Comparing the Apple’s AirPort Family
Apple AirPort is a name given to a string of Apple products that uses Wi-Fi protocols like 802.11 b, g, n or ac. These products consists of wireless routers and wireless cards. AirPort started in 1999 and subsequently, it was included as an option to almost all the products of Apple such as PowerBook, Power Mac, iMac and eMac. The first AirPort system can allow transfer rates of up to 11Mbit per second and it is normally used in sharing the Internet access and files on multiple machines.
Apple introduces AirPort routers that we can use in connecting AirPort-enabled PCs to the Internet. Three of the latest includes the following:
1. AirPort Express Base Station:
AirPort Express features a solid design and it supports instantaneous dual-band 802.11n wireless performance. It has an integrated AirPlay audio port and it finally have an Ethernet Port. Measuring 3.85 x 3.85 x 0.9, the AirPort Express is somewhat smaller than the first and second generation and it is not the same as the old wall-wart design networking hardware.
More likely, it looks like a miniature version of the AirPort Extreme Base Station with similar power cord and it both support dual-band Wi-Fi. When we say dual-band Wi-Fi, it means a router is transmitting signals for both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz frequency bands. 5.0GHz bands offers better performance since it uses frequencies greater than the ones we used at home such as microwaves or wireless phones. But generally, both bands have the same maximum speed standard of a Wireless N. The AirPort Express transmits both signals at the same time, which allows single-band devices access to whatever band is necessary and allows dual-band devices to select the 5GHz band for better connection. Apple has presented the latest AirPort Express after four years that the previous model was released and it’s quite exactly the same, except for its new look and dual bandwidth feature. The USB port on the AirPort Express can only accept printers. External storage devices are still not supported.
On the front of the base station is a small indicator light that flashes with solid green when everything is working correctly and turns to amber when there is a problem. At the back of it is a power port, LAN port for wired connections and WAN port for connecting to a modem or other Internet sources, USB port and the standard AirPlay port. The LAN port is the best major addition to the latest AirPort Express. You can now use your base station as a gateway for home network with wired and wireless clients.
The AirPlay feature will let you stream the content of your iOS devices and Mac to your speakers or HDTV. You can also mirror exactly the same as your display in the big screen, turn your iOS device to a remote controller or allow your friends to connect their iOS or Mac devices to your Apple TV through the peer-to-peer AirPlay and share their media files.
The AirPort Express also comes with the Apple’s Back to My Mac feature. This allow sharing of data through the Internet from a device with the same feature. Aside from that, the AirPort Express comes with all the basic feature that can be found in a typical router, including the VPN pass-through, NAT, port forwarding and filtering of MAC Address. It will also work with almost all types of Wi-Fi standards like 802.11 n/g/b/a and it also supports IPv6.
The router ships with both bands open by default, so any device can connect to it. To protect your router with a password, you will need to connect the router to a computer and run the AirPort Utility. The Version 6 can only be run with Mac OS 10.7, while Window-based PC or Mac OS 10.6 needs to use Version 5. This is not an issue since Version 5 has more access to the AirPort Express than the newer version. The AirPort Express cost a reasonably $99.
Click here for more specifications of Apple’s AirPort Express.
2. AirPort Extreme Base Station:
The sixth generation AirPort Extreme is significantly the same as the latest AirPort Time Capsule except for its internal storage. In fact, they are almost tantamount without the storage devices.
AirPort Extreme dual-band router is more compact and attractive that its predecessor. The major improvement is, it now supports the much faster and most awaited Wi-Fi standard of 802.11ac. Besides this, the functions and features of the device are exactly just the same as the previous generation. But the Air-Port Extreme is one of the fastest routers today. This router looks exquisite enough to justify its $199 price tag; it is somewhat costly than its peers. If you are using an 802.11ac-enabled devices like the new MacBook Air, you will surely look for the AirPort Extreme because of its faster Wi-Fi speed. Otherwise, you don’t need to upgrade if you own the previous models.
AirPort Extreme Base Station is also similar to the outline of the AirPort Express, but it is much taller and it doesn’t have the same AirPlay Audio Port that the AirPort Express has. Similar to the Time Capsule, this new router has a design that is totally new. Instead of the old square tile shape, it stands 6.6-inches tall like a rectangular tube and 3.85-inches wide; which means, it has the same outline as the AirPort Express second generation that came out in 2012, but this is much taller. In general, this new router has a sophisticated design and it looks like a jewelry box than a piece of networking device.
In front of it is a small indicator light that flashes with solid green when everything is working properly and turns to amber or flashes to specify if there is a problem. At the back of it are the old 3 Gigabit LAN ports for wired clients and 1 Gigabit WAN port for other Internet sources. It is also comprises of 1 USB 2.0 port for hosting printer or external hard drive. The port configuration is kind of disappointing since it is just the same as the previous AirPort Extreme generations, considering that most routers now consists of four LAN ports and offered USB 3.0 which provides better performance. Also, the AirPort Extreme does not support AirPlay, and so is the Time Capsule. You will need to get the AirPort Express which is the only router that supports Apple’s music playback feature.
Setting up the AirPort Extreme for the first time is very easy. You just need to install the AirPort Utility Software which is available for Windows, Mac and iOS users. But normally, it comes pre-installed with Macs.
AirPort Extreme is a dual-band router that offers Wi-Fi connections for 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands simultaneously. Meaning, this router supports the current Wi-Fi clients with any standard and the best possible speed. It also supports the actual three-stream (top-tier) for both 802.11ac and 802.11n or the Wireless-N standard. If you use any 802.11ac-enabled client like the new MacBook Air, it can run up to 1.3Gps data speed. The Wireless-N clients can connect at 450Mbps on both bands.
the AirPort Express comes with all the basic feature that can be found in a typical router, including the guest networking for 2.4Ghz clients only, IPv6, print-serving, port forwarding, file-sgaring, Access Control, DynDNS and more. Overall, it is lacking on many other features that users are expecting given its cost such as Parent Control and more.
Click here for more specifications of Apple’s AirPort Extreme.
3. AirPort Time Capsule Base Station:
For old Time Capsule clients, there is really no enthralling reasons to upgrade. Not unless you owned the new MacBook Air, which is the first Apple hardware client that is supported of 802.11ac standard. If this is the case, this new router is an outstanding home network gateway because back-up and file-sharing on Time Machine is much faster through Wi-Fi. But for non-Mac users, they will find the new router lacking in features and customizations, considering the $299 (2TB) and $399 (3TB) price tags.
The latest AirPort Time Capsule comes with an absolutely new look, from which Apple considered as the latest top-down concept to design. It also stands 6.6-inches tall like a rectangular tube and 3.85-inches wide which is exactly the same as the new AirPort Extreme. In front of it is a small indicator light that flashes with solid green when everything is working properly and it changes to amber color or flashes to specify if there is a problem. At the back of it are the regular 3 LAN ports for connecting wired clients piled in a vertical display and 1 WAN port for connecting other Internet sources. The entire ports are compatible with Gigabit that offers up to 1000Mbps speed. But the Time Capsule doesn’t offer additional LAN ports considering that there are more spaces on the device. Another thing is, it still uses the old USB 2.0 port for hosting a printer and external storage device. It can also be used for archiving the data stored from the internal going to the external drive for the safety of the data. Similar to AirPort Extreme, it doesn’t support AirPlay.
And just the same as the previous generations, Time Capsule is totally closed in. You cannot open the casing for replacement of fix anything on its 3.5-inch internal hard drive. It also needs an AirPort Utility for the initial setup and continuous management.
The Time Capsule is also a dual-band router that offers Wi-Fi network for 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequency bands simultaneously. It means, this router supports the current Wi-Fi clients with any standard and the best possible speed. It also supports the three steam (top-tier) of the latest 802.11ac-enabled clients. For the old Wireless-N or 802.11n clients, it is also supported with the top tier standard and brings up to 450Mbps data speeds. The Time Capsule is composed of the internal storage for hosting the back-up files on the Time Machine and for sharing folders on connected devices. Which simply means that this works as a router and NAS server at the same time.
Overall, the Time Capsule is firm on its capabilities and lacks on customization options, which are available on other routers with a cost that is half the price of the Time Capsule.
Click here for more specifications of Apple’s AirPort Time Capsule.