On Thursday, Apple made the disappointing announcement that it is discontinuing its AirPort line of network accessories. The company told 9to5Mac that it will continue to sell remaining inventory, but has no plans for future hardware.
With the AirPort devices on the way out, what are the best alternatives?
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As we noted this week, Apple published a new support document shortly after its announcement, outlining what customers should look for when shopping for a router. Apple explained that users can choose between a single router or mesh systems, which help bring Wi-Fi to larger areas.
Read on for the best of both worlds, including single routers and mesh systems
The best alternatives to Apple’s AirPort routers
You can’t talk about Wi-Fi hardware without leading with the Linksys Velop hardware. This is the mesh Wi-Fi system Apple recommends to users and it’s available in 1-pack, 2-pack, and 3-pack configurations.
In terms of design, the Velop units are similar to the AirPort Extreme in that they are tall and narrow. Each one is able to offer 2,000 square feet of coverage, though that can vary depending on the layout and structure of your home. You get 802.11ac, MU-MIMO, and tri-band support.
- Ideal for 6,000 sq.ft., 5+ bedrooms, large multi-story home & patio.
- Ideal for any ISP plan, ISP modem / modem-router.
- Powerful Futureproof Mesh WiFi System replaces your router.
- Intelligent mesh technology ™ finds the fastest path to the internet.
- Clean compact design blends in with your home environment.
- Linksys App guides quick setup process under 5 minutes per node. Set parental controls, guest networks, auto-fix a node using your mobile device plus much more.
Another popular option for a mesh Wi-Fi system is the Netgear Orbi. You get slightly more bang for your buck here as you get 5,000 square-feet of coverage with the 2-pack at $329. The Netgear Orbi is the Wirecutter-recommended mesh Wi-Fi system, as well.
As for design, the Netgear Orbi is an oval-shaped tower that certainly isn’t anything you’d feel the need to hide in a cabinet. You get 802.11ac, top data transfer speeds of 3,000Mb per second, MU-MIMO, and tri-band support.
- Fast whole home Wi-Fi system – Covers up to 5000 square feet with high performance WiFi, kit includes WiFi router and Satellites
- Tri-Band technology -Orbi routers maintain data flow for your connected devices using a dedicated backhaul connection
- Single Wi-Fi network name – Provides seamless room-to-room roaming throughout your home.
- Quick & Easy Setup – Use the Ethernet ports on the router and the Satellite to connect your Smart TV, game console, streaming player and more. Use the NETGEAR Orbi app, now with a new dashboard, to install & personalize your Orbi Home WiFi System
- Guest Network – Easily set up a separate and secure WiFi network for visitors and guests to use
Eero Home Wi-Fi System
One of the more versatile options is the Eero Home Wi-Fi System. It’s available in several different configurations depending on how big your home or apartment is.
Included with the Eero package is one Eero and 2 beacons, the former of which features are larger overall footprint than the latter. Simply connect the Eero to your modem and place the subsequent Beacons throughout your house. The Eero system supports 802.11ac, MU-MIMO, and tri-band.
- Eero second generation : With the most intelligent WiFi technology and powerful hardware, the eero 2nd generation WiFi system is 2x as fast as the original eero. Backwards compatible with 1st generation eeros.
- Wireless acess point: The eero Beacon is a full-fledged access point that simply plugs in to standard outlets and easily expands your WiFi connectivity to every device, without the need of a WiFi adapter.
- Mesh technology: Powered by proprietary TrueMesh technology, the eero WiFi system leverages multiple access points to provide your home with incredibly dependable internet, all on a single home network.
- Quick and easy setup: Replacing your old WiFi router has never been easier than with the eero Home WiFi System. Set up takes minutes and the companion mobile app makes managing your home internet simple and intuitive.
My personal pick in terms of mesh Wi-Fi systems is Google Wi-Fi. Surprisingly enough, Apple may have abandoned its networking technology, but Google’s is ever-improving. The Google Wi-Fi system is available in 1-pack and 3-pack configurations.
A single Google Wi-Fi covers 1,500 square-feet, so you get around 4,500 square-feet of coverage with the 3-pack. Set up is incredibly simple and requires the Google Wi-Fi application. All three of the included units are identical, and it doesn’t matter which one you put where. The Google Wi-Fi system supports 802.11ac, SU-MIMO, and tri-band.
- A new type of connected system for seamless Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home, helping eliminate dead zones and buffering
- Replaces your current router, and works your modem and internet service. It’s compatible with major internet service providers including Comcast, Time Warner, and Verizon Fios
- A single Wifi point covers up to 1,500 sq. ft, a set of three covers homes up to 4,500 sq. ft. Wifi points work together so you can add more if you need additional coverage
- Network Assist technology keeps your connection fast by always selecting the clearest channel and fastest band for your devices
- A simple app gets you set up quickly and allows you to see what’s connected, prioritize devices, and pause the Wi-Fi on kids’ devices.Family controls allow you to pause the WiFi on kids’ devices, like during
AmpliFi Home Wi-Fi System
Rounding out our top picks for mesh systems is the AmpliFi Home Wi-Fi System. Part of what sets this system apart is its design. The primary router has a touch display allowing you easily see performance and status, while the two mesh points plug directly into a power outlet.
The AmpliFi Home Wi-Fi System supports 802.11ac, 3×3 MIMO, and tri-band. While the unit does feature a USB port, it unfortunately does not support external peripherals.
- Wi-Fi Mesh Technology for Complete Home Coverage
- Plug and Play High-Density Mesh Points to Eliminate Dead Spots
- Dual-Band 802.11ac Wi-Fi System Delivers Up to 5.25 Gbps Aggregate Speed
- Convenient Smart-Touch Display for Real-Time Status
- Easy Setup and Powerful Wi-Fi Management using the AmpliFi App
Other mesh systems to consider
While those are the top mesh Wi-Fi systems on the market, there are several others out there to consider, especially depending on your price point. Here they are:
- Amped ALLY-0091K Wireless ALLY Plus – $200
- Asus Lyra Home Wi-Fi System – $335
- Samsung Connect Home AC1300 Smart Wi-Fi System – $199
- TP-Link Deco Whole Home Wi-Fi – 149.99
One important thing to take into consideration is whether or not you really need a mesh network system. Mesh systems offer the highest value when placed in large homes or apartments, or ones with thick walls or awkward layouts. In most instances, if you live in 1-2 bedroom house or apartment, a mesh system is probably overkill.
Here are some of the top routers available on the market:
- Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 – $167.99
- Asus Ac3200 – $191.19
- 1-pack Google Wi-Fi – $114.67
- Linksys Max-Stream AC2200 – $169.97
- Budget Pick: Netgear N750 – $49.43
While it’s certainly disappointing that Apple has discontinued its AirPort accessories, there are numerous systems on the market today that shine nowadays. It’s no secret that the AirPort devices had become a bit stagnant, and at this point it’s even harder to recommend one, even if Apple wants to keep selling them while supplies last.
What do you currently use for your in-home networking? Let us know down in the comments!