The best alternatives to Apple's discontinued AirPort routers
Apple has made the long suspected demise of the AirPort line of routers official yesterday, with the remaining inventory being sold off over the next few weeks to months. If you're looking for a new router, AppleInsider has made a list for you, of ones we've used, and like.
Many had expected this with rumors dating back to 2016 claiming that Apple disbanded the AirPort hardware group.
Many users were holding out hope and had put off upgrading networking gear with the expectation that Apple would eventually update the hardware one more time. With that no longer the case, AppleInsider has put together a list of solid alternatives that will work well with your other Apple products.
As outlined in Apple's new support document, there are two basic kinds of routers to explore, and some basic qualifications to go along with them. Smaller homes would benefit by using a single router, whereas larger homes could benefit from a mesh system.
All our recommended routers support 802.11ac, and offer dual-band or tri-band support.
Eero (second generation)
Eero has long been one of our favorites. They were the first to popularize the idea of mesh networking in everyday households. When we reviewed the original Eero a few years back, we fell in love with the simplicity of the App, and it looked like something Apple would have released.
When a second generation Eero launched, they fixed the bulk of the issues experienced with the original. There are several different options, but the most popular option includes one large Eero and two beacons, best suited to a two-to-four bedroom home.
The second generation model is twice as powerful as the original and now has a third 5GHz antenna. It also adopted USB-C and even supports Thread, Google's new smart home protocol.
Of all the routers we tested, they also had our favorite mobile app. It was clean, easy to use, and offered a wealth of additional features.
Unfortunately, there is no extra USB port on these devices, so if you want Time Machine support, you will need an external NAS.
You can pick up the starter pack on Amazon or at B&H Photo for $399. If you have a smaller home, there is a pack with one beacon for $298. Larger homes can grab the Pro setup which has three full sized Eeros for $499, also available at Amazon and B&H. For additional cost savings, B&H will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey (Colorado and Vermont residents, see here).
Another one of our favorites is the Velop router system from Linksys. Like the second gen Eero, the Velop are tri-band routers and are tall towers that look like a blockier version of Apple's latest AirPort devices.
Linksys says that each node is adequate for 2,000 square feet, and you can purchase three bundled together, or individually to fit your needs. Velop is also one of the few routers to support MU-MIMO, or Multi-User Multiple Input, Multiple Output.
The Velop app is nice and simple, allowing you to view the devices on your network, prioritize specific devices, enable parental controls, run speed tests, and more.
Like Eero, they don't have any USB ports, so any connected storage for Time Machine will have to be a NAS over ethernet.
Ubiquiti AmpliFi HD
Ubiquiti's AmpliFi HD is by far the best for exceptionally large homes. Even older buildings that have extremely dense walls or lots of other obstructions.
Included is the main router and two external beacons. They all look very striking, and the primary router even has a full-color LCD touch screen to get the time, date, internet speed, IP address, and current throughput speeds.
Like the others, a mobile app is included that allows you to tinker and monitor your network. Guest access is a standout here, letting you create a guest network that had an expiration.
There is a USB port around the rear of the unit, but it doesn't appear it is active. Which again means that a NAS is your solution for Time Machine support.
As Apple exits the router market, Google has been making significant in-roads. They first partnered with other manufacturers for a line of routers before launching their own Google Wi-Fi system. The routers themselves look modern and sleek, and like the others, comes in stark white.
Each "Wi-Fi Point" is capable of covering up to 1,500 square feet of your home. They lack any USB ports so you can't connect any USB storage or other peripherals, which may be a downside for some.
Google's app lets you get set up and going quickly and easily, with another simplified design. The lack of USB ports means this is another mesh router relying on NAS for backups.
Amazon has the Google Wi-Fi system (set of 3) available for $258.97. B&H Photo also stocks the 3-pack for $258.99 with free expedited shipping to the contiguous U.S. The retailer will not collect sales tax on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey as well (Colorado and Vermont residents, see here).
There are lots of fans of the Netgear Orbi routers, though when we tested them they had quite a few issues. Namely, slow internet speeds that we didn't experience with other routers. Since then, multiple updates have been issued to the devices, and glowing reviews since the early problematic ones could signal these issues have since been eradicated.
They do have quite the impressive specification list with tri-band support, MU-MIMO, six antennas for 5,000 feet of coverage, and a litany of ports. On the main router resides three Gigabit LAN ports, a WAN port, and a USB 2.0. The satellite beacon has its own four Gigabit Ethernet ports and an additional USB 2.0 port for more peripherals. Unfortunately, the USB port at this time only supports printers with ReadyShare and not hard drives. So if a Time Machine backup is needed, consider a NAS option.
They are available on Amazon for $291.99 with free shipping.
Netgear Nighthawk AC2300
When looking at single routers, one of the most powerful is the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300. This router performs well under heavy loads and can be awesome for gamers. It can all be configured through a full-featured Web interface that is easy for both beginners and pros.
One thing in particular we liked is the ability to prioritize traffic in two different ways. Outgoing traffic can be prioritized for games, while incoming traffic can be prioritized for video streaming.
One downside is that it is only a dual-band router, which may not perform well in crowded environments like city apartment buildings. Luckily, the USB port can be used for a hard drive, so both USB storage and NAS work for Time Machine.
Amazon currently has the Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 on sale for $167.99, a discount of $32 off MSRP.
This dual-band router supports MU-MIMO like others and even can work as a Time Machine backup. Just attach your storage to the rear of the router and you are set to go.
It has built-in content filtering and parental controls as well. VPN Plus allows RT2600ac to serve as a powerful VPN server, which can give you even more secure access.
The back of the Synology RT-2600ac has a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, and even an SD card reader which is something we usually don't see on routers.
You can find the Synology RT-2600ac on Amazon for $194.99.
Netgear Nighthawk AD7200
This is one powerful router that not only supports 802.11ac but 802.11ad wireless as well. Around back are 7 LAN ports and one 1 WAN port reducing the need for an additional Ethernet switch.
With blazing fast speeds and MU-MIMO support, this is a great router to go with if you are looking to future-proof your network. Netgear doesn't explicitly call out Time Machine support, so proceed with caution.
Retailing for $449.99, Amazon currently has the AD7200 on sale for $377.84 with free shipping, a discount of $72.
This tri-band router is capable of some pretty impressive performance. Though it is on the expensive side, there are lots of handy features.
If you connect a flash drive or other USB storage device to the back of the RT-AC3200, you can access those files from anywhere. To access it you just need the Asus AiCloud app or a web browser, but that is a pretty handy feature to have at your disposal.
It also acts as its own security software. Known as AiProtection, it will detect any infected devices on your network and prevents any information from being stolen from them. it also blocks known malicious website and constantly runs security checks.
Although the Asus RT-AC3200 retails for $279.99, it's currently 32 percent off on Amazon, bringing the price down to $191.19.
You get what you pay for
Routers really range in their performance and abilities. Like anything else, you get what you pay for.
Apple's routers have never been the overall fastest, but they have always been reliable and highly recommended. The timing may be right for Apple to abandon the AirPort lineup as we are seeing a bit of a renaissance in the home-networking market with many new standalone and mesh-systems hitting the market.
Many routers are available for under $100, but these are rarely reliable. Especially with terrifying security exploits like KRACK that would largely go un-patched on these budget devices.