Apple Airport Extreme

If you've got compatible 802.11n-ready gear now, Apple's Airport Extreme takes Wi-Fi speeds up a notch. The USB port for sharing disks is handy, however, network speed takes a hit if you put legacy 802.11b/g devices on your network.


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The Airport Extreme is Apple's first draft 802.11n router, based on an upcoming Wi-Fi standard promising faster speeds and greater range.

Design
The Airport Extreme is a relatively small router with the same footprint as Apple's Mac Mini, but a bit more compact standing only 3.5 centimetres tall. Unlike many wireless routers sprouting antenna all over the place, the Airport Extreme has no external appendages, which keeps the outer case smooth and the edges aesthetically pleasing.

At the rear of the Airport Extreme are three Ethernet ports for wired local area network (LAN) devices such as PCs and printers, and an Ethernet port to connect your cable or ADSL modem. Most routers offer four LAN ports, but the Extreme fills the slot with a single USB connection for networking a printer or sharing a storage drive, such as an external hard drive or flash USB memory key, over the network.

Features
Apple claims the Airport Extreme is up to five times faster than its previous wireless routers, with draft 802.11n Wi-Fi also providing up to twice the coverage area.

Security features of the Airport Extreme include WPA/WPA2, WEP (40-bit and 128-bit encryption, support for RADIUS authentication, MAC address filtering, NAT firewall and time-based access control. Networking features include DHCP, NAT, PPoE, VPN Passthrough, DNS Proxy, IPv6 and SNMP.

Apple bundles Airport Utility on CD for configuring the router on Windows or Mac, requiring Mac OS X v10.4.x or later, or Windows XP with SP2 or later. The 10-step process is painless and quick; we were done in around five minutes after opening the box.

The set-up process involves naming your base station and wireless network, specifying your country and radio mode, selecting how you connect to the Internet, and entering passwords for shared USB disks, security and the base station itself.

Performance
Setting up a shared USB drive through the router was simple with the Airport Utility holding your hand through the process. On Macs the drive is discovered on the network automatically and mounted as an Airport Disk in Finder. The Airport Utility can also unmount disks if you need to unplug it from the base station -- removing it without performing this step could damage your data.

To test maximum throughput we placed an 802.11n-enabled MacBook Pro within three metres of the Airport Extreme with an unobstructed line of sight and took the fastest of three FTP transfers.

For mid-range testing we moved the Macbook Pro away from the Airport Extreme approximately 10 metres in our office, with a single meeting room wall between the two devices and took the average of three transfers.

For long range tests we moved the Macbook Pro away from the Airport Extreme approximately 50 metres in an office environment and took an average of three transfers where meeting room walls and cubicles blocked direct line of sight.

The wireless network was configured for WPA2 Personal security and a 100MB test file hosted by a PC connected to the Extreme via Ethernet was used for the FTP transfers.

802.11n only (5GHz) Average throughput (Mbps)
Maximum throughput (<3m) 80.8
Mid-range throughput (10m) 72.7
Long-range throughput (50m) 61.1


802.11n only (2.4GHz) Average throughput (Mbps)
Maximum throughput (<3m) 68.8
Mid-range throughput (10m) 67.5
Long-range throughput (50m) 33.9


Mixed mode (802.11b/g/n) Average speed (Mbps)
Maximum throughput (<3m) 67.7
Mid-range throughput (10m) 66.9
Long-range throughput (50m) 31.6


The uncluttered 5GHz spectrum gave the best results by far, with the 100MB test file taking only 10.1 seconds to transfer. However, the performance in using 2.4GHz was disappointing -- we wouldn't recommend using this setting in built-up urban and commercial areas as other wireless network (and those darn microwaves) might cause significant interference. Our mixed-mode tests were expected, slowing the network down to almost half the speed of 5GHz in the long-range tests.

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Jenb posted a comment   

I have the older version that looks like a mini mountain but I want this one now...c an anyone tell me the actual technical differences between this and the previous model

Ol
10
Rating
 

Ol posted a review   

Just wondering, how long you've guys owned this product??
I have an airport express, which does not seem to outlive its warranty and constantly drops out when the network is shared!!! Any suggestions or recommendations? Thanks

Stoned01
2
Rating
 

Stoned01 posted a review   

The Good:looks sexy

The Bad:constantly drops out after 1 hour

I bought and used this with great satisfaction 10 months ago. Now it is the bain of my networking existence!! Some forums say that timeouts are a result of Mac OSX updates. Any advice??

Mr Person
10
Rating
 

Mr Person posted a review   

The Good:Good range with lot's of obstructions
Good password protection
Easy to set up

The Bad:None

It is a replacement for a really dodgie router that wouldn't let you download more than 5 MB Before cutting out not to mention stuff up a vista laptop and could only connect to the mac or laptop. One or the other. so we ditched to linksys router and now it is the best thing in the world with the apple airport extreme.

british1978
9
Rating
 

british1978 posted a review   

The Good:Quality unit. Looks great. Simple to set up.

The Bad:none

Think its brilliant - only thing it lacked for me was not coming with a wall/ceiling mounting bracket which the previous model came with. Took some time to find a company that provides them - www.applemountingbracket.com
Works great.

Dan
9
Rating
 

Dan posted a review   

The Good:Great looking
Super easy to setup and maintain
Cheaper than other draft N routers available


The Bad:um, it doesnt make you a coffee while you set it up.

Purchased the gigabit version today after my Belkin wireless router put in its final performance before going completely dead. Talk about easy to set up! All done in a few minutes and its definately quicker than my old router even with the hybrid (b,g,n) mode active. Super good looking as well. Didnt have any problems setting up the printer or shared hard disk via the USB port either...almost too easy..!?

canberra_photographer
9
Rating
 

canberra_photographer posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Stylish and small
Excellent performance
USB with support for USB hubs allowing sharing ofmultiple printers and hard drives
Easy set up
Even the power brick is small and ultra stylish
Works with both Mac and Windows
Includes "Bonjour" for easy device sharing and interoperability

The Bad:Only a single light on the front which says little

Bought this to replace a dodgy Netgear Draft n router. My version is a newer one that DOES have Gigabit ethernet. Excelent device, inbuilt USB for sharing of multiple printers and hard disks using a USB hub, very easy set up and maintanence and very stylish and compact. Works great with all my Windows and Mac machines and let me share my printer in only minutes vs the terrible Printer sharing built into Windows.

Mallrat
9
Rating
 

Mallrat posted a review   

The Good:Quality construction compared to my old Belkin pre N and a new D Link Giga Extreme. Good looks and gigabit LAN. Fantastically simple to set up compared to the offerings from Belkin and D Link.

The Bad:None really, would have liked an option to exclude the old b standard, leaving just g and n.

I returned a D Link draft N router because after 4 hours of frustration I could not get the three laptops and one PC we own to talk to it with any level of security turned on. I was a little unsure about using the Apple, we only have the one G4. My fears were groundless, a couple of minutes was all it took to get a WPA2 secured network up and running. I have the gigabit version so all is good for a wired network as well.




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User Reviews / Comments  Apple Airport Extreme

  • Jenb

    Jenb

    "I have the older version that looks like a mini mountain but I want this one now...c an anyone tell me the actual technical differences between this and the previous model"

  • Ol

    Ol

    Rating10

    "Just wondering, how long you've guys owned this product??
    I have an airport express, which does not seem to outlive its warranty and constantly drops out when the network is shared!!! Any su..."

  • Stoned01

    Stoned01

    Rating2

    "I bought and used this with great satisfaction 10 months ago. Now it is the bain of my networking existence!! Some forums say that timeouts are a result of Mac OSX updates. Any advice??"

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