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The AirPort Express makes it a breeze to set up a wireless network or extend an existing network farther—say, all the way out to the pool.
Perhaps the greatest part about the new AirPort Express is simply that Apple brought back the AirPort Express—the previous edition had all but disappeared from store shelves, and Internet message boards buzzed with worry that Apple was discontinuing it altogether. Luckily, those fears were unfounded: The new AirPort Express does everything the old model can, and it features the fastest Wi-Fi standard (802.11n) and ProxySTA, which acts as a bridge between wireless and Ethernet networks without requiring you to set up a Wireless Distribution System (WDS). Both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies are supported, and 802.11n offers transfer speeds up to 5 times faster than older 802.11g networks (we clocked downloading speeds of 4935 KB/sec, versus 1530 KB/sec with an 802.11g AirPort Express).
Setup is incredibly easy: The AirPort Utility app walks you through configuring the Express as a network router or bridge—it can share one Internet connection with up to 10 wireless clients, and AirPort Utility even lets you provide PIN-based access to guests (so you don’t have to share your network password) or limit clients’ access by time. The compact Express is less than 7 ounces, easy to tote in a laptop bag. And it can save up to five profiles, so you can create a wireless network from a wired Internet connection at home, at work, or in a hotel room without having to redo the settings.
Connect the Express to your home stereo or powered speakers with an audio cable (the 3.5mm port supports both analog stereo and optical digital audio), and you can stream music from iTunes to play over the speakers, a feature called AirTunes. This requires no software setup at all, and if you have multiple Express-equipped stereos in the house, you can stream the same music to all of them, or just some of them. The Express has a USB port, too, but only to share a USB printer with the computers on your network—you can’t connect an external hard drive and back up to it, as you can with the AirPort Extreme (4 out of 5 stars, May/07, p54).The Express is better than ever, and a stellar bargain. Thanks, Apple!