I'm about to buy an AirPort model but I'm not sure if there is any difference in terms of signal strength and range. There have been comparisons between these two models in the past but I don't think there are any up to date comparisons.

As I'm not going to use the "extra" features, the only thing that matters to me is the range / signal strength of the n signal. (As I don't have any devices supporting the ac signal). Shouldn't there be a significant difference between the two models because of the "more advanced" design of the AirPort Extreme? Like the antennas being placed better or something like that? Thanks!

  • Does is need to be an Apple device? Commented May 13, 2014 at 8:06
  • @CousinCocaine I've had a couple of different routers in the past and I'm getting really tired of all the problems I had with all of them so far. I now want to make sure I buy a device which gives me my confidence in routers back. I know that if a company produces e.g. one good product, the other products of the same company may not be as good as the one, but as I know what reliability all(!) of the Apple products I own give me every day, I'm ready to give an AirPort my trust. If it works as good as my other devices, it would be a big win.
    – Linus
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 8:46
  • If you don't have any 802.11ac compliant computer, then you won't take any advantage of the "radio" throughput of 1.3Gbit/s which this protocol provides.
    – dan
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 11:58
  • @danielAzuelos I'm clear about that, as I already commented that myself.
    – Linus
    Commented May 13, 2014 at 13:58

2 Answers 2


Alright, this is an easy catch here.

If you compare AirPort Express which has 2 built-in antennas , the AirPort Extreme has 6 built-in antennas. You should be able to do the math here and jump to the conclusion that the Extreme would have a better range and signal because of this fact.

To see the source, please click the back url below the Airport Extreme picture here.

Please check this comparison model provided by Apple. The difference for you

  • Express max 300Mbps
  • Extreme max 1.3Gbps
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer, but as I don't know much about wi-fi hardware, does the Extreme really use all 6 antennas for the n signal? Or is it more like it uses 2 for ac, 2 for n, 2 for g, etc.?
    – Linus
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 12:22
  • Let's get that question back to you: How could the Express run 3 signaltypes if it has 2 antennas?
    – Rob
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 12:26
  • 1
    isn't the 1.3Gbps max of the Extreme achieved by the ac signal and not with the n signal?
    – Linus
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 12:47
  • 1
    n won't theoretically go over 450Mbps and it will probably on the Extreme do go over 300Mbps. I have no source to add here, but this is an assumption comparing the prices
    – Rob
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 13:10
  • 1
    Another important thing is the signal to noise ratio. If you are in the middle of nowhere, theoretically the extreme and the express would perform the same as the noise is very low. But if you live in the city, have lots of other electronic signaling going on, you need high signaling power to "overshout" the other signals (extreme). And with that, 5GHz (still) has the least noise but also the least range. If you are in the city take an extreme, if you are in the middle of nowhere take an express. Perform a wifi scan and see how much other 2.4GHZ traffic there is and what you need. Commented May 13, 2014 at 8:00

According to this article on about.com:

Definition: 802.11n is an IEEE industry standard for Wi-Fi wireless local network communications, ratified in 2009. 802.11n is designed to replace the older 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g Wi-Fi technologies. Key Wireless Technologies in 802.11n. 802.11n utilizes multiple wireless antennas in tandem to transmit and receive data. The associated term MIMO (Multiple Input, Multiple Output) refers to the ability of 802.11n and similar technologies to coordinate multiple simultaneous radio signals. MIMO increases both the range and throughput of a wireless network.

In short, the 802... protocols have not much to do with the Antenna (there are no individual Antenas for each protocol), but the frequency does. The 5Gig does not have wide range then the 2.5Gig, it only allows faster data transfer.

  • Now to the numbers:

To make it simple. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) sets your MAX internet speed, but your internal network(computers/tvs/and whatever else you network) has its own speed.

For Internal traffic faster is almost always better. If you have lots of Internal traffic using the router (gigabytes of data transferring) from one point to another in your home them using the faster router is suggested.

  • So if you do not need the extra features then the Airport Express will serve your need.

  • For the price of Airport Exterme ($199) you can get 2 Airport Express and use the second one as Range extender as ultimate solution.

  • Ok, as far as I understand the (whole) wikipedia article on that topic: more antennas, better signal strength.
    – Linus
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 13:53
  • not so simple :) if they are in tandem then yes. But the Extreme having 6 antennas that are not in tandem, they are individual antenna for large hall with dozens of people connecting.
    – Ruskes
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 14:36
  • I downvote this because the Wi-Fi standard used doesn't determine the range - the transmit power of the router's Wi-Fi card and the antennas do. Unfortunately there isn't much documentation about this but based on @Rob's answer below it looks like the Extreme is better. But personally I tend to avoid all these shiny and beautiful devices with hidden antennas and just buy a good old router with big visible antennas (they have a way higher gain than internal antennas).
    – user56648
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:10
  • 1
    @Buscar웃 yeah your answer is fine and answers the question. I just don't like it because IMO it may mislead a beginner into thinking that the "n" is the only thing that matters when buying a router and they can buy the cheapest "n" router and get good range on it, which is far from true.
    – user56648
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Buscar웃 IMO yes it is better, since the Extreme has a better range than a single Express, and even though your solution may have a better range than a single Extreme, it'll have lower throughput and can be instable (instead of a single wireless link you now have two, so bigger risk of failure).
    – user56648
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 18:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .