AirPort Extreme Base Station

AirPort Extreme Base Station

The new AirPort Extreme Base Station looks like a Mac mini.

 

The first thing that setting up the AirPort Extreme Base Station at home taught us is that instant gratification is possible. Getting the base station set up so we could surf the Web wirelessly with our AirPort-card-equipped MacBook Pro took less than 10 minutes. (Networking our USB printer and an external hard drive took a little longer, but more on that in a bit.)

 

The second thing we learned: Our home DSL connection is painfully, embarrassingly, unacceptably slow. The fastest throughput we got was 1.2Mbps, a fraction of the speeds the AirPort Extreme - which has 802.11n, the fastest Wi-Fi standard, built right in - is capable of. Third thing we learned: Your broadband connection speed can be a performance bottleneck.

 

Time to head to the office to test the AirPort Extreme on the T1. Now, we know this is a bit of a cheat, since home T1 connections are rare. But not trying it, we figured, would be akin to being loaned a Lamborghini Gallardo and not taking it above 65 mph because, well, that's the legal speed limit. Plus, Apple tells us that the new AirPort Extreme is capable of throughput speeds of five times those of the previous model, which used the 802.11g standard. That translates to about 100Mbps. Our office T1 only hits 40Mbps on a good day, but we had to see if we could achieve that wirelessly. Connected directly to the network via Ethernet, we clocked 39Mbps (download). Unhooked, and seated about 20 feet away from the base station, we ran the test again (www.speakeasy.net/speedtest/). We lost less than 1Mbps in throughput, clocking in at 38.4Mbps. Our upload speed averaged about 24Mbps.

 

Now for range. Apple has made much of the AirPort Extreme's ability to operate in the 5GHz channel for 802.11n, but we found that 5GHz offered neither better range nor faster throughput. So we stuck with 2.4GHz mode. At 50 feet from the base station, the signal appeared strong, but we experienced some loss in throughput, down to 32Mbps. About 75 feet away (and around a corner, so we were no longer in the line of sight), our signal fluctuated between full and medium strength, and throughput choked down to about 7Mbps. For larger houses, and to go through floors, you'll need a repeater. But the AirPort Extreme is all you need if you do most of your computing in one room, or even in a smallish single-story home.

 

The ability to network USB printers and external hard drives is a huge plus. The only hurdle we encountered during the printer setup came when Bonjour (the utility that allows you to network Macs and other devices) didn't have the driver for our Epson printer preloaded. Selecting the correct file from our driver disc wasn't painless, but we finally figured it out. If you want to network both a printer and an external drive, you can use a USB hub since the AirPort Extreme only has one USB port - just buy a powered one, such as Belkin's Hi-Speed USB 2.0 4-Port Hub ($29.99, www.belkin.com). File transfer was fast enough: Copying a 42MB image from our hard drive to the wirelessly connected external drive took 22 seconds, compared to 10 seconds to copy the same file to our office network.

 

As for security, the AirPort Extreme offers lots of choices, including WEP, WPA and WPA2, MAC address filtering, and NAT firewall. It's best to use security that requires, at minimum, password authentication.

 

The bottom line. In our tests, the AirPort Extreme's much-hyped capability to operate on the 5GHz spectrum didn't pan out. But the fact that 802.11n is built in sends it to the head of the pack, allowing throughput rates that equaled the speeds we got with a wired connection.

 

COMPANY: Apple
CONTACT:
www.apple.com
PRICE: $179
REQUIREMENTS: Mac with Ethernet and/or wireless networking capability, Mac OS 10.4.8 or later
Fast setup. Mac and PC compatible. Fastest Wi-Fi standard (802.11n) is built in.
Bonjour utility doesn't preload all printer drivers for printer sharing.

 

 

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Comments

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Johnexo

802.11n utilizes a technique known as Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) to achieve the faster performance and longer range, and while it offers seamless connectivity with older products, the performance of an 802.11n network will slow down if slower devices are connected.
AirPort Extreme Base Station

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benet

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Johny

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Anonymous

I'm not sure where you are getting your terminology from, but a full T1 runs at a maximum of 1.5Mbps. It is comprised of a maximum of 24 64Kbps channels. You cannot achieve 40Mbps through a T1. It sounds like you have a DS3, sometimes known as a T3 which run at roughly 45Mbps. Most home DSL or cable connections will easily outrun a T1 connection for download speeds. Please get your terminology straight, especially when using it in reference for testing the speed of products.

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Jeffrey Stevens

One word of caution.

My scanner will not work while connected to the USB port on the base station.

I have to disconnect and reconnect to my Mac in order for this to work.

A bit of a pain!

Anyone know of a more elegant "work around"?

Jeff

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Mustafa

As you can connect a hard-drive and a printer, would it have killed Apple to provide two USB ports?

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Anonymous

make this product immediately obsolete.

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Rick Prather

What does you ISP connection speed have to do with a review of the AEBS?

You probably are paying for a "up to 1.5 Mbps" connection and getting 1.2 which is perfectly normal.

If that is "unacceptably slow" then you can move up a tier or two to 3.0 or 6.0 but it has nothing to do with the performance of the Airport Extreme Base Station.

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KCMac

After reading your review in the latest Maclife magazine I had to comment. You must have a larger connection to the internet at work than a T1. A T1 is a 1.5Mbps connection (symmetric). Measuring internet speeds isn't the best benchmark for a router such as the AEBS, that just pretty much shows how fast you can surf the net. It's not a true measurement of the network speed.
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The upper limit of 802.11g is 54Mbps, so a 5x increase would be 270Mbps which would be the upper limit of Apples implementation of 802.11n. This is much faster than a 100BaseT connection of which most offices (with the exception of large graphics shops running gigabit) are currently configured. Using this router in wireless workgroups would result in faster transfer rates from wireless computer to wireless computer, but since the Ethernet port on the AEBS is 100BaseT it will most definitely cause a bottleneck if any traffic has route through the ethernet port.
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As for attaching a hub to the AEBS in order to attach multiple devices. There is no need for a powered hub as you're most probably not going to be attaching any bus powered devices to the AEBS. Most printers and USB hard disks have their own power source. In my experience I've found powered hubs seem to interfere with the performance of the new AEBS.

I did post my results with images online at http://www.macosg.com/group/viewtopic.php?t=12979

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Lawrence

This is an excellent article about
T1 internet service
because
broadband communications is the future.

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