Best Mac router, WiFi routers for Macs

Putting the Apple AirPort up against seven other routers

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  • Apple
  • Belkin
  • BT
  • LinkSys
  • Netgear Extender
  • Netgear Nighthawk
  • Solwise
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Apple AirPort Extreme

Price: £169.00

More info: store.apple.com/uk

Price And Design: The AirPort Extreme is a typical Apple product. Its upright, gleaming white design is utterly unlike any other router that is currently available. And, like any good Apple product, it’s very easy to use – as long as you have a Mac. Apple has built the AirPort Utility software right into the Mac operating system, so your Mac can automatically scan for AirPort routers and help you to get online quickly.

However, the Windows version of the AirPort software isn’t very good, which means that the AirPort Extreme really needs to be set up with a Mac rather than a Windows PC.  It’s also a little disappointing that a router costing £169.00 doesn’t also include a broadband modem for your Internet connection.

Features And Performance: Like most modern routers, the AirPort Extreme provides simultaneous dual-band support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. However, Apple doesn’t quote speeds for the AirPort Extreme, merely stating that the 802.11ac is ‘up to three times faster’ than 802.11n. The six internal antenna do provide a good, reliable wifi signal, and its ease-of-use makes it a good option for home users who just want to get started quickly. But while the AirPort Extreme is certainly faster than its 802.11n predecessor, it can’t match the speed of the fastest 802.11ac routers, such as the even more expensive WRT1900AC from Linksys.

As we’ve mentioned, the AirPort Extreme doesn’t include a broadband modem, and it’s a little lacking elsewhere too, with just three Ethernet ports and a single USB 2.0 port for connecting a printer or hard drive.

Wifi Support: dual-band 802.11ac/802.11n (speeds not quoted), also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: 1x WAN (for broadband modem), 3x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0

Pros: attractive tower design, includes six internal antenna for good wifi coverage, easy to set up – if you have a Mac

Cons: expensive, no broadband modem, poor Windows support

Read: Mac WiFi not working? How to fix WiFi problems.

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Next Prev Apple

Apple AirPort Extreme

Price: £169.00

More info: store.apple.com/uk

Price And Design: The AirPort Extreme is a typical Apple product. Its upright, gleaming white design is utterly unlike any other router that is currently available. And, like any good Apple product, it’s very easy to use – as long as you have a Mac. Apple has built the AirPort Utility software right into the Mac operating system, so your Mac can automatically scan for AirPort routers and help you to get online quickly.

However, the Windows version of the AirPort software isn’t very good, which means that the AirPort Extreme really needs to be set up with a Mac rather than a Windows PC.  It’s also a little disappointing that a router costing £169.00 doesn’t also include a broadband modem for your Internet connection.

Features And Performance: Like most modern routers, the AirPort Extreme provides simultaneous dual-band support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. However, Apple doesn’t quote speeds for the AirPort Extreme, merely stating that the 802.11ac is ‘up to three times faster’ than 802.11n. The six internal antenna do provide a good, reliable wifi signal, and its ease-of-use makes it a good option for home users who just want to get started quickly. But while the AirPort Extreme is certainly faster than its 802.11n predecessor, it can’t match the speed of the fastest 802.11ac routers, such as the even more expensive WRT1900AC from Linksys.

As we’ve mentioned, the AirPort Extreme doesn’t include a broadband modem, and it’s a little lacking elsewhere too, with just three Ethernet ports and a single USB 2.0 port for connecting a printer or hard drive.

Wifi Support: dual-band 802.11ac/802.11n (speeds not quoted), also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: 1x WAN (for broadband modem), 3x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0

Pros: attractive tower design, includes six internal antenna for good wifi coverage, easy to set up – if you have a Mac

Cons: expensive, no broadband modem, poor Windows support

Read: Mac WiFi not working? How to fix WiFi problems.

 

Belkin AC 1200 DB

Price: from £99.99

More info: here

Price And Design: Belkin’s AC 1200 DB is a neatly designed dual-band 802.11ac router that makes a good, affordable alternative to Apple’s AirPort Extreme. The slimline unit doesn’t take up much space, and is designed to stand upright so that you can easily sit it on a shelf by your ADSL socket

Belkin lists the AC 1200DB at £199.99 on its web site, but we’ve seen it at just £99.99 on sites such as Amazon. That’s a good price for an 802.11ac router that – unlike Apple’s AirPort Extreme – also includes an ADSL modem. There’s also a version available without a modem, although that doesn’t seem to be much cheaper so you might as well get the full modem-router version.

Belkin’s wireless products are always easy to use, and the AC 1200 DB includes colour-coded cables and connectors along with a Setup Wizard that helps you to get online straight away.

Features And Performance: The AC 1200 DB provides simultaneous dual-band wifi support on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. It also includes four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces for wired connections, and one USB port that will allow you to connect a hard drive or printer that you can share on your network.

It’s not the fastest router around, with maximum speeds of 867Mbps for 802.11ac transmission and 300Mbps for 802.11n. However, the low price and built-in ADSL modem make it a good option for home users who want an affordable upgrade for an older router.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 867Mbps, 802.11n at 300Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: ADSL modem, 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0

Pros: affordable 802.11ac router, compact design, easy to set up and use

Cons: one of the slower 802.11ac routers

 

BT Home Hub 5

Price: £129.00

More info: here

Price And Design: The latest version of BT’s Home Hub router is almost identical to last year’s model, with an attractive, slimline design that is intended to fit through your letterbox if you’re not at home when it arrives. But while it looks the same the Home Hub 5 is a big upgrade, as it’s the first router from BT to adopt high-speed 802.11ac wifi.

Getting started is really easy, as the Home Hub 5 can automatically detect when a new device connects to it for the first time and will help you get online and sort out any problems that it detects. It’s well priced too, as it includes both wireless router and broadband modem for £129.00, so it’s definitely better value than Apple’s modem-less AirPort Extreme. BT currently gives the Home Hub 5 free to new customers who sign up for its Infinity fibre-optic broadband service, but the modem built into the router works with ordinary ADSL broadband too so it’s a good option for BT customers who want to upgrade to 802.11ac.

Features And Performance: Previous versions of the Home Hub have been a bit basic, but the Home Hub 5 comes right up to date with dual-band wifi on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, and maximum speeds of 1.3Gbps for 802.11ac and 300Mbps for 802.11ac. We were pleased to see that its four Ethernet ports have all been upgraded to gigabit speed as well, and there’s also a USB 2.0 port for connecting a printer or hard drive. 

And, despite the slimline design, the Home Hub 5 includes six internal antennae, and definitely provided better wifi coverage than the old Home Hub 3 that we have in our office.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 1.3Gbps, 802.11n at 300Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: fibre/ADSL modem, 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0

Pros: affordable 802.11ac router with built-in broadband modem, supports ADSL and BT’s Infinity fibre-optic service

Cons: primarily designed for BT customers, BT’s Mac support isn’t very good

 

Linksys WRT1900AC

Price: £230.00

More info: here

Price And Design: The new WRTAC1900 from LinkSys is almost the opposite of Apple’s elegant AirPort Extreme. It’s big and heavy, and costs even more than the AirPort Extreme at around £230.00 without even including an ADSL or cable modem.

Even so, the WRT1900AC is a powerful and versatile router that will appeal to home users who want maximum speed for games and streaming video, as well as business users who need reliability and security for their office network.

It’s easy to set up, thanks to a browser-based Setup Wizard that detects when you connect to it for the first time and then guides you through the main settings. The sheer range of options available might be a bit daunting for ordinary home users, but features such as the Network Map will be great for more advanced users.

Features And Performance:  The WRT1900AC is one of the fastest 802.11ac routers around. As well as simultaneous dual-band support on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, the WRT1900AC supports the fastest wifi options currently available, with maximum speeds of 1.3Gbps for 802.11ac and 600Mbps for 802.11n. The four chunky antennae may be a bit of an eyesore, but they provide good range and coverage for your wifi network, and there are also four gigabit Ethernet ports for wired networks. The router includes both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports for connecting a printer or hard drive – and it even supports the Mac’s HFS+ file format, so you don’t need to reformat your hard drive when you connect it to the router.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 1.3Gbps, 802.11n at 600Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: 1x WAN (for broadband modem), 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0/eSATA

Pros: one of the fastest 802.11ac routers currently available, easy to set up with advanced features for experienced users

Cons: big, heavy, expensive, doesn’t include broadband modem

 

Netgear AC1200 Range Extender

Price: £90.00

More info: here

Price And Design: As well as looking at routers that are direct rivals to Apple’s AirPort Extreme we also wanted to include one ‘range extender’ that can be used in conjunction with AirPort or a rival router.

We’ve got a deadspot in our office where we have trouble picking up our wifi network, and larger homes may also have problems getting the wifi signal into rooms on upper floors. A range extender such as the AC1200 can connect to your existing wifi router and then boost the wifi signal to reach those deadspots.

You start with the extender close to your existing router in order to establish a good wifi connection, but you can then move the extender further away into other rooms in order to extend the reach of your network. It costs about £90 on top of your existing router, but it’s a good investment if you have trouble with the reach of your wifi network at home.

Features And Performance: The AC1200 isn’t as fast as a conventional dual-band router, only offering 900Mbps for 802.11ac and 300Mbps for 802.11n. However, those speeds should still be fine for most home users, and the emphasis with a range extender such as this is on reliability rather than sheer speed. The AC1200 also provides an option called FastLane that allows it to combine the 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals to provide a single high-speed connection that can help with video streaming and gaming in your upstairs bedrooms. It’s handy for wired connections too, as it includes five Gigabit Ethernet ports, as well as a USB 3.0 port for connecting a hard drive or other storage device.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 900Mbps, 802.11n at 300Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: 5x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 3.0

Pros: extends the range of your existing wifi router, easy to set up, FastLane option for improved speed and reliability

Cons: can only be used in conjunction with an existing router

 

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900

Price: £180.00

More info: here

Design And Price: The sharp, angular design of Netgear’s Nighthawk router is very un-Mac-like, but it’s clearly intended to appeal to gamers who want top performance for online games and streaming video.

Priced at around £180.00, the Nighthawk is slightly more expensive than Apple’s AirPort Extreme, and it doesn’t include a broadband modem so you’ll need to connect it to your existing router or modem to get online. However, it’s well designed and packed with the latest high-speed wifi features.

Like most routers, the Nighthawk can be configured using a web browser interface, but Netgear also makes a useful app called Genie that is available for Macs, PCs and iOS devices – and there’s even a special HD version for the iPad. The Genie app can monitor and diagnose network problems, as well as providing additional options such as parental control options and even AirPrint compatibility so that iOS devices can work with printers that are connected to the router.

Performance And Features: It’s expensive, but the Nighthawk is very much a top-of-the-range router, with dual-band support for 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies and maximum speeds of 1.3Gbps for 802.11ac and 600Mbps for 802.11n. It only has three external antennae, but these are backed up by an amplifier to boost the wifi signal, and the router itself has a 1GHz dual-core processor along with 128Mb of Flash storage and 256Mb of memory to provide maximum data throughput.

There are four Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections, and both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports for connecting a printer or hard drive, with the USB 3.0 handily located right on the front of the router for easy access.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 1.3Gbps, 802.11n at 600Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: 1x WAN (for broadband modem), 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0

Pros: high-performance router for gaming and video-streaming, Genie app for Macs and iOS devices

Cons: expensive, doesn’t include broadband modem

 

Engenius ESR1750 Cloud Router

Price: £127.61

UK Sales: Solwise

Price And Design: With its circular Frisbee shape the Engenius ESR1750 router looks like something Apple might have designed. The circular casing houses six internal antennae to provide good wifi coverage, but it only measures about 6.5 inches in diameter, so it’s easy to sit it on a convenient shelf. There’s also a set of screws included so that you can mount it higher up on a wall if you want to.

The ESR1750 doesn’t include a modem so – like the Apple AirPort Extreme – you’ll need to use it in conjunction with an existing broadband modem. However, it’s cheaper than the AirPort Extreme, at just £127.61, so it’s a good alternative if you don’t want to spend too much.

To get started you just type ‘engeniusrouter’ into the address bar of a web browser on any Mac, PC or mobile device, and the router’s Setup Wizard will guide you through the process of getting online.

Features And Performance: The ESR1750 provides dual-band wifi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, with maximum speeds of 1.3Gbps for 802.11ac and 450Mbps for 802.11n. There are also four Gigabit Ethernet ports for wired connections and a USB 2.0 port for connecting a printer or hard drive. The router’s EnShare option also allows you to provide remote access to a files stored on a connected hard drive when you’re away from home. You can connect remotely using a web browser on a Mac or PC, and there’s an app for iOS and Android devices as well.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 1.3Bbps, 802.11n at 450Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: 1x WAN (for broadband modem), 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 1x USB 2.0

Pros: affordable 802.11ac router, compact design, six antennae provide good wifi coverage

Cons: no broadband modem, remote access can be tricky to set up

 

TP-Link Archer D7

Price: £129.99

More info: here

Design And Price: The Archer D7 doesn’t have any particular outstanding features – apart from its rather odd name – but at just £129.99 it provides an all-in-one modem-and-router with 802.11ac wifi at a very competitive price.

The slim black box of the Archer D7 is neat and compact, so it’s easy to set it up on a shelf or in a corner by your broadband phone socket. It only has three external antennae, compared to the four or even six antennae used by many of its rivals, but it uses a power amplifier to enhance signal strength and we didn’t have any problems with reception while testing it. Our only real complaint is that the documentation provided with the Archer D7 is a bit skimpy, and while it does have a browser interface that helps you through the set-up process it still tends to throw quite a bit of jargon at you, which might be confusing for less experienced users.

Features And Performance: The Archer D7 includes an ADSL modem for your broadband connection, and provides dual-band wifi on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies. It supports maximum speeds of 1.3Gbps for 802.11ac and 450Mbps for 802.11n, and there are four Gigabit Ethernet interfaces available for wired connections. One of those interfaces is also designed to be used with cable or fibre-optic modems, so you don’t need to buy a new router if you upgrade your Internet connection in the future.

There are two USB 2.0 ports for connecting a printer or hard disk, and the router includes an FTP server that provides remote access to files stored on hard disk. However, the instructions for setting up the FTP server are quite heavy on jargon, so TP-Link could provide a bit more help for ordinary home users here.

Wifi Support: 802.11ac at 1.3Gbps, 802.11n at 450Mpbs, also supports 802.11a/b/g

Interfaces: ADSL modem, 4x Gigabit Ethernet, 2x USB 2.0

Pros: includes router and modem, competitive price, FTP server for remote access

Cons: documentation uses a lot of jargon, only three antennae

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