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Routing Performance

All testing was done with the latest 7.7.1 firmware loaded and the 5.6.1 AirPort Utility. Throughput results are in Table 2 along with those for the previous two AirPort Extremes for comparison.

Test Description AC 5th Gen 4th Gen
WAN - LAN Throughput (Mbps) 325.5 430.4 419.5
LAN - WAN Throughput (Mbps) 685.4 434.6 330.7
Total Simultaneous Throughput (Mbps) 578.8 496.5 414.7
Max. Simultaneous Connections 32,360 29,413 128
Firmware Version 7.7.1 7.5.2 7.5
Table 2: Routing throughput

The results show a moderate improvement vs. previous generation AEx's. But when you compare against other Broadcom-powered AC1750 class routers, the results are surprisingly low at only 325 Mbps down and 685 Mbps up.

The best AC1750 class routers like the D-Link DIR-868L and ASUS RT-AC66U support routing throughput in the 800+ Mbps range. At least Apple didn't skimp on simultaneous connection handling, since the AExAC hit the test limit at 32,360 sessions.

I've started to generate two IxChariot plots for routing, since the one that combines unidirectional WAN > LAN, LAN > WAN and simultaneous up/down gets too muddled. The first plot below is a combination of the two unidirectional tests. I don't know what is causing the high downlink variation, since there was no wireless traffic running during the test. I also am at a loss to explain the 20 second period at the start of the run where the uplink throughput sits down around 250 Mbps.

AEXAC unidirectional routing throughput

AEXAC unidirectional routing throughput

You can see the delayed throughput boost characteristic in the simultaneous up/downlink test below. But this time, uplink doesn't stay at the high level, with the result that total throughput suffers and is held to only 579 Mbps vs. the > 1000 Mbps that you would expect from adding the unidirectional results together.

AEXAC bidirectional routing throughput

AEXAC bidirectional routing throughput

Storage Performance

I don't know what the deal is with storage sharing and Windows. I haven't had luck in previous tries and didn't do any better this time, either. While I was able to connect to a FAT32 formatted drive plugged into the router and even drag-and-drop a small file or two, I once again was not able to run our standard file copy tests.

Whenever I tried, the robocopy routine would manage to copy only six files over and then report that the share was no longer available:

2013/07/14 15:25:27 ERROR 64 (0x00000040) Copying File d:\firefly4\vts_01_1.vob
The specified network name is no longer available.Waiting 30 seconds... Retrying...

I also tried copying the standard 4.35 GB ripped DVD folder via drag-and-drop. The result here was even more annoying. The file copy box would pop up, but get stuck trying to calculate the transfer time as shown below.

AEXAC trying to copy a large folder

AEXAC trying to copy a large folder

If I waited long enough, the result would look something like that below.

AEXAC failing to copy a large folder

AEXAC failing to copy a large folder

I think the problem may be due to file size. I experimented and was able to copy a 75 MB file as shown below. But when I tried to copy a single 1 GB file, I got the result shown above.

AEXAC failing to copy a large folder

AEXAC failing to copy a large folder

Note the very poky 2.4 MB/s transfer rate on the single file write. So even if you manage to get storage sharing working, the throughput is pretty disappointing, as other reviewers have noted. So if you are planning to use the file sharing feature with Windows clients, my advice is...don't.

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