Archive for the ‘ Wireless Routers ’ Category

Finally picked Apple Airport Extreme for my router

Well, finally is a relative term. I have been using Apple’s Airport Extreme for my router for a number of months. This is a Wireless-N Dual Band Gigabit router.

From a previous entry, you will remember I tried the Netgear and DLink Routers, but had issue with my setup.

So, I went out and bought an Apple Airport Extreme and easily set up the router to work in my Verizon FIOs environment. I also hooked up two USB external hard drives which are now available to all my computers and other media devices. One of these hard drives I am using for Time Machine Backups.

The router is working almost perfectly for me. The backups have a problem. It worked for the first month, but since then my Time Machine on my Macbook can no longer find the hard drive. So, I have reverted back to attached that hard drive directly to my laptop when doing a backup. While a pain to unplug one cable and attach it with one cable(Yes, I am lazy), it runs much faster then when I went through the wireless network and router.

I can always remove the Verizon Router between the internet connect and the Airport Extreme, and use the Airport Extreme as the only router, which is a better solution.

Overall, I am happy I chose Apple Airport Extreme for my router, but I also did like the Belkin quick install.

Network Routers beginnings

One of the things to take into consideration is a Router. There are many types of routers for the network for wired and wireless networks.

The basics that you need to know

Wired Networks

10/100/1000 based wired networks. The most common 10/100/1000 are meant as megabits per second over the wire. the 1000 is a gigabit. So if you see a router say it is a gigabit network router it supports up to 1000 megabits.

Wireless Networks

b/g/n There are the different wireless standards. The most recent and “fastest” being an “N” Wireless router.

Then there is dual band. This can have the N wireless using both 2.6 to 5 mhz. Without dual band and your router can use both streams, then you would have to choose one over the other.

The first question is do you need Wireless N or gigabit speed.

STREAMING: If your internet connection is not faster than 56Megabits per second, regardless of G or N, it will still be the speed of your internet connection. So here it doesn’t really matter

CONTENT FROM HARD DRIVE ON NETWORK: If you want to play full BluRay ISOs with lossless data, then a Gigabit router and Wireless N makes sense. The speed needed over wireless for clean streaming of BR is 11 mbps.

Other types of media over the wire or wireless has lessor requirements and would not require dual band, wireless N or a gigabit wired network speed.

So today the top of the line Router will be a

Wireless N dual band Gigabit router, giving you the fasted wireless and wired network speeds

Do you need the top of the line?

If you want the best, then get the best. There are three products out that support N dual band gigabit and attaching USB Hard Drives to the router. (Using a NAS Server/Drives versus USB External Hard Drive is for another topic.)

One from Netgear the WNDR3700

One from D-link the DIR-825

One from Linksys the WRT-610N

Recently I have tested the Netgear and the D-Link.

My first opinion is skip the D-Link, the sharing the USB Hard Drive requires you to run a special program on your computer to be able to access the hard drive from that machine. Also, only one device can access the Hard Drive at a time, so if one computer is using it, another computer cannot. Also, it is supposed to support uPnP or Universal Plug and Play, so that you can access it from devices like a Tivo, PS3, or other Media Server. From my usage, I never could get that to work.

The Netgear is a better product, and you can map your attached hard drive to a drive letter on your computer. You can have multiple computers access the same hard drive at the same time, where the D-Link could not. From reading comments online, some people have found that the dual band connection would lose connectivity. CNet, in their review found some speed issues with accessing files on the Hard Drive.

I also have noticed that the D-Link and the Linksys get the same average reviews of 2-3 star out of 5, whereas the Netgear gets higher average reviews.

Some first ideas of options

OK, After looking at some nice threads on AVSForum and Google Searches here are some of the possible solutions.

Network Routers – Wired and Wireless

1) If you are going to do any streaming via the internet, get a Wireless-N Gigabit router.

The best solution will have you connect the router to your AV room via wires. That is right, if you want the full monty. That is streaming BluRay ISOs, then the best throughput will be via that Gigabit network wired connection. Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable. Otherwise, you will not get choppy video and not so perfect audio.

If you don’t need to stream BluRay ISOs, then the Wireless N is still a must to get the best speed, and reduce the chances of any “freezes” in your video playback. The speed is definitely more important for video streaming. And I mean either video streaming off the internet or from your Hard Drive.

Some of the higher end Wireless-N Gigabit routers even include USB connections to your external hard drive.

NAS Drives/External Storage

2) You should have a NAS drive or some way to get a HD accessible from your set top box.

The best solution is a NAS drive system, where you can hook up multiple eSATA Hard Drives in a RAID. RAID for “backup” purposes. And put them in a good hiding place to not clutter up your room. Also to keep any extra noise away from your AV room.

The second best is connecting your HD via Firewire or USB to a device that can then have that data accessible from your living room/TV. This could be the Wireless-N Router, one of the set top boxes like AppleTV, etc.

Cheapest route is to always have your computer turned on that your external USB hard drive is attached to. But cheapest is relative to the electric bill you have for your computer always on.

As, I said in the first section, some routers allow the connection of an External Hard Drive via USB 2.0. Products like Apple’s Airport Extreme and all the normal Router companies like LinkSys, NetGear and blah have equivalent products in the $120-$180 range. Although I did see a Belkin router that does all this for $70 at Target this weekend.

Media Server

3)  You should have a Media Server that will be connected to your AV room. This is the one where there are so many Media Server boxes and options out there that you can go crazy. As if I wasn’t already.

The highest end Media Server that I saw seems to be the Dune Media Server, it also seems to be one of the only ones that truly support BluRay ISO playback with complete loss-less Audio. It has some great reviews and if you live in the USA you can get yours at DunePlayer.com

The AVSForum appreciation thread on the Dune Player is here

Arthur from DunePlayer posts in this thread and is extremely helpful, from what everyone says. I haven’t called them yet to help me out. 😉

The one downside, I see, with the DunePlayer is the UI. There are a couple of applications that are nice like Torrents and Internet Radio, there isn’t an application for say viewing YouTube content. Now if FLV is supported you can manually enter in a URL for streaming video off the internet, but who knows all the URLs of the videos you want to watch. Also, how do you watch DiggNation from Revision3? But maybe, you can buy two media servers. The DunePlayer to get all your media on your Hard Drives including BluRay stuff, and then use another Media Server for the other cool apps.

So, do you need loss-less Audio? If not, then many of the other Media Servers will work for you. Although a little bit more pricier than other Media Servers, I like the AppleTV after it is hacked. With it being hacked you can install so much more stuff, like Boxee. However, the AppleTV’s CPU is not the top of the line and if you are streaming any HD content from your HD, the AppleTV will not do the trick. So if you want to stay with Apple here, then the next step up will be the Mac Mini.

Because, I really like the Boxee UI, I am really looking forward to the LinkSys’s Boxee box.

Other options just lying around the house.

If you already have an XBox360, PS3 or Tivo HD, you can also use them as a Media Servers, and automatically configure them to connect to your NAS drive, and watch/listen to the content on them. However, from what I have seen, the UIs for them aren’t the best, and you might be doing a lot of hunt and pecking to find the exact media file you want to watch.

I have a Tivo HD and my wife hates that you can’t still watch what you were watching when you go through the Tivo UI. And I totally agree, it is annoying, but it doesn’t bother me as much as her