The best non-Apple Airport Wi-Fi routers for Mac users

“Some fear has erupted at the news that Apple may be shutting down development of its own AirPort wireless routers,” Mike Wuerthele reports for AppleInsider. “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.”

“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,” Wuerthele reports. “The D-Link Ultra AC5300 isn’t cheap at $330 for a single device, but you get what you pay for.”

“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,” Wuerthele reports. “The Netgear Nighthawk R6700 AC1750 retails for $150.”

More options in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: When our Airport gears gives up the ghost, we’ll likely be moving to the eero Home WiFi System.

SEE ALSO:
It’s about time Apple killed the Airport hardware line – November 21, 2016
Apple abandons development of wireless routers – November 21, 2016
How I fixed my Wi-Fi by ditching crappy consumer-grade hardware – September 30, 2016
Mossberg: Eero makes Wi-Fi simpler and stronger – February 23, 2016

90 Comments

  1. Good to see recommendations, but why not just buy Apple routers now? For many consumers, the speed offered even by an 802.11n router (the Airport Express) is much faster than what their ISP offers them. And Apple routers last many years—we have an Airport Express from 2011 that is still going strong (though is now our range-extender for our Time Capsule. While newer routers would give better range from a single unit, grabbing a couple Expresses to extend an Extreme would be less expensive than purchasing a top-of-the-line router.

      1. Sorry, but that’s just not true. You might simply have a stupid ISP that’s decided not to provide support for them, but if they do Internet, an Apple Airport will work.

        1. Well then, to rephrase that, my ISP is not compatible with Apple Aiport. I bought it and tried to hook it up, after tedious amount of troubleshooting on why it didnt work, I read at FAQ from my ISP page that apple routers are not compatible with my current subscription. Now I have an unused Apple Airport for sale.

    1. ” … why not just buy Apple routers now?”

      Apple’s AirPort routers are the only Apple product that I’ve bought where several units have failed. Every other Apple device that I’ve bought has been unbelievably reliable and I still have a collection of Apple laptops going right back to a PowerBook 1400 and all still working after all these years.

      I got one of the original Frisbee Airports and that failed, but no worries, I replaced it with the new Time Capsule that had just been released. That too failed. I also bought an Airport Express which also packed up.

      When I spoke to an Apple Genius, he said that they had seen quite a lot of failed units, but my unit was long past it’s guarantee period and not eligible for replacement.

      It would have been nice to keep using the Airplay technology to distribute audio wirelessly around my house, but I was so disillusioned with Airports that I went with an alternative solution which continues to work reliably.

        1. @critic 2
          Airplay was good while it worked, but the drawback was that I prefer to use my HiFi system as my audio source rather than my computer. If I’m listening to iTunes, it’s via my HiFi and my vintage Rogers LS3/5 speakers.

          Much of my listening is done via FM radio ( not so keen on digital radio ) also listening to vinyl and sometimes other sources such as my original recordings on reel to reel tapes or audio cassettes. None of those analogue sources could be sent around my house via AirTunes, so the easiest option was to source a small transmitter that plugs into the HiFi’s phono outputs and listen to wireless speakers in the kitchen, dining room and bedroom, where audio quality is not so critical.

          I also acquired a pair of damaged wireless speakers of the same type, removed the PCBs and rebuilt them into a housing along with a better amplifier to drive decent speakers in my office.

          1. “……small transmitter that plugs into the HiFi’s phono outputs and listen to wireless speakers……”

            I’d thought of doing something similar but not found anything here in the UK. Is this a Bluetooth transmitter that you’re using to plug into the phono sockets on the HiFi? If so it’s not something I’ve seen before.

            1. I bought these several years ago –

              https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deluxe-Outdoor-Wireless-Speakers-control-Black/dp/B005UOEO6C/ref=aag_m_pw_dp?ie=UTF8&m=AATSB3O2WR8IZ

              I thought they had been discontinued, but apparently not.

              I’d prefer better quality speakers ( hence my home brew solution for the office ), but they’re good enough for the kitchen and bedroom. I bought two sets, but only use stereo speakers in the dining room. Individual speakers can be switched to be left, right or mono, so I have a mono speaker in the kitchen and another in the bedroom. The speakers can be battery operated ( 6x AA cells ) and can be used outside, even in light rain apparently. The main drawback is that the range isn’t as good as I would like, but part of that will be down to the thick stone walls in my house. The manufacturers claim a 100m range, but that would presumably be in free space under optimum conditions. 25m range seems more realistic in real world conditions, which is still pretty useful.

              The operating frequency is 863MHz while BlueTooth operates at around 2.4GHz.

      1. While relevant to the discussion, the fact that you’re talking about equipment that was released a long time ago is a relevant fact — your 1st generation Time Capsule was 2008 and was replaced by several version updates and then a complete form factor redesign, and an Airport Express unit before 2012 was likely not the current form factor, either. In my experience owning and managing dozens of AirPort Extreme, Express, and Time Capsule units over the years, I have never seen one fail until recently an old 802.11 b/g Express I was using for experiments bit the dust after a long, useful life.

      2. While I sympathize with you, you are certainly the rare exception to the rule that Apple’s wireless routers are rock solid. (And, no one should believe your statement that an Apple Genius told you that they have a lot of failed units.)

        While the computing community has a lot of negative things to say about Apple’s Airport systems (mostly about the lack of flexibility in configurations) the community as a whole considers them some of the most rock solid wireless routers in existence. Even the extreme users say they put them in relative’s houses just because they work without any significant support for years and years.

        Yes, Apple’s Airports have fallen well behind the technology curve, but dependability — and ease of configuration — has been their hallmark for years.

        1. Anybody who knows me will realise that I’m generally very impressed with Apple’s hardware and that I find it very reliable and often sing Apple’s praises. However for me, the Airport range has been something of an unfortunate exception.

          Saying that my original Airport was no longer the current version when it failed is irrelevant. I expect Apple gear to keep working for many years and an item such as a router, with no moving parts at all should last pretty well indefinitely. I’ve got old Netgear routers that predate that hardware and are still in working order. The only router failures I’ve ever had were three Airports and a cheap no-name router that I bought locally ( power supply failed ).

          None of the Airports had PSU failures. They simply went wrong for no apparent reason and even when a full reset was performed they couldn’t be configured again.

          The story about the Genius telling me that he had seen many similar Airport failures is entirely true, even if you choose not to believe it.

      3. I bought my Airport Extreme in 2007 (Still have the receipt) and it has never failed. Talk about reliable. Too bad Tim Cook continues to ruin Apple. Fist Macs, now Airports. I hate this guy.

    2. I have an Airport Express serving half my house, and the speed difference is incredible — and not in a good way. Downloading software updates, sharing large files, even streaming video takes markedly longer — often 5x as long…

      If I could find an “extender” that would work seamlessly with my Airport Time Capsule I’d buy it in a second. But I’m so terrified of having to deal with networking nightmares (I have enough of that at work), I’m actually thinking of spending the $199 for a Airport Extreme just to give that part of the house decent coverage. I wish I could trust other options, but I don’t.

      1. The antennas in a current-version AirPort Extreme are so much better than those in an Airport Express. I have replaced an Express with an Extreme in multiple situations and always had good results.

        That said, I soon plan to try an eero system for a superior WiFi environment. It sounds like a great way to go.

  2. When do we get an article about the best Non Apple Computer? Why pretend only longer, Jony, Tim, Phil and Eddie are more interested in mining your wallet than bothering with a computer.

    This picture is a prime example- seated at at deck with an iMac, he is using an iPad. Why not just buy a Surface Pro, Tim?

    http://tinyurl.com/hwlkpj

  3. Am I the only one that streams audio throughout my house via Airplay and speakers connected to Airport Express units? The eero ones don’t seem to have this capability. Suggestions?

    1. Almost daily I use AirPlay to stream audio from my Mac or iPad through an Airport Express to a home speaker system. I am still delighted that the audio syncs automagically with YouTube and other video apps.

    2. I use airport express and Apple tv to stream. all the normal wifi gear has gone. All audio is streamed using airplay..
      There are probably other brands that can take over. But I doubt that it will be with same ease of use.
      This is the windows nightmare starting to happen. All kind of gadgets from different vendors that almost work together and you have nowhere to go with your problems because each vendor can start a blame game.
      Sad. It seems like Apple in their streamlining efforts doesn’t know there own value. It is not the mbp or the imac, or ….
      It is all the stuff combined and each device are helping to sell the other.

      I do not want to leave the Apple eco-system. But it seems like the Apple eco system is leaving me.

  4. Best by far is Asus AC-5300 and a Asus AC-1900 extender on the Home Theater stack in the livingroom……

    AC wireless throughout the house and ethernet ports on both devices….

    1. Tried the Nighthawk x8 a few months ago and took it back after fighting it for hours.

      Claims Gigabit ports even with dual ports for a NAS. Turns out they are not Gigabit throughput, maxed at about 600-700 MB. My Time Capsule throughput was 980+MB up and down.

        1. Yes, it was that model, latest and greatest, top of the line. The ports are not gigabit, and when you have gigabit service you don’t want your wireless router throttling down, probably works great for anyone with a lesser internet speed, but the ports didn’t support gigabit.

  5. Sad to see how shortsighted Timmy is.
    I use an Airport because:
    A. It’s designed by Apple to work seamlessly with all my Apple devices
    B. The Apple “genius” can’t simply blame the 3rd party router every time there’s a connectivity issue (the “Windows PC Paradox”).

    Chalk up yet one more reason NOT to buy another Apple product.

  6. I was hoping that the next Airport router would be similar to the Eero system. It seems that Apple is already very near that with their Airport routers, just update them a bit.

  7. …Not a surprise, seeing as Apple severely hobbled their AirPort Utility with version 6. This made AirPort dysfunctional for my purposes. Their old and better version 5 of AirPort Utility doesn’t run on the latest updates of macOS.

    As for D-Link: I’d personally recommend AVOIDING that company. They’re infamous for consistent firmware security holes over the course of years.

    I’m still using a decent high end Motorola cable modem, but it has a security flaw that requires an annoying workaround. Arris bought that part of Motorola a few years back. By all reports I’ve read have made them less secure and of cheaper quality. So, I’d avoid.

    The general recommendation, if you’re looking buy a cable modem, is to NOT buy one that also does Wi-Fi. Instead, buy a separate, cheaper router exclusively for Wi-Fi that you connect to the cable modem via ethernet.

      1. This one is relevant to the Arris Surfboard SB6141 cable modem:

        http://www.zdnet.com/article/millions-of-routers-vulnerable-to-unpatched-reboot-flaw/

        https://www.securityforrealpeople.com/2016/04/arris-motorola-surfboard-modem.html

        It’s well worth performing searches on the Internet regarding security flaws in your own models of various net-connected hardware. Arris/Motorola NEVER contacted me about the Motorola SURFboard SBG6580 problem. They also offered NO solution. I had to learn the workaround (see the linked articles) from outside of Arris. That’s sick and stupid, aka customer abuse.

  8. Apple should OWN this space. Come on, EERRO??? They only exist because Apple has abdicated its responsibility to insure effective wireless network environments to best showcase its devices. The Airport family showed that – at one time – Apple recognized the market opportunity in wifi that “just works.” Then, over the several years following, there is a massive shift (driven by Apple!) toward mobile, wireless devices. And, Apple fails to keep up. And (perhaps) exits the market, leaving every demographically-desirable consumer to the tender mercies of Eerro.

    Thanks Apple.

  9. I use My old timecapsule as backup to My macs turned of wifi and connected on the LAN. When Ubiquiti UniFi AP, AC LITE dropped in price. Less than $100 I use this awesome access point connected to my LAN for all wireless devices. Super fast, very versatile and easy to operate and far better range than the timecapsule.

    I also kept my Airport Express for my speakers in the kitchen. But nowadays it’s always built in. If apple wants to own it all aquaiare Ubiquiti instead. Otherwise I think it was a smart move. Instead of selling expensive outdated hardware.

    1. The *smart* move would have been to keep updating the Airport line. They should be shipping 8×8 MIMO, MU-MIMO, and other cutting edge router technologies by now. (And, shipping computers and tablets that can take advantage of these aspects.)

      Once upon a time Apple’s Airport systems were on the leading edge (even shipping an 802.11n system before the standard was officially ratified). Unfortunately, this has not been the case for many years.

      No matter what Tim Cook says, Apple’s actions don’t seem to be focused on the end user and the end user’s experience, but rather on Apple’s profits.

      I’ve been a Tim Cook supporter for many years. He did many things right after Steve died. However, it is starting to appear as though Cook is the next Sculley or Ballmer.

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