If you’ve been a longtime Mac user, no doubt the AirPort Extreme has a special place in your heart. Its industrial design a step above the weaponized black boxes favored by most router designers, and it functions beautifully with all your Apple devices. Unfortunately, it looks like Apple is going to be discontinuing the device. In truth, it was aging, and this move aligns with Apple’s apparent disinterest in markets beyond their core skill set. But if you were looking to get a new AirPort Extreme or you want to replace the one you have on hand, here’s the best Apple routers for your Apple-centric home
Netgear R6400 – $119
The Netgear R6400 is a great substitute for Apple’s AirPort Extreme, and the best Apple router replacement. While it lacks the gold-standard software controls of the Apple router, its user interface is easier to navigate than most routers. It includes support for 802.11ac, which is the fastest wireless standard that most Macs support. With the included beamforming, its range should be sufficient to cover a decent sized apartment or most of your house.
A stand-out feature is its support for HFS+ formatted disks over a fast USB 3.0 port, which few other routers offer. This support means that Mac users can attach an HFS+-formatted drive and use it as a network-connected Time Machine disk. Considering that it seems the Time Capsule will be retired alongside the AirPort, this router is a great substitute for both of those devices. Plus, it’s about half the cost of a new AirPort Extreme, which might make up for it’s non-native support.
Synology RT1900ac – $149
You might be most familiar with the Synology brand from their excellent stable of home NAS devices. The Synology RT1900ac is not all that impressive as a stand-alone router, but when paired with Synology’s top-notch software, it’s much more remarkable. Rather than running in a web browser, the RT1900 uses native software for its setup and management. This means you get a well-designed, frequently-updated user interface. This helps, since you can do some pretty complex file management with this router. As you might expect, it includes a USB 3.0 port to connect a hard drive or NAS system, and it offers native supports Apple’s Time Machine and HFS+ file system. It pairs especially well with a Synology NAS if you already have one on hand, but it’s not necessary to access the full feature set of this router.
TP-Link Archer C7 – $86
The Archer C7 is an excellent choice for a lot of people. It’s affordable, the range is decent, and it comes with support for 802.11ac, which is the fastest wireless standard supported by most current Apple devices. The well-respected Wirecutter rated it their top pick for most people, which is high praise. You’ll also see 2 USB 2.0 ports for connecting shared disks and printers. However, these ports don’t support HFS+, which is currently required by Apple devices for any kind of Time Machine backups or effective server storage. But if you don’t care about those features, this is a well-priced router that punches well above its weight.
Eero – $349 for 2, $199 for 1
If you’re looking for a plug-and-play, idiot-proof solution to rival the AirPort Extreme, Eero is an excellent choice. They’re a little different from most networking companies, in that they don’t make a ton of products, or try to market “whole-house” wireless range from a single black box. Instead, they sell small, squarish, white pucks that look a lot like the AirPort Express. These pucks can be seamlessly connected to one another to act as range extenders, requiring minimal interaction from the user. The setup runs over an Android or iPhone app, and it’s simple and well-designed. You’ll probably need two or three of the devices to actually cover your whole house, but you can expect consistent service from any corner of your residence. They don’t support any kind of USB or disk connectivity, so if you want network file sharing, you’ll need to setup an NAS or Mac server.
Asus RT-AC88U – $285
If nothing but the best will do, you’ll want to pick up Asus’s RT-AC88U. Sure, it looks like a secondary character from a Michael Bay movie. But it’s extremely fast, boasting excellent range and eight, count ’em, eight gigabit LAN ports. It’s supported by a mobile app and a decently-designed user interface, and includes one USB 3.0 port. If you want to get Time Machine or HFS+ drives working on this thing, you’ll need to put in some command-line work, so you’d probably be better off setting up a separate NAS. If you’ve got a large home network, this might be the perfect cornerstone.
If you’re looking for a wireless router that’s just a fast, attractive, and easy-to-use as the Apple AirPort Extreme, you might have hard time getting everything in one package. The best single replacement is probably the Netgear RT6400. The ease of use and flexibility that Eero provides is also compelling, especially for users that need to cover a large area with signal.
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