Tuesday, January 22, 2013

AirPort Extreme's Excellence

Back in December, the weekend before Christmas, my 5 year old Cisco Linksys 2.4GHz 802.11g router decided it was time to stop transferring electrons efficiently, and to act intermittently as the sole device through which data was entering and leaving my home.   Our son was visiting, I'd just gotten a new MacBook Air, Dr Desert Flower had just gotten her new corporate iPhone 5, and our son brought his Visio PC and iPhone 4 so there were no shortage of devices wanting to connect to a router that kept saying "internet connection cannot be found"  (yes, first world problems, I know).

So I jumped in the car at 830pm that Sunday night, drove to BestBuy, found the router aisle, and perused the wide selection.  They had routers from $49 to $300, and a chart that showed number-of-users on one axis, with a "grade" on the other axis, and all the different makes and models in columns.  Cisco Linksys were conspicuously absent from the BestBuy offerings.   (the $300 was a 20 connection business hub, more than what I needed).

A mom and dad were about to buy the lowest, or 2nd lowest end router, and a blue shirted BestBuy drone was telling them about their selection, as I looked over the routers that BestBuy claimed could handle 7+ connections.  The failing Cisco router had 4 hardwired LAN ports out, and I was using them all (work computer, work fax/printer/copier, personal desktop, and DirectTV uplink [yes, sad that DirectTV needs/wants a LAN connection when it's supposed to be a satellite device. What's that DirectTV, you have problems with data quality, and are subject to the weather?  hmm? Sure, Cox Cable and your customer's bandwidth can bail you out]).

After helping the mom & dad, the blue shirted drone saw that I was not pleased with the "just 3 wired LAN outputs" on two of the higher end routers, and asked how many connections I needed.   I rapid fired off the hard wired and wifi connections I needed, and the drone instantly picked up the AirPort Extreme 802.11n WiFi box "this is what you need" he told me with confidence.  I was still skeptical.  The  AirPort's $179 price tag made me balk, when the Cisco Linksys (Netgear & Asus) were $99 each, and I was still uncomfortable with most-things-Mac. Not being a good poker player, it clearly showed on my face, and the drone countered "Your new Mac Book, and the iPhones, will connect instantly to the AirPort. Mac devices always get along".

His words were true.  I recalled the problems my work laptop had in finding the 95% dead Cisco router initially, and how my son's laptop PC couldn't find or connect without painstakingly reconfiguring, compared to  the seamless inherent fluidity that DDF's Mac Power Book from her former job, or the iPad, iPhones, and my AirBook had in easily finding whatever router is within range.  I grabbed the expensive AirPort Extreme box, made a beeline to the cash register rat maze, and begrudgingly forked out nearly $200 (with 8% tax), dashed back the 4 miles home, and opened the elegant Apple packaging.

No CDs, no configuration disks, a simple pictogram instruction manual explaining which cables to plug in first, 2nd, and third.  Powered up, my AirBook instantly found it, asked me what password I wanted to install upon it (good thing I was at home, without any neighbor squatters coincidentally logging on at the same time, as would happen in a large city like NYC, London, or other densely packed population centers), and the data stream was restored.  Everyone's device connected, readily, and the intermittent disconnection activity was vanquished from our happy home.  Merry Christmas, chez nous.

The Cisco Linksys gave me 5 solid years of service before POOF, giving up.  It had a bank of lights on the front, indicating data in and out, displaying which of the 4 LAN connections were active, and 2 unwieldily antennae sticking out the back, in a complex geometry black and blue plastic injection molded case.  The AirPort Extreme on the other hand has one big glowing green light, appears to be a large white plastic coaster for a 2 liter pitcher, and "just works", efficiently.  I am impressed with the beauty, simplicity, form, function, and quality of the AirPort Extreme.  As with most things in life, for the ones that are quality purchases, you do get what you pay for.

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