14 Replies Latest reply: Apr 6, 2014 8:37 PM by marconey
rick722 Level 1 (5 points)



Just curious if there are any reasons to upgrade to the latest model vs. my 4th gen airport extreme other than the new ac support?  I don't have any ac devices (yet), but wondering if maybe the new design has better range or something even when using n.  I heard some reports in the past of 5th gen being better than 4th gen in this area, but now the design is new so any feedback would be great thanks!



  • Brandon2184 Level 4 (1,610 points)

    The new model supports "beamforming". According to Apple: "With 802.11ac technology comes the intelligent, powerful beamforming antenna array. Most base station antennas emit an equal and constant Wi‑Fi signal in all directions. But the beamforming antenna array is smarter — it knows where an 802.11ac device is on the network. Then AirPort Extreme targets its signal to that device. So your Wi‑Fi signal is stronger, clearer, and faster."


    Honestly if your 4th-gen extreme is working fine and you don't have any ac devices I wouldn't see any reason to reason to upgrade right now.

  • Bob Timmons Level 10 (98,179 points)

    Apple added 2 additional antennas in the new AirPort Extreme to bring the total up to 6, in addition to moving the antenna locations up to the top of the new "tower" design.


    That might provide you with a bit more range and speed with your current devices, but as Brandon2184 says, if things are working fine now, and you really don't need a new router otherwise, it might be wise to hold on until most of your wireless devices are 802.11ac capable.

  • bunjicat Level 1 (15 points)

    Hi All. 


    I have the new extreme and a new Apple 11" with AC.  I have done some Basic bencmarks and the results are impressive.  This thing is a beast.  Using an FTP conncetion to my server I was able to achieve just over 50MB/sec.  Exteme placement was on the first floor and I was located on the second floor about 15 feet away.   I also did a download  test though the Wan and achieved 90MB/sec.

  • Bob Timmons Level 10 (98,179 points)

    Thanks for the info, but I think the question from rick722 was how much improvement might be expected using normal 802.11n devices with a new 802.11ac router.


    If you tested that out, please let us know how an 802.11n Mac might compare in the same test location(s).

  • rick722 Level 1 (5 points)

    All very helpful responses thanks!


    @bunjicat yes if you can let us know how it's performing with n devices especially if the range is better that would be great.  I currently have an extreme and express so even if I buy a new one it will just allow me to improve coverage by having 3 routers.  Got lots of cement walls so range is a big issue for me.  Also do lots of data transfer over n but mostly close to the extreme so that works pretty well.  But for iPads/iPhones need as much coverage as possible.  Thanks again!

  • bunjicat Level 1 (15 points)

    I setup the AE with 2 networks.  One for AC (5ghz) and one for N(2.4ghz).  The same ftp connection through the 2.4 got a sustained 14MB/sec.    As far as range, the 5ghz is still limiting.  I attached a iphone to the 5 and 2.4 and in a spot in the house where 2.4 gives me 2 bars I get signal drop with the 5.  Although the 5ghz on AC can sustain the higher rates farther away, where before it would drop off.  Maybe the beam formiing is playing into that. 

  • Bob Timmons Level 10 (98,179 points)

    So, in general terms would you say that the performance of your 802.11n devices with the new AC router was.....


    Significantly better overall?


    About the same?


    Significantly worse?

  • bunjicat Level 1 (15 points)

    On N devices in the 2.4ghz band  speed is slightly better and range is significantly better.  On the 5ghz band N devices speed is significantly better and the range is about the same.  Although maintaing throughput at farther distances.

  • Shawn Grinter 2 Level 3 (950 points)

    Over and above performance changes there are two other items to be aware of:


    1) The new AP ac can be used as a Time Machine target with an attached hard disk (the first time this is officially supported)



    2) You lose SNMP support so performance monitoring (e.g. via Apps like iNet) no longer work.



    So one lose, one gain.




  • rick722 Level 1 (5 points)

    Thanks to everyone for the replies and about the official Time Machine support on attached hard disk that's interesting I'll have to read up on that...



  • TBONE82 Level 1 (0 points)

    If you don't have any 802.11AC devices there is no point in upgrading to the AC router yet.  Wait until you have at least 1 device or you really won't see any benefits.  Plus there are only a few AC routers out there now, the technology and design will only get better.  Buy it when you need it, by then, it'll likely be better than it is today.


    Having said that, i'd also look at all the non-apple routers. there are some amazing ones out there which will work just as well without the "apple tax". There are some that even specifically support Time Machine, and iTunes.

  • marconey Level 1 (80 points)

    @Shown Grinter 2: I have been using a 4th gen. Airport Extreme connected to my Mac Mini Server and and an external HD for Time Machine for backups for couple of years. So I think it is safe to say that it (Time Machine > attached shared disk) isn't a new feature in the new AE ac!!

  • Bob Timmons Level 10 (98,179 points)

    Shawn was pointing out that Time Machine backups are officially supported on the new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme with an external hard drive.


    Prior to the introduction of the new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme, you may be surprised to learn that Apple did not officially support Time Machine backups to a drive at the USB port of the AirPort Extreme.


    So, it was not a "feature" at all until the introduction of the new 802.11ac AirPort Extreme.


    You can check this Apple Support document from June 2013....just prior to the release of the "ac" AirPort Extreme to confirm.




    Although not supported by Apple, some lucky users seemed to be able to make this work. Most could not.


    Most users who tried this experienced corruption issues within a few weeks to a few months of operation. Some users.....like me.....never could even get the setup working at all.


    We saw thousands of posts from users who could not get this to work...and they were not satisifed to learn that it was not working because it was not supported. Most did not care that it was not supported, they just felt that it should work for them.


    Looks like it did work for you. Congats on that, you are one of the lucky ones.

  • marconey Level 1 (80 points)

    Hi Bob,


    Thanks for the enlightenment! Seriously, until you pointed out, I had no idea that so many had problems ;o(


    By the way, I didn't try to "make it work".... Unless I was one of the lucky ones who went through the "server" route. Meaning, the "Time Machine back up feature for clients" in Mac OS X Server, as that is how I have set it up. And I have been backing up my MacBook Pro to the hard drive through the Server for a while now.