Mac owners -- and some experts who use both Macs and PCs -- say the Apple AirPort Extreme (*Est. $175) is the best wireless router you can buy. In addition, Apple routers are said to be the most reliable in owner surveys at PC World and PCMag.com. Netgear's WNDR3700 (*Est. $80) and Cisco's Linksys E4200 (*Est. $105) also earn praise from professional reviewers and owners for use with Mac computers and PCs.
Like other top-of-the-line wireless routers, the Apple AirPort Extreme offers guest networking so you can allow up to 50 guests onto your network without telling them your password, plus it offers the ability to share external hard drives wirelessly. Unlike most of its rivals, the AirPort Extreme lets you share USB printers wirelessly, too. Dong Ngo at CNET says this router is easy to set up and use; he recommends it for all novices, whether they use Macs or PCs. But tech-savvy Windows users -- or those on all-PC networks -- can get more features for their money elsewhere, say reviewers at CNET and PCMag.com. In particular, they recommend the NetgearWNDR3700, our top pick for an advanced wireless router for Windows. (See the next section of this report.)
Both the Netgear WNDR3700 and the AirPort Extreme allow users to share USB hard drives wirelessly, set parental controls and create guest networks. Yet the Netgear unit boasts some extras, notably a traffic meter, and four GbE ports -- the Apple AirPort Extreme has three -- so you can hook up an additional device.
The Apple AirPort Express (*Est. $100) is an interesting alternative to the AirPort Extreme. While it is a wireless router, the AirPort Express is designed mainly to stream music from iTunes to computers and media devices at home; a handy remote control lets you change the music without needing a computer. Because of its focus on wireless streaming, the AirPort Express lacks some features, like Ethernet ports, making it more suitable as a router to extend an existing network. It runs in both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, but not simultaneously.
Apple routers have advantages over some other routers, such as the ability to hook up a USB printer for wireless sharing. The Apple routers also work faster in CNET's speed tests, which include reading/writing to an attached external hard drive. Finally, while Apple wireless routers win two awards for reliability and have nearly perfect owner ratings at Amazon.com, Netgear gets only average dependability scores at PCMag.com and PC World.