing Apple Airport network and have been very happy with it, The Airport extreme still handles the actual FIOS that runs into the house then distributes to many locations hardwired. The Amplifi is operating in the center of the house in bridge mode running off hardwired back to the Airport Extreme. The two Amplifi satellites sit on either extreme of the house. Wifi is off in the Airport. I have been very happy with it from the get go. Was very easy to setup and really never gives me any problems. We often have 4-5 people simultaneously streaming HD ON 100/100 servide with no problems.

2 Likes

#8

Unfortunately, I don’t have personal experience (yet…) with the Aero. They say its good what I don’t like is that they seem to add services subscriptions to fully access all the options it offers. Some review websites claim Aero has a bit greater range than the Google WiFi.

In my opinion, the Mesh devices offer a relatively simple to deploy solution for an average household where users want to run everything on WiFi. A specially the better roaming features a Mesh network offers might be an advantage for those who use VoiP on a smartphone and walk through the house while talking on the phone.

The Synology and for that matter no other Consumer WiFi router doe not offer zero-handoff roaming, That being said its better not to have to rely on having to “roam” between various WiFi access points if you can eliminate the need of that with a good single WiFi Router or AP installed at a location that will provide the best coverage for your needs.

Call me old-fashioned but if I prefer an ethernet cable over WiFi wherever possible.

The consumer routers made by Linksys | Delink | Asus and alike are suffering from major security problems that need to be managed by the user. Synology is very much on top of this and doesn’t use the same firmware as the big consumer brands are using. More importantly is the option to enable automatic firmware updates!

Also the Synology User Interface (UI) doesnt’ overwhelm you with an avalanche of options and is relatively easy to setup. The Areo and Google Wifi are managed to trough a smartphone app that is very easy to follow. Just a few options to play with. Sufficient for the average household that just wants to have WiFi…

Hope this helps.

Rogier

0 Likes

#9

Oh this house is very big and has stretched out W floorplan that is well over 2500sqft (323 M3). The walls are mostly stucco that I assume has a wire mesh inside. Then there are the well-filled bookcases lining the walls. But I made sure the pucks that needed to mesh wirelessly are placed within a line of sight with minimal obstruction.

For example, I was disappointed to find out that two units each placed across a 50ft (15m) wide patio could only establish a weak connection through the window each unit was placed behind. I measured the WiFi network with my laptop running WiFi Explorer Pro and confirmed the rather weak WiFi signals these things emit on 2.4 and 5ghz.

The Synology in my family members basement, however, was producing a much stronger signal. Unfortunately, I am not in the position to do a comparison test with both devices in the same locations.

Please note that any network connection is a 2 way communication. If your a super strong WiFi router can’t hear the weak signal from a smartphone it will still result in a poor user experience…

Its what we call the Crodocile effect; “Big mouth, no ears” :wink:

I was surprised how sensitive the Synology router was since I was able to have a fast user experience throughout the house/

1 Like

#10

The good news is that Apple Airports last a long time. There is no need to ditch your current Apple Airport if it still serves your needs.
The last generation Airport Extreme is still a very capable router. Its just a shame Apple did not develop it to the next level of WiFi technology. They could have added WiFi Mesh routers to the Homepod, Apple etc. Therewith adding extra strength to the 5th gen Airport network.
Managing the network, in particular, parental controls using iCloud would have made it a no-brainer.

I think its a decision Apple will come to regret…

1 Like

#11

I have installed a number of Ubiquity devices and manage them from my cloud-based server. My problem with UBNT is that feels that its always in some state of Beta.
The UI is hard to come to grips with and one should enjoy administrating these very capable devices. For my use, they require to much work and attention make me feel comfortable to set and forget the network for a while.

0 Likes

#12

Yep the Unifi WiFi Bridge is amazing.

I am running a WiFi network covering an 85-acre gun range in a remote location using Ubiquity. In this situation its serving us very well :slight_smile:

1 Like

#13

WOW lucky you to have a 100/100 symmetric connection!
I would take a 10/10 over a 400/50 any day of the week… if the available ISP’s would not charge more then $2000 per month…

0 Likes

#14

Unfortunately, I don’t have personal experience (yet…) with the Aero. They say its good what I don’t like is that they seem to add services subscriptions to fully access all the options it offers. Some review websites claim Aero has a bit greater range than the Google WiFi.

In my opinion, the Mesh devices offer a relatively simple to deploy solution for an average household where users want to run everything on WiFi. A specially the better roaming features a Mesh network offers might be an advantage for those who use VoiP on a smartphone and walk through the house while talking on the phone.

The Synology and for that matter no other Consumer WiFi router offer zero-handoff roaming, That being said its better not to have to rely on having to “roam” between various WiFi access points if you can eliminate the need of that with a good single WiFi Router or AP installed at

1 Like

#15

Ahh that will do it, mine are at most 7 meters apart, with a wood frame.

0 Likes

#16

Yeah visual line of sight nothing in between 50 feet tops. Sheet of paper will cut it in half :wink:

0 Likes

#17

Thanks, @MacExpert!!

0 Likes

#18

No offense, but I feel the whole discussion about the discontinuation of the Airport by Apple is a bit silly. Routers have never been the core business for Apple, and they probably only entered this market because they found out they could sell a commodity product for a premium price. And it’s not that there’s a lack of choice…
Asus, Netgear, TP-Link (and Ubiquiti if you’re a bit more adventurous) - to name but a few - all make great routers, sell them mostly for a decent price (since it’s a mass-market product) and know the networking business inside out.

0 Likes

#19

I bought an Eero Gen 2 on a Black Friday deal on Amazon last year. I am incredibly impressed with the coverage, speed and the application for iPhone. Also, it can not be understated how great the Eero Beacons look. They don’t stick out or look like some ugly piece of tech. It just kind of blends into the room.

I also signed up for Eero Plus which is a $10/month service that gets you and your family access to 1Password, Encrypt.me (formerly Cloak VPN) and Malwarebytes for Mac as well some additional software features.

The only thing that leaves me slightly wanting is the lack of Ethernet ports on the Eero unit itself. There is only one usable one. For me its fine because I just have a Hue hub but if you have to wire a bunch of stuff to your router this is not for you.

It’s been said before but if Apple were to update the Airport at some point it would probably look something like Eero.

0 Likes

#20

Netgear AC1900 / R7000 works great for my nearly 1000 square foot (305 square meters) apartment. I use 5 Ghz and it keeps up just fine with my 100/10 cable connection. I don’t even need to use the range extender gadget.

0 Likes