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Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station

Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station

Rating: ★★★½☆

It won’t come as a shock to learn that Apple takes an individual approach with its AirPort Extreme Base Station. The least surprising aspect is the shiny white styling that looks very similar to the Apple TV unit, while the external power adapter looks like a giant iPod Shuffle. There are no crude projecting antennas to sully the clean lines.

The differences are thrust in your face when you install the AirPort Extreme as the CD includes AirPort Utility, AirPort Disk and even Bonjour, which allows you to connect multiple access points without the need to install extra software.  It seems that Apple has deployed an ease-of-use strategy that other manufacturers would do well to follow suit with.

You configure the router with the Utility, instead of using an IP address, so you’ll need a laptop or PC with the software installed. You’d be well advised to hang on to the original CD as firmware updates are released as patches to the original software and, as an added annoyance, there’s no Ethernet cable in the package.

This is the only router in the group that supports 802.11a as well as 802.11n at 2.4GHz and 5GHz. However, it has a single radio, so you have to select one frequency or the other with the Airport Utility. Airport Disk uses the USB port on the back of the router to connect an external hard drive as network storage.

The same port can also be used to attach a printer, provided you have network drivers, using the bizarrely named Bonjour software. There’s only one USB port, so you’ll likely have to plug and unplug devices, in which case you might as well connect them directly to your laptop.

Pros

  • Ease of use

Cons

  • Only one USB port
  • No Ethernet cable

Verdict

There are only three LAN ports on the router, which is unusual, but unlikely to be a limitation in the home office. This router is compatible with both Mac and PC, but there is a system requirement of Windows XP SP2 or Vista, or Mac OS X 10.4 or later.


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