I bought this to replace an ASUS RT-N56U - 300Mbps Dual Band Wireless N Router. 802.11n, Hardware NAT, 5 Internal Antennas, Fast Gigabit Ethernet, Wireless HD content streaming, 3 Year Warranty
which kept dropping wi-fi connections and gave erratic speeds. The second one of these I had in fact.
This brand-new Airport Extreme had just come out and I couldn't find too many reviews on it but what I could find seemed very favourable. It is also 802.11ac compliant which is no use to me at the moment but gives me some future-proofing when I upgrade my laptop in months to come. It's worth noting that it's a, b, g & n compliant too which means it will allow legacy hardware to connect with no problems.
The specs all seemed good:
It has a USB connection for an external hard-drive or printer. I'm using it for NAS and Time Machine backups. I'm a little puzzled why Apple stuck with USB 2.0 here instead of USB 3.0 - I assume they think their customers will generally only use this port for attaching a printer. A shame really, as having a USB 3.0 hard-drive attached would give a nice speed boost. Far from a deal-breaker though.
It has a dual-band transmitter which is crucial in crowded wi-fi suburbia. None of my neighbours operate on 5GHz which means I get a nice, clean signal.
It has 3 x Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and 1 x Gigabit Ethernet WAN port. Mine is connected to a Gigabit switch via a LAN port as I'm operating it in bridging mode, letting the modem deal with DHCP and DNS.
Setup is typically Apple and very easy via Apple's Airport Utility. I can't comment on setting up via Windows although a cursory look on the Apple website would suggest it can only be set up via OS X or iOS. It was up and running within a few minutes.
Aesthetically it's also typically Apple. It's a small, white cuboid (168mm x 98mm x 98mm - rounded corners) with a single, small green LED at the front to let you know it's alive and working well. All the ports are hidden on the back.
Performance is superb and I can't fault it. All my devices connected extremely quickly. I've been using it for just over a week now and I've not had one connection drop. I've also gone to the broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk website to see how stable the connection is. The Asus would have the "needles" on the website bounce all over the place. The Airport Extreme is rock steady. It does seem noticeably quicker than the Asus, although I can't quantify that - but websites definitely seem to load quicker as does streaming movies from my hard-drive. Signal strength seems a lot stronger than the Asus too - I get full strength in the garden which would only be a pipe dream with the Asus.
Price is a little high as there are other routers coming out now with similar specs but a fair amount cheaper. I chose Apple because I trust their quality & reliability so don't mind paying the premium. In my eyes it's better to pay too much and lose a few extra pound notes than to pay too little and have endless headaches. I've not been disappointed by this product.
There is also a Time Capsule version for an extra £55 or so (Apple 802.11AC 2TB Airport Time Capsule (Launched June 2013)
). I chose not to have that version as I have a perfectly useable external hard-drive already. I guess the benefit of the all-in-one unit is its space-saving qualities.
Great product - thoroughly recommended. :-)