So I was browsing for information about wireless routers, with one Firefox tab here and another here, and I was having a hard time understanding exactly why Apple’s Airport Extreme base station — a 54 Mbps 802.11g router — was being offered at over three times the price of the Linksys 802.11g router. The moment that question popped into my mind, a little box came up on the Apple store that said, “Need advice? Chat with an expert.” So I said, “OK”.
Twenty seconds later, I was in a one-on-one chat with Rick, an Apple expert. Here’s what, er, transpired. (Editorial comments are embedded.)
* You are chatting with Rick, an Apple Expert
Hi, my name is Rick. How may I help you today?
You: Hi Rick. I could use some advice regarding wireless routers.
You: My family has two Macs and an aging WinXP box. We’re about to move from an apartment into a 2800 sq ft house and we want to set up a wireless network that will reach all corners of the house, two stories and a basement.
Rick: Give me one moment..
You: I’m trying to compare the Airport Extreme to a standard-issue linksys router and I’m having a hard time figuring out the differences.
[Ed.: About 20 seconds transpires. I think Rick’s forgotten what I’m here for.]
You: So, what exactly is the advantage of going with an Airport Extreme versus a Linksys or Belkin 802.11g router? The Airport Extreme is a bit more expensive than those two. [Ed.: Combined.]
Rick: The max distance Airport Extreme can be from the router is 150 feet.
Rick: They should already be installed in your Macs.
You: Does that 150 foot range account for things like walls and floors?
Rick: Yes it does.
Rick: To extend the range, you would need a second Airport Extreme basestation.
You: Or I could use one of those Airport Express devices as well, right?
[Ed.: Another 20 seconds goes by. Perhaps I haven’t been clear enough.]
You: I guess my main question is, why choose an Airport Extreme over somethng less expensive like Linksys.
Rick: Which Macs do you currently own?
You: We have a Mac mini (not the core duo, but the older model) and a Macbook Pro.
Rick: i believe both of those products have Airport Extreme pre-installed.
[Ed.: Yeah. I got that the first time you said it. Fifty freaking seconds ago.]
You: Yes, that’s right. But we do not have the wireless router as yet. We just have a cable box with the Mac mini wired into it. We’re looking to get a wireless router.
[Ed.: Ah — I get it: Rick thinks I was talking about the Airport software instead of the hardware.]
You: Perhaps I should be more specific — I’m asking about the Airport Extreme *base station*.
[Ed.: That’ll clear it up, right?]
Rick: I’m not quite sure what Linksys has to offer. You would need to compare the specs and make that call.
[Ed.: Wow, there’s something I would have never thought to do. Compare specs. Ahem, Mr. Genius, wouldn’t you like to, you know, SELL me an Airport Extreme? You know, convince me that I should spend $180 instead of $50 on what, to me, appears to be exactly the same product? Do you really think I’d be here if I could get what I needed by a comparison of specs? Come to think of it, why AM I here?]
You: OK, well thanks for your help. [= Thanks for nothing.]
Rick: You’re welcome.
Rick: Thank you for visiting the Apple Store. We appreciate your business.
I think that (a) I’ll be going with the Linksys and (b) I won’t bother with the Apple experts any more. At least I didn’t drive an hour to the Indianapolis retail store to get advice like that.