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March 23, 2010 – 4:20pm AirPort Extreme vs AirPort Express

I recently updated our home network from an AirPort Express (802.11g) to an AirPort Extreme (late 2009, dual-band). The AirPort Express works great; it’s small, easy to set up, and we only have a few devices on our network and use it to stream music just about all day long. The only time we encounter some trouble is when we use the microwave, which causes our internet to cut out about half the time. Additionally, there are a lot of networks in the area on the same frequencies, so I imagine there is some interference caused by these 15 – 20 other networks using the same channels.

At some point I realized that the AirPort Express wasn’t able to keep up with the full speed of our internet connection. Here is a speed test using a direct connection to our cable modem:

Connected to our wireless network (802.11g, with 2 – 3 devices connected at a time):

So, we were losing a little bit of speed there. (I think the upload speeds were just a fluke in my not-so-scientific benchmarks… all subsequent tests showed more consistent upload speeds.) This may or may not matter to you depending on how you use your connection. As a web developer I’m downloading large files all the time, and I also like to try and gauge the comparable speed of our web servers against other websites out there, so having a fast connection is important.

If we upgraded to 802.11n, we needed an access point that was “dual-band,” since an iPhone and one of our computers only supports 802.11g. Without dual-band support, the entire network would slow down to support the lowest common denominator.

Setting up the Airport Extreme was easy. It even copied the settings right off our old Airport Express (same network name, security settings and passwords). After it was connected, I reconnected the Airport Express to use just to stream music to our stereo.

Here are the new speedtest results using the Airport Extreme:

As you can see, this is pretty close to connecting to our cable modem directly through an ethernet connection. The 802.11n band, at the moment, is much less congested and it’s a lot more resistant to outside interference (no more internet time-outs when microwaving!). Our older devices can still connect at their speeds without limiting the performance of the whole network.

Overall I think it was a worthwhile upgrade. If you are thinking maybe your wireless network isn’t so hot, try testing your connection to see if your router is to blame. If your computer supports it, upgrading your network 802.11n can definitely speed things up, and if you have older devices (or iPhones) using the same network, make sure you go with something that has dual-band support.

Update: Here was my result when I connected to the AirPort Extreme via ethernet. Obviously one test in each setup isn’t enough to get highly accurate results, but it was good enough for me. In this case, connecting through the APE with an ethernet connection added no latency to my internet connection, and was only slightly faster than connecting wirelessly.

Posted by in  OS X Uncategorized   |  

3 Responses to AirPort Extreme vs AirPort Express

  1. Clint says:

    Will pass along to Jenna. She’s expressed concerns re: dual band. Our microwave is not wi-fi ready, though.

  2. Scott Meves says:

    A quick update: another enhancement I noticed is that I can get download speeds of up to 500KB/sec now when before I don’t ever remember seeing it get that high. Playing music over airtunes doesn’t have any effect on the download speed nor does the download cause the music to cut out.

  3. Pingback: How do I setup an Airport Express to share my USB mobile broadband with another computer?