Key features • 802.11ac support • Dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5GHz • New elevated antenna design
Learn more… apple.com/airport
Available from… store.apple.com
Apple is, right now, ahead of the curve when it comes to wireless standards – you’d be hard pressed to find another range of computers that have adopted the new 802.11ac system quite so comprehensively. And this isn’t just a shot in the dark, as the new, faster Wi-Fi standard is going to emerge on almost all new devices in the next few years. But you don’t have to wait to get the best speeds from your devices, because Apple has also updated its AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule range to the same specifications.
It might look a little strange, but the 6.6-inch tower positions its six antennae at the top of the casing to maximise signal strength over a larger distance. These antennae are split into two, as this new device is dual-band. Three deal with the older 2.4GHz band, while the others cater for the new 5GHz band, which will work with the new MacBook Airs, MacBook Pros with Retina display and iMacs. The 2.4GHz band offers backwards-compatibility for older Macs, and lets the two connect simultaneously without any slowdown for either band.
While the AirPort Extreme simply acts as a hub for devices on your network, the Time Capsule also offers a built-in hard drive for wireless Time Machine backups alongside the rest of the Wi-Fi features. On the rear of the device you’ll find a WAN port for connecting it up to your network, three 1GB LAN ports for devices like Ethernet printers and a USB 2.0 port that enables you to connect extra USB storage, a printer, or a USB hub if you want to hook up both.
In our tests, with the new MacBook Air and iMac, we got some relatively impressive results, with a transfer speed of around 10MB/s for our transfer of a 10GB file made up of documents, movies, music and other file types from the MacBook Air to the iMac. This is a slight improvement over the speeds offered by the previous 802.11n model, and we found that transferring individual files did offer faster results, almost doubling the transfer rate.
While it might seem like an expensive solution for most users, with support for the next generation of Wi-Fi technology on board, a built-in 2TB backup and the ability to add wired devices and make them wireless, the price is actually excellent. The faster file transfers are good, but whether they’re enough to warrant the high price will really be down to each individual user.
Pros Offers speed improvements in a beautiful new design
Cons Still only three LAN ports, plus HDD inside isn’t replaceable