With Apple abandoning AirPort, here are the best alternative Wi-Fi routers for Mac users

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2016
Some fear has erupted at the news that Apple may be shutting down development of its own AirPort wireless routers. However, picking a router isn't as complicated as it used to be, and AppleInsider has some suggestions that work well with other Apple hardware.


D-Link Ultra AC5300

For the highest-bandwidth needs allowing for one device to serve data at the best possible speeds, the D-Link Ultra AC5300 has tri-band connectivity, with 1000 megabits per second at 2.4GHz, and two bands of 2167 megabits per second at 5GHz.

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The Ultra AC5300 has 8 detachable antennae, and features the company's "SmartConnect" band allocation, as well as SmartBeam "beam-forming" to direct a signal specifically at a device.

Wired network needs are provided by 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports, a WAN port, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port. Configuration is handled by the mydlink SharePort app, allowing for management both inside and outside the local area network.

For the advanced user, the router supports DD-WRT OpenSource firmware, allowing for further customization options not available to the "regular" user.

The D-Link Ultra AC5300 isn't cheap at $330 for a single device, but you get what you pay for.

Netgear Nighthawk R6700 AC1750

If your Internet modem is in a relatively central location to the house, a single, powerful, router may be sufficient. The Netgear Nighthawk R6700 AC1750 provides up to 1750 megabits per second of wireless bandwidth, and has three antennae to beam-form the 802.11ac signal to users.




Netgear has implemented a quality of service prioritization feature, allowing for administrators of the router to allow clients to minimize gaming lag, or to prevent streaming interruptions.

Connectivity is provided with 4 down-stream Gigabit Ethernet ports, 1 WAN port, 1 USB 3.0 port to attach a hard drive, and one USB 2.0 port for printers or other shared devices. Netgear claims that any connected printer will be made AirPrint compatible.

Setup is performed with the Netgear Genie app for iOS, or through a browser-based interface. While the app is sufficient for basic users to get the networking peripheral up and running, AppleInsider suggests superior browser-based interface for the router for medium- to advanced-networking users.

The Netgear Nighthawk R6700 AC1750 retails for $150.

TP-Link

If you've got relatively modest needs, the TP-Link Archer C7 is a good starting point for 802.11ac. The $85 router offers up to 1750 megabits per second, and has three internal and three external antennas.




Like the more expensive Nighthawk R6700, the router has 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports and 1 WAN port. Connectivity to devices is provided by a pair of USB 2.0 ports, allowing for media sharing with external devices, and printer sharing.

Upgrading to the $125 TP-Link Archer C9 brings beam-forming, and upgrades one of the USB ports to 3.0.




Regardless of model, the TP-Link Tether app allows for network management on iOS or Android. As with the Netgear, we recommend the browser-based setup for advanced users.

Eero

For the most Airport-like experience, Eero has a solution. The company, with the eponymously named Eero router uses a mesh networking model, allowing for the three-pack of Eero routers for $500 to cover most homes.





Eero features ease of setup, as well as the company's TrueMesh technology, that adapts to network conditions, and switches routing methods to prevent interference from other devices, or network congestion.

Like the Airport, Eero allows for a single SSID, and is configurable entirely with an iOS app. Eero recommends one basestation per 1000 square feet of needed coverage.

The recommended configuration for most installations is $499 for three Eero basestations. A $349 Starter system contains two Eero basestations, with a single Eero retailing for $199.

The Eero would be best for users needing an extremely low maintenance configuration -- think a family member who seems to always need technical support around the holidays.

For now, the AirPort Extreme

Apple has been in the router business since the last century. The software is mature, and compatibility is guaranteed with Apple products for a while, at least.

Time Machine backups can be made to a AirPort Time Capsule, or to a hard drive connected to the USB port on an AirPort Extreme. Setup of a network is easy with the Airport Configuration app on macOS or iOS.




Got old 802.11n AirPort basestations laying around from before the 2013 shift to 802.11ac? Apple has made it easy to extend a network either with Ethernet or with a wireless handoff.

The AirPort Express can not only extend a network (with 802.11n speeds), but can also turn any speaker set into an AirPlay receiver with the headphone jack.

Apple's Time Capsule retails for $299 for a 2TB model, and $399 for a 3TB configuration. An Airport Extreme without a hard drive sells for $199. The Airport Express retails for $99.

...but don't get the Google OnHub

In 2015, Google promised a great deal with the OnHub router. While the router is extremely easy to set up with the app, there is little outstanding about the router itself.

Additionally, if the router loses its internet connection, it no longer has most all of the features it touts, and most of the router's advanced settings including device information are no longer accessible to the user.

The Google WiFi, unveiled in early October, is not yet shipping and promises a system very similar to the Eero. A three-pack of Google WiFi base stations will retail for $300 but if it has the same limitations as the OnHub is not yet known.

Speaking of you get what you pay for...

Apple's routers have been not necessarily the fastest, but they have been best-in-class, and reliable -- so if Apple has in fact abandoned its base station efforts, it is the end of an era. In the last decade, manufacturers all over the globe have gotten onboard with wireless networking, with as-expected varying quality.

There are a large number of sub-$75 802.11ac routers available from vendors, and we have a hard time recommending any of them. While for the most part routers aren't considered a disposable commodity any longer, the cheap routers from no-name manufacturers aren't generally reliable, and may not get any kind of security update for exploits from the seller or builder.

For the latest deals on accessories for your Apple devices, please visit our Accessories Price Guide.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 127
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 128member
    Still in denial.
    king editor the grate
  • Reply 2 of 127
    Ugly.
    zroger73brian greenration aldysamoriaDavidAlGregory
  • Reply 3 of 127
    Okay. Time for the Apple executives to be replaced. I don't know if any should be kept on in executive or non-executive positions, or even with the company, but collectively these folks don't have a clue. This replacement needs to be done fast. Apple as no more than 5 years left as a viable company.

    Steve Jobs was adamant that one does not worry about stock prices and profit. Both come when one produces innovative products and sells them for what they are worth (maybe what the "market can bare"). 

    For Apple to abandon all products except their most profitable ones is guaranteed to kill the company. Companies grow based on the synergies from all their product lines. 

    Bottom line. The current crop of Apple executives are proving themselves to wholly incompetent. 
    viclauyycbaconstangdanuffspacekidentropyshucom2000bill42brian greenfrankiedigitol
  • Reply 4 of 127
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 2,729member
    larryjw said:
    Okay. Time for the Apple executives to be replaced. I don't know if any should be kept on in executive or non-executive positions, or even with the company, but collectively these folks don't have a clue. This replacement needs to be done fast. Apple as no more than 5 years left as a viable company.

    Steve Jobs was adamant that one does not worry about stock prices and profit. Both come when one produces innovative products and sells them for what they are worth (maybe what the "market can bare"). 

    For Apple to abandon all products except their most profitable ones is guaranteed to kill the company. Companies grow based on the synergies from all their product lines. 

    Bottom line. The current crop of Apple executives are proving themselves to wholly incompetent. 

    5yrs? Right! It'll take a lot more than killing an extremely small part of Apple in their Airport lineup to kill off Apple. 

    Who cares, this isn't Steve's company. Why do we keep referring back to what Steve would do? How do we know Steve wouldn't have killed the Airport line already? Its not like he never killed off products. 

    But as long as you're so stuck on Steve Jobs, don't forget, this is the crop to executives he set in place before resigning. So, apparently he's not so smart after all? 
    edited November 2016 designrwilliamlondonpropodricky_williams1hmmirelandmike1Solilolliverurahara
  • Reply 5 of 127
    Okay, abandoning products sounds ugly. I want to know which router Mr Cook uses.
    viclauyyczroger73king editor the graterare commentbrian greenrepressthisLeBart1968DavidAlGregoryuraharaindiekiduk
  • Reply 6 of 127
    larryjw said:
    Okay. Time for the Apple executives to be replaced. I don't know if any should be kept on in executive or non-executive positions, or even with the company, but collectively these folks don't have a clue. This replacement needs to be done fast. Apple as no more than 5 years left as a viable company.

    Steve Jobs was adamant that one does not worry about stock prices and profit. Both come when one produces innovative products and sells them for what they are worth (maybe what the "market can bare"). 

    For Apple to abandon all products except their most profitable ones is guaranteed to kill the company. Companies grow based on the synergies from all their product lines. 

    Bottom line. The current crop of Apple executives are proving themselves to wholly incompetent. 
    Lol. You're pretty funny with your 5 years line. HAHAHA! In a nutshell Apple critics over the past couple years have been screaming about Apple not being focused enough, and, now, Apple has trimmed two pieces of fat in the router and display business, and, all of a sudden, Apple needs to be doing everything again... Lol!
    designrlostkiwiricky_williams1paxmanrepressthisstevehmike1lolliveruraharajony0
  • Reply 7 of 127
    So what do we use to stream music to speakers now and what do we use for Time Machine backups?
    viclauyyczroger73ricky_williams1brian greendigitoljvmbMetriacanthosaurusDavidAlGregory
  • Reply 8 of 127
    Don't know what Apple is doing anymore. If they make one mistake (Note 7 level), they're done and will go back to that niche company. Right now they're a company that relies heavily on one product.
    entropyshucom2000brian greenrepressthisfrankiedigitoldysamoriarfrmacDavidAlGregory
  • Reply 9 of 127
    ...and they are almost all ugly as hell. i don't even feel curious about seeing whether their software is as seamless as Apple's. 

    Thinking whether to quickly buy some of the current models while they last. 

    Yes, call me old-fashioned,  but what I always loved was a seamless experience across accessories as well. 

    Thats what really made a difference. 

    OTOH, I can't imagine the dedicated team has been sitting idle since the last update of the hw, until by coincidence someone noticed they were still around...

    randominternetpersonking editor the graterare commententropysbrian greenration aldigitolthinkman@chartermi.netdysamorialolliver
  • Reply 10 of 127
    pslice said:
    Okay, abandoning products sounds ugly. I want to know which router Mr Cook uses.
    Go and ask him :)
  • Reply 11 of 127
    If barely anyone made use of these Airport routers, or majority networking usage habits of consumers have superseded what Airport offers (which are probably the reasons Apple has as well) then obviously they'd drop the product. 

    And if it's just plain not profitable then it's not profitable, which also speaks about the number of folks that actually care about and use it. 

    They want to get out of certain sides of the business. It happens in the industry at large all the time. 

    Other tech companies that persist in playing in sides of the business they should have left long ago should take note. Lol RIP Windows Phone/Mobile since 2010.

    edited November 2016 designrmacxpress
  • Reply 12 of 127
    Note to self: Head to Apple Store (physically or online) and buy two AirPort Expresses. Based on past experience, that should do me for the next 16 - 24 years.
    williamlondonbaconstangbrian greenirelandstevehdysamorialolliver
  • Reply 13 of 127
    The thing about the Airports and Time Capsules is that they at least look inoffensive - especially compared to some of the crustacean or bug-like AC routers on the market now.  The Eero and another mesh competitor are certainly more Apple-like in their design aesthetic.  I'll certainly pick up one of Apple's last AC based TC or AE, to buy me ~5 years of decent service - hopefully at a discount if they truly have discontinued them.
    brian greenrepressthisdysamoria
  • Reply 14 of 127
    You didn't mention the Peplink AP-One. http://www.peplink.com/products/enterprise-access-point/pepwave-ap-one/ Rock solid like the Apple router, unlike D-Link, and the other trash you mention.
    welshdog
  • Reply 15 of 127
    hmurchisonhmurchison Posts: 11,937member
    I've already abandoned Apple Routers for the Luma system.   My top 5 routers. 


    1. Eero -  new update makes it 40% faster for LAN.  Alexa support now there. 

    2. Netgear Orbi-  Fast 

    3. Luma -   software is still in the toddler phase wrt parental controls they promised but it works. 

    4. Netgear - Nighthawk X10 

    5. Roqos - most powerful hardware in the business.  
  • Reply 16 of 127
    sog35sog35 Posts: 12,387member
    so ugly


    zroger73wonkothesaneblastdoorbrian green
  • Reply 17 of 127
    Which of these (if any) support Time Machine backups.  That's the only networking feature I really care about.  Having said that my prior-generation Time Capsule is working just fine supporting a 3-computer household (including 2 teenagers online 24x7), so I've no need to rush into anything.
    brian green
  • Reply 18 of 127
    pslice said:
    Okay, abandoning products sounds ugly. I want to know which router Mr Cook uses.
    How about the one that Apple is still selling, the Airport Extreme 802.11ac?!
    repressthisration alMetriacanthosauruslolliver
  • Reply 19 of 127
    larryjw said:
    Okay. Time for the Apple executives to be replaced. I don't know if any should be kept on in executive or non-executive positions, or even with the company, but collectively these folks don't have a clue. This replacement needs to be done fast. Apple as no more than 5 years left as a viable company.

    Steve Jobs was adamant that one does not worry about stock prices and profit. Both come when one produces innovative products and sells them for what they are worth (maybe what the "market can bare"). 

    For Apple to abandon all products except their most profitable ones is guaranteed to kill the company. Companies grow based on the synergies from all their product lines. 

    Bottom line. The current crop of Apple executives are proving themselves to wholly incompetent. 
    Killing all products except the most profitable is EXACTLY what Steve did when he came back.

    He also killed the OS.

    Within a decade Apple was well on its way to the biggest, most profitable company ever.

    But, who knows, maybe you are right.
    paxmanDan Andersenstevehlolliver
  • Reply 20 of 127
    First Automation, now their WiFi division, what's next? The Mac division in a year or two???
    brian greenlarryjwdysamoria
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