My cable modem is located in the basement at the front of the house (and needs to stay there). I use a d-link dir-655 router to access the internet. In the basement, there is a PC and a print server connected directly to the router (cat 5). Wirelessly, I connect two MBA's and an iPad on the first floor in the back of the house or in the backyard. Signal is strong within the house, but gets progressively weaker the further I go into the backyard. I use a d-link dap-1360 repeater to boost the signal. It drops the signal frequently, which is a known issue.
When Mountain Lion comes out, I will be buying an ATV (which will also be located in the back of the house) to watch movies that I will download/stream from my MBA.
The two options I am looking at:
1. Upgrade the router in the basement to an Airport Extreme, and purchase an Airport Express as a repeater if I still can't get a strong signal in the backyard.
2. Replace the basement router with a wired router (since I don't need wireless in the basement) then run cat-5 to the first floor and install an Airport Extreme there, which should provide a strong enough signal to reach the backyard.
The Extreme router combo works - in fact in my house it's the opposite. The modem and Airport Extreme are upstairs and my office is downstairs in the basement. I use a second Airport Extreme in my office as an extender, I lose about 30% of the speed capabilities in my setup compared to a direct hookup to the modem/router but it works fine overall.
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I would replace the basement router with an Airport Extreme AND run cat 5/6 cable from the Extreme to the locations of your ATV and Airport Express. Your ATV will work much better if it is hardwired to your network and your Airport Express will work at full speed when hardwired to extend your network vs 50% speed when wirelessly extending your network.
Think 2 routers - one in basement and the second hard wired to the first. Then you can plug in the ATV and things into the upstairs router located behind the ATV/Tv setup. I did this and have two WiFi zones. Make sure if you install two routers to disable the DHCP one of them.
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If you need more ports from one Cat5 cable just buy a switch. They are cheap and will give you 4 or more ports to use for the AppleTV and other devices etc. I would start with a new Airport Extreme (or Time Capsule) in the basement and then run cat5 to the location where the AppleTV will be. Add a switch at that end if you need more ports. Now test the WiFi strength and see if you need to boost it. If you do buy an Express and plug it into the switch to extend your network.
Thanks everyone for the advice. Looks like I will buy an Airport Extreme for my office in the basement and see what signal strength it gives me throughout the house and backyard. I will then run cable to the television room and either hookup the ATV directly or through an Airport Express.