The Airport Extreme is my favorite consumer grade access point. I’ve had well over 10 different models go through myself or to various friends and family, and all of them are still running.
Unfortunately, while the hardware and firmware are great, I disagree strongly with the dumbing down of the airport utility software. It’s actually gotten worse over time.
1. You can’t control the bands (meaning 2.4GHz or 5GHz) that the Airport Extreme transmits on or that it extends on.
2. You can’t control signal strength and you can’t limit connectivity to clients below a certain speed.
3. You can’t block older clients any more (like b or g). Old clients are slow and take up a lot more airtime, so it’s nice to have the option to block them.
4. Windows software client has been abandoned and doesn’t properly configure newer Airport Extreme’s.
5. Airport Extreme’s like to use DFS wifi channels in 5 GHz, but many devices don’t actually work with these channels, so they will randomly appear incompatible. The workaround is to manually select a non-DFS channel to transmit on. The proper fix is to enable an options for automatic band selection that doesn’t include the DFS range.
So yeah, not perfect, and getting worse.
The latest problem I’ve discovered is that an Airport Extreme that is functioning purely as an access point and not the main home gateway will suffer severe performance degradation on the guest network. Any Airport functioning as a pure access point handles the guest network by sending out guest traffic over VLAN 1003 instead of as untagged traffic, so all you need to do is pick up that VLAN at the router to enable the guest network.
Anyway, as far as performance loss, we’re talking 3 to 7 mbps of throughput as opposed to 300 mbps max. Now, as it turns out, I don’t particularly care if my guests get more than 3 mbps of throughput, but it’s still engineered incorrectly. I’m just writing this because very few people have noticed the problem and it was hard to find out why this was happening.
Despite all this, I still recommend the Airport Extreme for home users. Most of the above helps optimize for dense wireless environments (like a condo or a office building) but isn’t fatal. But there’s definitely room for improvement, and there definitely isn’t any reason these options should be removed or hidden for advanced users.