Is an Airport Extreme Base Station too costly?
February 1, 2008 1:06 AM   Subscribe

Is an Apple Airport Extreme Base Station worth the money, when compared with other less pricey routers?

My WRT54Gv5 does not play nice with XBOX360 Live, in addition to being a general piece of shit that crashes all the time and can't even serve up its own configuration page worth a damn. I'm looking at buying a new router, especially an Apple, since all of my computers are Apples (but the roommate has a Windows PC and a Linux server).

Apple routers, however, are expensive! That new Time Capsule is tempting, but would burn a huge hole in my wallet.

So is an Airport Extreme Base Station worth the money? My Linksys certainly was not worth the $60. Are there any reasonable alternatives (Gigabit Ethernet ports and 802.11n would be a plus) that will work flawlessly with XBOX Live and our multi-OS household? Cheaper is better, but I'm a sucker for cool features!
posted by jstef to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
the apple airport express is cheap. it works like a charm on my mac + pc + printer network.
posted by ncc1701d at 1:26 AM on February 1, 2008

If you feel up to it, you may want to try putting some third party firmware on your router to see if it helps. My WRT54G also crashed a lot until I put ddwrt on it. It was pretty easy and ddwrt is nicer in every possible way than the linksys firmware. It's also free. There are other third party firmwares out there but I haven't tried them so I can't vouch for them.
posted by benign at 1:32 AM on February 1, 2008

no, it is not. the airport express can be a bit of a configuration nightmare, depending on what you want it to do. i had massive problems with real player streams, for example, after installing it.

i ended up putting mine on ebay and buying a much simpler Netgear box
posted by ascullion at 2:12 AM on February 1, 2008

ascullion, jstef is asking about the Extreme version, not the Express version.

jstef, I have one of the older AirPort Extremes, not the 802.11n version Apple sells now. It's worked for about five years now, in a number of different environments, with PCs and Macs. It has also been mailed across the U.S. in questionably-packed circumstances twice now, and it's still doing its thing all right. Configuration via the AirPort Admin Utility works for me. On the other hand, the new hardware is new Apple hardware, and everybody suggests waiting for a second revision. I'm sorry I can't be more help, but for what it's worth, the Apple stuff tends to "just work" with its cousins and siblings, and usually "just works" with more distant relatives, too.
posted by cgc373 at 2:29 AM on February 1, 2008

now now now
posted by cgc373 at 2:29 AM on February 1, 2008

I have had two Extremes and two Expresses. I find them bulletproof. Mine are employed in a mixed network, and I have had no problem with configuration software or operation, using either Mac or PC to configure them.

Generally, Apple stuff works, in my experience. Whether it's worth a premium depends on how much you value your time.

My experience with other routers hasn't been horrible, but what problems I have had with wireless networking have been on non-Apple brands.
posted by FauxScot at 3:52 AM on February 1, 2008

I have the older extreme, and at least 5 year old. It serves a G3, a PC, a Titanium, and when I hosted a family reunion with half a dozen assorted laptops showing up (along with assorted people) nobody had any problems hooking up.

I confess though that the reason for all this rather ancient equipment is that I'm afraid of messing up the system. I have to add that the old G3 still beats the PC which is a lot younger. I'm a converted fanboy.
posted by francesca too at 4:10 AM on February 1, 2008

I bought a newish Extreme. Was crap - didn't play nice with my MacBooks and Expresses. I went back to the old Linksys.
posted by TrashyRambo at 4:42 AM on February 1, 2008

I just scrapped my linksys for an airport extreme. Configuration was really simple and it's worked flawlessly. I have a Mac laptop, linux laptop and a Windows laptop. They all connected with no difficulty and all report better signal quality.
posted by substrate at 5:17 AM on February 1, 2008

I have the newer base station with gigabit ports. It works fine and when the family comes down with their PC laptops, they can connect just fine.

But knock on wood, some people have been having problems with them.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:31 AM on February 1, 2008

I've got a WRT54G v7 I've had for a few years now, it's worked flawlessly for my small home network (windows desktop, powerbook, xbox live) and it cost me $45.
posted by Oktober at 5:41 AM on February 1, 2008

Seconding (or thirding, can't remember) the Try the Express idea.

I have been working off an Express for over three years now, in various apartments, and have to say I haven't had any problems with it. The initial setup was ridiculously easy and I found guides on the internets that explained how to Port Forward for any file sharing I may do. I play WoW off my laptop over the wireless and I can't remember have signal drops or random disconnects. If I take my laptop to my parent's house, who use a LinkSyS wireless router, I have all kinds of disconnects, especially if their phone rings. I wouldn't trade my Express for a non-Apple router.
posted by LunaticFringe at 5:49 AM on February 1, 2008

I'm pleased with my 80211n Airport Extreme. In addition to the n speeds, I like how I can hang a printer and USB hard drives off of it. I had a Linksys and Buffalo setup that would alway get knocked offline by interference from my neighbors networks (there are 7 visible, maybe a few not broadcasting) or my neighbor's cordless phone. I replaced that with 80211g Airport Extreme and it was bulletproof. Never dropping. When it came time to upgrade my network to 80211n speeds, the Airport Extreme was my natural choice.
posted by birdherder at 6:03 AM on February 1, 2008

I just changed out a Dlink(dropped us all the time, even with a firmware) with an airport extreme in our office-it is AWESOME. we have macs & pc's, all runs smoothly. we are much happier now.
posted by tarantula at 6:26 AM on February 1, 2008

I just got a Buffalo router that's working fine with my cable broadband and plays nice with my MacBook. However, I believe Buffalo are currently barred from selling their routers in the States due to some patent infringement case.
posted by macdara at 7:00 AM on February 1, 2008

I came to say what FauxScot said already (and better). I love my AEBS, and found it very easy to setup and use. I have had problems in the past with other routers (Linksys especially), but not with AEBS or Airport Express (I use mine to extend my network and to play music in the kitchen via airtunes).
posted by terrapin at 7:13 AM on February 1, 2008

Just a note if you use a VPN. VPN passthrough doesn't work on the AEBS. The work-around they currently say to use is to put your machine that you want to use a VPN effectively in a DMZ (set the machine as 'default host' on the AEBS configuration). Lots of talk about it on in the AEBS section. Definitely not a good solution, and I've been hoping for a firmware upgrade/fix for it for a while now. Maybe when time capsule comes out they'll update the AEBS firmware.

Otherwise though, its a great unit. The application-based configuration versus web-based configuration is odd, but not too bad.
posted by GreenTentacle at 7:36 AM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: I've used a NetGear and a Belkin while at school, and they were both horrible. The Belkin was a PoS from the word go, but the NetGear was all right for a little while. Then it started dropping connections and needing to be reset every hour or so.

So I bought the old "chocolate kiss" AEBS, and it stood up to a wireless network in an apartment with one roommate who played WoW 24/7. Then I bought the N version, and have two Macs connected wirelessly, a wired PC and XBOX 360, and it runs like a champ.

There are some things you can't do which I miss, like being able to have a computer in the DMZ, but with port forwarding that's not a huge deal.

Plus, being able to transfer a 350MB file in 45 seconds is *awesome*.

Apple's stuff is more expensive, but on the whole it's worth it, imo.
posted by hubris at 7:39 AM on February 1, 2008

just to clarify my comment earlier - i confused express and extreme. My criticisms were intended for the new Extreme, not the Express (that actually works pretty well).
posted by ascullion at 8:30 AM on February 1, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the comments thus far.

I do want to make it clear that the Express won't work in my situation-- we have 5 "wired" devices: a PC, a Tivo, the XBOX360, a Linux box, and a regular XBOX. So, having some ports is mandatory.

For those with XBOX360 and the Airport Extreme--

If you run the network diagnostics on XBOX360, do you have a "limited" or "full" connection? My problem with the Linksys is its pathetic NAT that won't let us have the "full" connection to XBOX Live.

I'm still open to other router suggestions, but no Linksys, please!
posted by jstef at 8:37 AM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: If you're planning to potentially replace the linksys anyway, you may as well try to install DD-WRT firmware on it first. The v5 is too crippled to install the full version, but there is apparently a mini-build that can be installed on the v5 (with a special installation procedure). It's free, and might well fix things, so try that first.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:05 AM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: The relevant instructions.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:10 AM on February 1, 2008

I have two WRT54g routers and have been running like a charm for years. Both are running tomato.

I used to use DDWRT but torrents would kill it. I haven't used it for years but it may have changed.
posted by mphuie at 9:25 AM on February 1, 2008

Best answer: My SMC brand router always dropped clients.
Replaced it with Linksys WRT54GC, which sometimes dropped clients (Wii, HP wifi printer).
My WRT54GC blewup (under 6 months).
Then the warranty replacement WRT54GC blewup (under 3 months).
Then I gave up and bought an Airport.
For me, would have been cheaper just to by Airport the first time around.

If you are a student or work at a company that does any sort of discounts, you can probably get around 7% or so off it, if that helps.

I have a hard drive hooked up to mine as well, and run remote backups to it (im on Tiger, so pre-Time Machine). I also share files off the hard drive with multiple machines in my apartment.

Some may complain about the Airport Admin App, but I find it has all the functionality I need...and is basically rock solid. I have had far more trouble with browser-based router config pages that fail to load, load incompletely, lockup, etc.
posted by gomess at 10:28 AM on February 1, 2008

Response by poster: Hooray! DD-WRT micro was the solution to my XBOX Live woes.

It works perfectly. I wanted to try Tomato, but the v6 won't take it. Thanks for all the help, everyone! If my Linksys develops new problems, then I will head over to the Apple Store for an AEBS. For now, DD-WRT is the solution!
posted by jstef at 3:42 PM on February 1, 2008

« Older Help me find the movie trailer music that sounds...   |   Is MythTV any good? Is TiVo worth the crazy costs... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.