Networking and WiFi
Updated May 2018
On April 28, 2018 Apple announced that it will discontinue the Airport Router line. It will still provide support and updates for 5 more years so there is no need to panic if you have one of these. It is a good time to look at alternatives for replacement down the road.
In Chapter 2 of the Smart Home book, there is a simplified description of how to set up a whole home WiFi network suitable for your Smart Home products. The example uses the Apple AirPort Extreme Router, but here are some of the other choices to consider.
This chart gives a quick look at others I considered and compares them against the key criteria mentioned in the book.
What does this all mean? There are really only 3 things on the list that are different, so lets look at each one and see how much it matters.
Separate Network names for your 2 WiFi networks: There is a tradeoff for ease of use and functionality when you have separate network names, but for me, it is essential to be able to know which network you are on and control which network your Smart Home Devices use, so I wouldn't use a product that cannot do this. That narrows it down to Apple and Amplifi with Eero and Luma requiring further investigation. I was not able to download their manuals to verify how this function works.
Number of Gigabit LAN ports: Yes, you are building a wireless network, but the reality of the Smart Home world is that you still have to plug some things in. Apple, Amplifi and Orbi all have 3 or more ports which is good. There are workarounds like buying a small switch and you would probably have to do that if you chose a router with only 1 LAN port.
Optional USB port for backup: Only Apple currently has a functioning USB port that allows for central Time Machine backups which are easy and important. I absolutely love this feature and hope that Amplifi considers adding this functionality to their product. It would make them the hands down pick as my router of choice if they did so.
The Bottom Line: Currently, the only 2 systems that I would consider for my Smart Home are Apple and Amplifi mainly due to the 3 differences mentioned above. Apple is stopping sale of their routers and Amplifi doesn't have the USB drive capability yet, so for now, I will hang on to the Apple router and hope that Amplifi will add the centralized backup capability on their USB port.
Links to Router Products