Can one Airport Extreme (802.11ac) improve the performance of a new iMac (802.11ac) in a small Airport network?

I’m swapping out my 5 year old iMac for a new 27” iMac, which supports 802.11ac. If I purchase just one Apple Airport Extreme (which supports 802.11ac) will it improve the new iMac’s performance, given the network configuration in my house? Here are the details.

My ISP is Comcast and I have an xfinity modem. I have an older Apple Airport Extreme as my network “hub”. It is cabled to the Comcast modem. Both are located in upstairs bedroom.

Also upstairs, in the office (down the hall from the bedroom) I have an Apple Airport Express, the old iMac and my wireless printer. The new iMac will replace the old iMac in the office.

Downstairs is a second Apple Airport Express, cabled directly to WiFi stereo speakers. Also downstairs, but in a different room, is an Apple TV connected to an HDTV.

1. If I purchase a new Extreme, but use it to replace the Express that sits adjacent to the iMac, am I correct to presume that I won’t see any improvement in the new iMac's performance over the performance I'd get with my existing Airport equipment? (In this scenareo the “hub” of my network would remain the old Extreme located in the bedroom.) The new Extreme (802.11ac) and new iMac (both located in the office) would have a fast 802.11ac link between them, but slower links would exist between the Extreme and everything else. Correct?
2. If I use a new Extreme to replace the old “hub” Extreme in the bedroom (that connects directly to my Comcast modem) it will be about 45 ft from the new iMac with many walls in between (some of which are tiled).
- Am I correct to assume that it is too far away to reliably support the iMac in the office?
- If I continue to use the old Express in the office, with a new Extreme in the bedroom, I would maintain the same signal reliability that I have now, but would have no increase in throughput speed performance. Correct?
- Would a second Extreme be needed in the office, in clear range of the new iMac?

  • Asked by fn from Santa Cruz
  • Asked about:  AirPort Extreme

2 Answers from the Community

  • Answer

    If both ends of the connection are not the same speed, the connection will be no faster than the slower end of the connection. So, if your 802.11ac wireless devices must connect to the Express instead of the Extreme, your connection speed will be 802.11n.

    • Answered by C.p. S from Dayton
  • If you replace the previous extreme with the new, the AC range will reach your new iMac. If the express upstairs is in range of the old extreme then your iMac that is next to it will be in range of the new one. If you check your airport utility it will tell you which of your devices are connected to which router.

    • Answered by Jeffrey L from Pearland