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You are here: Wireless Wireless Reviews Extremely Disappointing: Apple Airport Extreme New Simultaneous Dual-Band Router Briefly Reviewed - Features, Routing Performance

Extremely Disappointing: Apple Airport Extreme New Simultaneous Dual-Band Router Briefly Reviewed - Features, Routing Performance

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Apple still marches to its own tune in its refusal to put a web admin interface on the Extreme. The latest version of the AirPort utility (5.5) now requires Win XP SP3 or Vista (if you're not running Mac OS), which was an annoyance when I tried to install the utility on an XP SP2 system.

Figure 3 shows the Summary screen, which shows that the Extreme can detect when another router is sitting between it and the Internet (Double NAT status).

AirPort Utility Summary screen

Figure 3: AirPort Utility Summary screen

The Extreme's feature set has stayed largely the same since we reviewed the original Draft N model. The main differences are the addition of a wireless Guest Network feature, support for the second radio and support for IPv6.

But don't expect the Extreme to be like other dual-band, dual-radio N routers. First, the Guest Network runs on the 2.4 GHz band only, although it can have its own wireless security settings.

You also shouldn't bother trying to find the setting to enable 40 MHz channel width mode in the 2.4 GHz band—Apple still has it locked out. Even Intel has backed off on the no-40 MHz-for-you-in-2.4 GHz policy in its original 4965 AGN 11n adapters, allowing it to be enabled in the newer 5100 and 5300 AGNs. Perhaps its time for Apple to take a similar path. While I still think hogging bandwidth in 2.4 GHz isn't a neighborly thing to do, there are some cases when it might be helpful.

When it came time to check to see if the Extreme dropped to 11g rates when using WEP or WPA/TKIP, I ended up not being able to run the tests. No matter what I tried, I could not force the Extreme to allow only WPA/TKIP connections, nor could I get it to allow WEP only.

Speaking of WEP, I wasn't able to even find it among the Wireless Security options. And a search through the PDF User Guide didn't yield even a single hit. When a search in Apple's Support database also didn't come back with anything obvious, I finally turned to Google. But even that didn't come up with an obvious solution right away.

I finally found an obscure discussion group post that revealed that I needed to press the Control key while clicking the Wireless Security dropdown in the Windows version of the utility or the Apple key in the Mac OS version. This then exposed WEP, which was marked as a "Transitional Security Network".

But even then, WEP testing was not to be. Despite repeated attempts, I could not get the Extreme to allow WEP-only connections and my client insisted on connecting via WPA2 / AES. Note also that I could only enter thirteen characters, even when I tried the $ Hex Escape character. So good luck if you're trying to use a 128 Bit WEP key with the Extreme.

I also found that the Extreme doesn't support automatic wireless security setup via Wi-Fi Protected Setup, which is surprising given Apple's focus on ease of use. And finally, if you want separate wireless security settings for each radio, you'll need to choose another product. The Wireless Security controls apply to both radios.

Another area where I wasn't able to complete testing was measuring the performance of the USB drive sharing feature. I was able to get the FAT-formatted disk to be recognized and mapped to my Vista SP1 test system. But when I ran the robocopy routine, which copies a folder of files from a ripped DVD, the connection locked up when the copy got to a 1 GB VOB file. I also tried just drag-and-dropping the 1 GB file itself and gave up the test when it also locked up.

Routing Performance

Table 1 shows that the new Extreme's routing speed has had a significant boost from the original, single radio version, with over 400 Mbps for download and 300 Mbps upload. Maximum simultaneous sessions aren't top-notch, however. I was able to reliably get only 128 sessions to complete the one minute test. This is in contrast with most new routers, which hit the maximum test limit of 200 connections on the first try.

Test Description Throughput - (Mbps) Original Extreme Throughput - (Mbps)
WAN - LAN 419.5 132.7
LAN - WAN 330.7 125.5
Total Simultaneous 414.7 124
Max. Connections 128 128
Firmware Version 7.5 7.2.1
Table 1: Routing throughput

Figure 4 shows the IxChariot aggregate plots for WAN to LAN, LAN to WAN and simultaneous routing throughput tests, which look nice and steady.

Apple Airport Extreme routing throughput
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: Apple Airport Extreme routing throughput

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About That New Airport Extreme...
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Slideshow: Apple Airport Extreme

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Average user rating from: 3 user(s)

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For small Mac Networks this is okay....

Overall rating: 
Reviewed by iphonedoc
January 29, 2011
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I have a small family network and at first I was disappointed by the specs or lack thereof on the device. I was used to updating the settings in a browser, but got used to using the Mac Centric App that came with the device.

I have had no stability issues with the device. It has worked flawlessly for the devices that we have in place. These consists of ipads, iphones, ipod touches, macs and pc's. There has been no throttling, even when using Netflix on 3 of the devices simultaneously.

We are in a mixed environment with a few legacy 10/100 devices intersperesed with 10/100/1000 switches; wireless and lan.

By far my favorite feature is the usb disc. We have a terabyte drive with everyone's personal NAS account, saving the memory on the computer. The disc is automatically partitioned so that, based on password, Individual A sees and stays in Individual A's account only. For kids on the network this is fantastic. A second USB disc is not divided and stores iTunes and movies. That disc is accessible from outside the LAN. I have a network printer, so cannot comment on the usb aspect of that.

When we have guests, they go on the guest network and have limited if any access to the attached drives.

I know that this is a relatively techie crowd, but for a small SOHO or family network I think the Airport Extreme is just fine. We stream Netflix, use Lan Streaming software to stream to our computers or AppleTV usually at the same time. If there is a negative, it is that Windows is not always happy to play along with the AFP filesystem and finds it nicer to use SharePoint and SMB. But other than that, I find this to be a really good network that is relatively inexpensive, given what it actually does.

I am not a Network guru, and I think that this is the consumer that the Airport Extreme was probably designed for.

Great site. thanks.


Airport Extreme: unreliable and over hyped

Overall rating: 
Reviewed by Paul Rosenberger
August 09, 2010
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I am now on my second airport extreme which I purchased along with my 27" imac. I have spent hours trying to get it to work, with the assistance of several patient Apple care representatives, and I am still out of luck.

I don't have the time or inclination to go into the sordid details, but I must state that in my brief experience, this is an extremely troublesome and unreliable device. Furthermore, apple greatly overstated the capabilities of this device. In my situation, its range is only about 50 ft, the same as the airport express which I had purchased a number of years ago and that had finally given up its ghost.

The manual states: "connect a USB hub to your AirPort Extreme and then connect multiple USB devices, such as printers or hard disks. All of the computers on the network have access to those devices." The apple care representative told me that, yes, you can do that if you want to, but it is not supported by apple.

Furthermore, I was told that you cannot connect your Time machine back-up disk to airport extreme; it won't work.

So basically you are limited to a single USB device that you can plug into AirPort extreme.

I have been a Mac enthusiast from the very beginning, but Airport Extreme has left an extremely bad taste in my mouth, and I will most likely send it back for a refund.


Try the new firmware 7.5.1 and be surprised!

Overall rating: 
Reviewed by
August 07, 2010
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After getting the new Extreme we were also disappointed about the performance. But after getting the 7.5.1 firmware this was over! Especially the 5 GHz performance is much better now. We have no means to get actual numbers, but time machine backups and streaming to several Airport Expresses simultaneously works flawlessly now.
Oh and BTW: the guest network is dual band, not 2.4 GHz only as the review reports. It has a single SSID though.
I also like the configuration program. It can copy the settings for one AIrport to another if you get one. You can quickly change all your devices from wireless to wired and back. Who needs a web interface when you have a program like this?
The graphical representation of connected wireless devices is nice and useful, the DHCP server is good and has a proper list that you can configure, logfiles are useful if you need them (not anymore at present).

One other remark: the Airport Extreme with a build-in hard disk (dubbed Time Capsule) has a slightly better RF performance than the Extreme itself.

Firmware has one bug we found: the power reduction setting reduces about 3 dB at most.


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