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View Full Version : Looking for new WiFi router...have to be AirPort? Pros/cons of looking elsewhere


pscates2.0
2010-06-08, 19:15
I'm looking to get my house back on WiFi again. Both to get my current iPhone the hell off EDGE (and so my future one won't eat into my upcoming 200MB monthly allotment when I'm here at home). Plus, it's convenient for friends who drop by with their notebooks and WiFi-capable phones.

I've only ever owned Apple AirPort gear (a white UFO "g" base station back around 2003-2004 and an AirPort Express or two (which I sold when I got rid of my PowerBook G4 after getting this iMac in September 2008).

** I'm no geek, tinkerer or networking guru. That's the most important thing to remember before we proceed... ** :D

Bearing the above in mind, am I better off spending the $99 (or $79 refurb) to get an AirPort Express (something I've used, have experience setting up/configuring, know how to troubleshoot, etc.).

...or...

Do I maybe try to save a few bucks and look to the Netgear/Linksys/D-link end of things?

:confused:

I'd like it to be an "n" network, as both my iMac and soon-to-be iPhone are.

Are these things platform agnostic, or do I need to find one that specifically mentions Mac/OS X support?

Will I be using the companies' specific, proprietary software/set-up, or am I just buying a piece of hardware that I can configure with Apple's AirPort Set-Up utility?

If it's the former, are there any brands, or particular models, known to be a little more idiot-proof and easy-to-configure?

Right now, I'm probably just going to bite the bullet and get the AirPort Express. But if I can find a simple, basic unit that is hassle-free, provides good, reliable coverage and performance for less than $79-99, I'll certainly consider some non-Apple options.

I don't need lots of bells and whistles, robust printing/streaming features and support, etc. I basically just want my place to be blanketed in WiFi again...for my iMac, iPhone and any other device that shows up, attached to a friend or relative.

:)

And if you think I'm better off - taking into account my borderline idiocy, technical ineptitude and general cluelessness - sticking with a tried-and-true AirPort Express, you're free to say that too...you certainly don't have to suggest or recommend any third-party products if you think I'm going to louse it all up and struggle with the set-up, configuring or upkeep!

I think what I'm getting at is this: is there something out there similar to AirPort Express, for a bit less coin? And if so, what is it?

Ryan
2010-06-08, 19:45
FWIW, I’ve chewed through several of the Linksys WRT54G series and they frankly just don’t last, though last time around I got the geek-oriented model and it’s still going strong. On the other hand, the same Airport basestation you used to have, the UFO, we *still* use as a repeater and print server. I think we bought it in 2004.

Take that for what you will.

pscates2.0
2010-06-08, 20:14
Yeah. If I had to go tomorrow and get something, it would definitely be the AirPort Express. I've owned two, set up and configured about 7-8 over the years, etc. I was just hoping there might be something similar, easy-to-setup and maintain for ~$50 or so (but I don't really follow this stuff hardcore, so that might not even be a realistic request).

Unless someone posts something here in the next 5-7 days that really opens my eyes and puts me on the trail of something, I'll probably just get one of those $79 refurb Express units on Apple's site.

But I thought I'd throw this out there in case something cool, and cheaper, existed.

Ryan
2010-06-08, 20:21
Linksys routers are pretty much plug-and-play, you use a web interface to configure them but there’s no special software on the Mac. You probably have a pretty standard internet connection so I expect you could just plug it in and have everything basically working. The WRT54GL (that L is important) is built for people who want to tinker and flash Linux onto them, but, from the Linksys units I’ve owned, the GL seems to be made of better equipment, and out of the box it comes with the same software as all the others, plug and play.

That said, I believe it goes for around $59, so it’s not that much cheaper than a refurb Express. IMHO, the <$50 units are crap and you just have to buy another one 8-12 months down the road anyways so you’re better off springing for a decent unit now. If I were you, I’d get the Airport just for peace of mind, and the fact that Airport Utility is so much slicker than any crappy web interface, especially for someone like yourself.

edit: Another point which might interest you is that the Linksys units are freaking ugly. :D If this thing is going to be in view, definitely spring for the Express. Our UFO Airport sits on a self in our living room, above the ethernet port in the wall, but our Linksys router is hidden in a closet where no one can see it. :p

turtle
2010-06-08, 22:35
You can't really go wrong with the Express for your house. From what I've seen of your house and all you should stick with just the Express. It's a little cheaper to get a DLink or Linksys, but I'm pretty sure you would be better off with Airport Utility over logging into a router directly.

torifile
2010-06-08, 22:43
Don't you have an iMac? Why don't you just use Internet connection sharing and share your wired connection wirelessly?

zippy
2010-06-08, 22:51
Linksys routers are pretty much plug-and-play, you use a web interface to configure them but there’s no special software on the Mac. You probably have a pretty standard internet connection so I expect you could just plug it in and have everything basically working. The WRT54GL (that L is important) is built for people who want to tinker and flash Linux onto them, but, from the Linksys units I’ve owned, the GL seems to be made of better equipment, and out of the box it comes with the same software as all the others, plug and play.

That said, I believe it goes for around $59, so it’s not that much cheaper than a refurb Express. IMHO, the <$50 units are crap and you just have to buy another one 8-12 months down the road anyways so you’re better off springing for a decent unit now. If I were you, I’d get the Airport just for peace of mind, and the fact that Airport Utility is so much slicker than any crappy web interface, especially for someone like yourself.

edit: Another point which might interest you is that the Linksys units are freaking ugly. :D If this thing is going to be in view, definitely spring for the Express. Our UFO Airport sits on a self in our living room, above the ethernet port in the wall, but our Linksys router is hidden in a closet where no one can see it. :p
Just remember that the G in that GL stands for G. As in, not N. Also, from the reviews I've read, the newer generation of linksys routers, don't rate as consistently high as that old WRT54G did.

I had an Airport Express that I later upgraded to an Airport Extreme (I still use the Express as an extender). Both have been rock solid, and really simple. If you needed the extra wired ports that, sticking with Apple, would bump you into the Extreme and Time Capsule market, then there are other brands that are considerably cheaper. But it doesn't sound like that's something you need. If I was you, I'd just stick with the Express.

pscates2.0
2010-06-08, 23:07
Don't you have an iMac? Why don't you just use Internet connection sharing and share your wired connection wirelessly?

I asked about that in another thread, and it seems I'd have to keep the iMac on constantly, right? I often lie in bed at night - or early in the morning - surfing, checking e-mail, etc. and I like to put the iMac to sleep when I go to bed. I don't want it sitting on all night any time I might wake up and check something.

I suppose I could put the display to sleep, but it just seems like I'd be choosing between WiFi and EDGE (or 3G, soon), or leave this iMac on 24/7 (like the AirPort Express would be).

I just don't know if that would work for me.

Now that my iMac is back from the shop - and working reliably - I could try it and see.

EDIT: Ha, I just tried it. It certainly works...shows up as "Paul's iMac" in my iPhone's available WiFi spots. How neat. Couldn't be easier.

Now, what happens when I put my iMac to sleep? Let's see...

Yep, lost the connection and reverted back to EDGE.

A big part of the reason I'm doing this is to keep my butt off EDGE/3G while here at home.

But it's cool that it does work, so, in a pinch, that's a neat feature to have around.

Ryan
2010-06-09, 00:11
Just remember that the G in that GL stands for G. As in, not N. Also, from the reviews I've read, the newer generation of linksys routers, don't rate as consistently high as that old WRT54G did.

I had an Airport Express that I later upgraded to an Airport Extreme (I still use the Express as an extender). Both have been rock solid, and really simple. If you needed the extra wired ports that, sticking with Apple, would bump you into the Extreme and Time Capsule market, then there are other brands that are considerably cheaper. But it doesn't sound like that's something you need. If I was you, I'd just stick with the Express.

Yea, I realize the WRT54G platform isn’t N, but it sounds like for Paul’s purposes it won’t really matter. Still, I think an Airport express is his best option.

dmegatool
2010-06-09, 07:06
One feature that's pretty neat to have is the "Guest network". I'm sure some other routers have this but certainly not the cheap ones, at least, the ones i've seen. I think you can even throttle those poor guests :)

As for the G vs N, I always thought that N had a greater range / stronger signal. Isn't it true ?

Elysium
2010-06-09, 07:42
I recently switched from using my Express to a new dual band Extreme as I wanted to take advantage of the N-band and I also needed to have multiple connections. The strength of signal difference is very noticeable between the two bands especially if you want to sit in the yard and work.

I've also had the displeasure of using Linksys NetGear, and D-Link routers as well.

In terms of signal strength, reliability, and relative play nice-ness I would rank them as such:

- Extreme
- Express
- All others

Maciej
2010-06-09, 08:02
I have a guest network on my $70 Belkin Play, a pretty shitty router overall. So guest network is out there.

kieran
2010-06-09, 08:13
Bite the bullet and get a time capsule. Wireless time machine backups are awesome.

Plus, it's a full fledged AirPort Extreme. Dual-band goodness and all.

dmegatool
2010-06-09, 08:18
I have a guest network on my $70 Belkin Play, a pretty shitty router overall. So guest network is out there.
Shitty ≠ cheap. 70$ isn't what I would call a cheap router. But great to know that there's other router with this function.

As kieran said, Time Capsule is nice. Got one and it's magical.

Maciej
2010-06-09, 08:24
Err, I should mention that it is a dual band N router.

I said cheap because it was the cheapest dual band N that I could find. Shitty because CNET apparently didn't like it much.

One question I have, to you Time Capsule owners, is about the disk spac availability on the Time Capsule. Can you partition the disk? If it's one big disk won't the TM backups just eat all the space? Can you use it as a media server? If you add an external by USB does that become accessible to TM?

I hope these questions are useful
to you too Paul, don't really want to hijack your thread.

Oh and to answer one of your questions; my old belkin didn't show up when I opened the airport setup utility, so I don't think you can use it for third party hardware. Haven't tried it with the new one, will do tonight if I remember.

torifile
2010-06-09, 09:43
I love my Dlink DIR655. I've had it for years now and it works perfectly and it's fast.

pscates2.0
2010-06-09, 09:56
Bite the bullet and get a time capsule. Wireless time machine backups are awesome.

Plus, it's a full fledged AirPort Extreme. Dual-band goodness and all.

Yeah, I know. But I just got a 1TB hard drive about 6-8 weeks ago ($99). It's plugged in and doing its thing via Time Machine. So for $178 ($99 hard drive, plus $79 refurb "n" AirPort Express), I'm getting the same sort of function - WiFi and Time Machine backup - for a bit less than any Time Capsule (the cheapest Time Capsule Apple has is a last-generation refurb 500GB for $209).

Uh...no.

:D

Granted, it's not as sleek, elegant and "all-in-one" as the Time Capsule, but the WD hard drive is attractive on the desk (glossy black, stands up vertically and is about the size of a paperback book) and the AirPort Express will be under/behind my desk, in a protected multi-strip, 90% hidden.

If I didn't already have an external backup drive (and already in the hole for $100), maybe I'd consider. I'm just trying to not drop big gobs of money, left and right, for things I already have.

But, yeah...they are great. I'm sure I'll wind up with one somewhere down the road, once my living situation changes or whatever. My Mom has a 500GB Time Capsule, and has both her Mac mini and MacBook backing up to it (and blanketing her entire house - hell, her entire property, including the garage out back and the mailbox out by the street - in WiFi). I pull into the driveway and my iPhone switches over to her network and I'm not even out of the car. And yes, it's password-protected...neighbors aren't mooching off her connection. :)

kieran
2010-06-09, 10:32
Understandable.

When I got mine, I needed a new router and new HDD to use TM with, so I just went for the AIO of the Time Capsule. Had a bad drive in it a few months ago, but Apple replaced in in a few days and I got an upgraded dual band model. Can't complain about that.

With your situation, A TC isn't needed. If you had a notebook and/or more than 1 Mac, it would be different.

pscates2.0
2010-06-09, 15:53
Exactly.