Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Airport Extreme 802.11n range: better at 2.4 than 5

The last time I messed with my home wireless network I jumped through hoops to connect an old 802.11b iBook (yes, the computer, not the app) to an early 2009 Time Machine. A few weeks after I bought that Time Machine Apple revved the line.

Now that I've replaced the Airport Express that now powers my mother's iPad with a new one, I'm sure Apple will rev it along with the upcoming iTV.

In the meantime, I've made one new discovery. In my home, 802.11N 2.4 GHz has significantly greater range than 802.11N 5 GHz. Apparently this is not uncommon.

When I configured the Express to WDS Extend it worked well in our dining room, but it couldn't connect in the living room. I brought it back to the dining room and manually switched the WDS setting from the original 5GHz network I'd selected to the standard 802.11N network [2]. (Time Machine broadcasts both plus 802.11G and 802.11B.) It then connected from the dining room. I repeated this to confirm it wasn't a chance glitch.

So our current (all wireless [1]) home network looks like this:
  • Time Machine: 802.11 n/g/b with 802.11n 5GHz and 2.4Ghz
  • Airport Express: Extends Time Machine, WDS connection is 802.11n 2.4 GHz
  • iMac i5: 802.11n 5 GHz (it's about 10 feet directly below the Time Machine)
  • iMac G5: 802.11g
  • MacBook Intel: 802.11n 5GHz at the moment, but I bet I have to switch it back to 802.11N 2.4 GHz to get more range
  • iPhone 4: 802.11n 2.4 GHz
  • iPhone 3G and 3GS: 802.11g
  • iPhone 3 (used as iTouch): 802.11g
  • iBook: would be 802.11b but I've retired it. It wasn't getting any use in the iPhone era.
Note Apples says the Airport Express will connect up to 10 clients, and the Airport Extreme will connect up to 50 users (I'm not sure where my older Time Machine sits). With our iPhones and guest devices it's not hard to get near to the Express limits.

See also:
[1] I thought the "all wireless" setup would be temporary following some home reconfiguration, but it's worked so well I've stayed with it. I'm surprised.
[2] From Airport Utility select Airport Express. Choose Manual setup, then Wireless. Select the non-5GHz or 5GHz through Wireless Network Name.

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