WiFi has been around for years, and a guy might think it’s all sorted out, but it’s not. It’s way better than it was three or four years ago — much more reliable, faster, less prone to dropping connections or getting messed up by other wireless devices using the same or similar frequencies.
Here’s why: After moving around to new homes over shorter periods of time than I would care to remember and changing services for greater speeds, I used a variety of different cable, DSL services, and line-of-sight wireless Internet services. Usually most of the WiFi routers offered by the service providers worked mostly OK with all of our Apple devices and occasional PC or Android friends coming through as long as I rebooted the router every now and then. And sometimes an Android friend would drop connections frequently, and that was irritating sure, but what really was annoying was my Apple TV.
My Apple TV would lose the connection with my (insert some common cheap router name here) home WiFi, necessitating an Apple TV reboot and/or WiFi router reboot to get them talking again. Now, who’s fault is this? The router manufacturer? Or Apple’s?
I don’t know. Troubleshooting the exact issue, which occurred randomly but often enough to spike anger, was tough to find the time to fix. Tons of discussion board searching resulted in nothing concrete. And manually setting frequencies, changing channels, and tweaking settings did nothing to fix anything.
Time Capsule to the Rescue?
Finally I dusted off an old first-generation Time Capsule, which is basically an Apple WiFi router with a built-in hard drive that’s used for Apple’s Time Machine backup system. Why wasn’t I using it in the first place? First, I had been using it for about a year until it overheated and messed up the power connection. Apple sent me a new Time Capsule, but for me personally, I found Time Machine to be a pain in the ass and not worth the hassle (which is why I create bootable backups using a simple external hard drive, which is an easily controllable method that’s not overkill for no good reason for home use). So I never reinstalled it.
Second, why would running a cable from the service provider’s router into an Apple unit make much difference? On paper, it shouldn’t. I thought I’d try it. I blew the dust off and set it up, ignoring the Time Capsule backup settings altogether.
The result? WiFi awesomeness. No one drops connections. My Apple TV has about 99% uptime now. It’s made a huge difference. I’m not sure if an Apple router just plays nice better with Apple devices . . . or if it is simply better made. Probably both. Here’s what you need to know now:
One AirPort Extreme to Rule the WiFi Waves?
If you’re having WiFi router issues, you might be able to solve them all if you just get an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station . . . and go back to enjoying your life and not trying to be a WiFi expert in your own home. Seriously. If you’re like me, you’ve got better things to do with your time than mess around with frequencies you can’t see.
The downside is the cost — about twice as much as most other routers. The upside is that the AirPort Extreme also does some nifty ninjutsu by using six antennas. Plus, by using 802.11ac, the AirPort Extreme can use Apple’s beamforming antenna array to send a targeted signal to a device using 802.11ac (newer devices). This makes your WiFi signal stronger, clearer, and faster — which is especially good when you’re on the other side of your house trying to stream a movie.
If you have a small home, you can get away with an AirPort Express (which won’t need beamforming for short distances anyway). And if you’re having trouble in one far off bedroom, you can link an AirPort Express to your primary WiFi network that’s running on an AirPort Time Capsule, AirPort Extreme, or another AirPort Express to give you better, stronger coverage throughout your home.
Setup is far easier than other WiFi systems, and you can even do it via the AirPort Utility app on your iOS device.
What’s the AirPort Takeaway Here?
If you’ve got WiFi issues, stop wasting time trying to become an expert over tech that doesn’t really enhance your life — just invest in Apple’s AirPort line . . . and there’s a great chance that you’ll solve your WiFi problems without needing to chew ibuprofen and drink a six pack of beer every time you try to work with whatever router your ISP provided.