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You are here: MacNN Forums > Enthusiast Zone > Networking > Planning Ahead - Airport Extreme 4th Gen Replacement Options

Planning Ahead - Airport Extreme 4th Gen Replacement Options
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ghporter
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Oct 7, 2023, 08:27 PM
 
No, my base station is not giving me trouble. But it is elderly, and the model was discontinued over 12 years ago, so it is definitely worth while to plan to (eventually) replace it.

I have a variety of WiFi-equipped devices, and some of them are not particularly new, either. I don't know if that makes a real difference in selecting a wireless router, but maybe?

Anyway, what's out there that has dual band WiFi, a built-in guest network, and hosts shared (USB or other connection) hard drives?

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Thorzdad
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Oct 8, 2023, 06:17 AM
 
I’m soldiering along with the same router, and am similarly interested in what could adequately replace it. I bemoan Apple getting out of this market. I’d buy an updated AE in a heartbeat.
     
subego
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Oct 8, 2023, 03:13 PM
 
If you can brook Amazon shenanigans, I’ve been happy with Eero.
     
reader50
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Oct 8, 2023, 06:32 PM
 
I went the business-router solution, with a Zyxel USG Flex 50W (USG20W-VPN). It was their introductory small-office router at the time.

I wanted per-computer bandwidth controls, and per-computer firewall options. It delivers all of those. Turning on firewall does not affect throughput - the router can keep up with the extra processing.

Though the expert interface is hard to figure out - I never did figure out how to turn the wireless on/off. Ended up using the simplified interface to do that, then return to expert mode to tweak settings. And the wireless speed wasn't the best - I ended up turning off the built-in wireless and slaving a residential router as a dumb access point.

Oh, and I continue to get firmware updates years after the fact. Both for security and feature updates. I'm happy with it overall.
     
ghporter  (op)
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Oct 8, 2023, 08:52 PM
 
I should have also mentioned that I have an Airport Express (1st gen) extending the network. Which makes me think about the whole “mesh” thing. I haven’t seen any “real” explanation of what mesh networks are, just sales speak, so I don’t know if I want mesh or not.

I don’t get a good sense that Eero is going to fit the bill. Amazon shenanigans or not, it just seems like these products don’t do the jobs I want…

reader, the features make that Zyxel router look great, except for the (current) price tag. On the other hand, those features…wow.

So for lots of features, I looked at Cisco. Unfortunately under that brand they only have “routers” and “access points” (both pretty much industry standard setting stuff). They bought Linksys in 2003, and it looks like Linksys retained the feeling that they offer great features at decent prices. Plus it also looks like their interfaces are still as (fairly) easy to use as way back when, when I had a WRT54G.

I’m glad I’m researching this now, instead of when I suddenly need to replace something…

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
Waragainstsleep
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Oct 10, 2023, 06:05 PM
 
As I understand it, most of Apple's Airport team ended up at Ubiquiti. I love their gear but you need a controller of some kind in order to look after it. You can do that on any computer though if you have one that stays on all the time.
( Last edited by Waragainstsleep; Oct 10, 2023 at 06:41 PM. )
I have plenty of more important things to do, if only I could bring myself to do them....
     
Brien
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Oct 10, 2023, 07:34 PM
 
Or just bite the bullet and buy a Cloudkey.
     
Timo
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Oct 11, 2023, 01:27 PM
 
I went with Ubiquiti with a router/controller in the cellar and a bunch of WAPs throughout the house, some hardwired, some mesh.

I did keep two Airport Expresses for streaming music duties.
     
ghporter  (op)
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Jan 11, 2024, 08:55 PM
 
Well I’m back, and I have had some really interesting experiences related to replacement of my 4th Gen Extreme.

Cutting to the important parts, I had a number of problems with my Internet connection and I’d decided my ISP, AT&T U-verse, was just not worth my time or money. So last week we signed up with the local cable ISP and the install today went pretty smoothly, the only problem being how to get cable into the room I wanted it in. But the installer was skilled and professional, and he got it done cleanly and well.

He got the modem up and running, and my voice connection worked great. But again I couldn’t keep my broadband connection going. This time, almost immediately the Airport Extreme started giving some odd indications, and the Utility kept saying things like “no Internet” despite the green light. The real kicker was that it also started saying the Ethernet connection was unplugged. No, it wasn’t. So I declared this 4th Gen Extreme “done” and bought a Linksys Hydra 6 mesh/WiFi6 router.

Pluses include a 4-port Ethernet router (with a separate WAN port), a lot faster wireless performance, more coverage area, and even a smaller power adapter.

The only possible negative is that you pretty much need to use their (iOS or Android) app to set the thing up. Oh wait, you gotta do that with an Airport base station too…

I was able to give it the same network name, reuse my stupid-complex password, and all the clients just “saw” the network and connected.

I possibly owe AT&T an apology, but not much of one. My plan offered “up to 50mbps download”, and my new cable plan offers “500mbps”, which it really delivers. Maybe I’d have gotten closer to the 50 with AT&T if I’d replaced the Extreme earlier, but they don’t even offer their next higher tier in my neighborhood…so switching got me a much faster connection, and (oh, by the way) at a much lower cost.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
subego
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Jan 12, 2024, 02:00 PM
 
Was your AT&T DSL? Do you have fiber available near you?
     
ghporter  (op)
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Jan 14, 2024, 08:26 PM
 
It was U-verse DSL, (I think they call it “ADSL 2”), faster than the first gen DSL I’d had, but…. And fiber (AT&T or Google) is NOT available in my neighborhood because neither one wants to install the infrastructure in a small (<150 homes) gated community. At least Google has talked with the community association about it, but there are some legalistic snags involved.

Oh, and AT&T’s fiber installers are, if anything, worse than their phone installers when it comes to getting lines to customer houses. Torn up lawns are the norm for AT&T installers, but their fiber guys tear up curbs and sidewalks too. Eww.

Spectrum took over Time Warner’s network, but I don’t think they are actually a descendant of TW. For one thing the folks I dealt with were friendly, there were no contracts, and they actually delivered what was promised.

And I withdraw the potential apology to AT&T. When I called to cancel my service the first level customer service person had a really crappy script - it required her to talk over me, and to try to change my mind! - and their policy is to cancel service at the end of the next billing period. That would be Feb 4…so they were happy to charge me their too-high rates for most of a month for service I was not going to use. Hmph.

I’m really happy with the service I have now, and especially happy with the Linksys router too. Managing the router is much like managing an Airport device, except Linksys’ interface actually tells you a lot about your wireless (and wired!) clients. It’s also helped me learn a lot about my wireless clients, including just figuring out what some of them are. The Airport Utility would give me either an IP or a MAC address if the device didn’t have an explicit name assigned, but Linksys seems to do more than just say what the identifier is…they ID’d my TV among other things even though these devices never told Airport anything. Or Airport never told me anything other than their IPs.

Glenn -----OTR/L, MOT, Tx
     
   
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