Apple AirPort Express Base Station (MC414LL/A)
Apple’s AirPort Express Base Station with its new dual-band networking support joins the contemporary world of wireless routers. It is also the best-looking piece of networking hardware.
Design and features of Apple AirPort Express:
Apple has introduced new AirPort Express Base Station four years after the previous model. Measuring 3.9×3.9×0.9 inches, it seems slightly smaller as compared to already compact previous first and second generations and no longer comes in wall-wart design. It is instead a mini version of AirPort Extreme Base Station, shares the same power cord and support for true dual-band Wi-Fi.
The new router doesn’t feel as if it has four years worth of advance. For example, the USB port on new Apple AirPort Express supports only some printers and not external storage devices. it still supports dual-stream 802.11n wireless networking which means that the router can broadcast in two streams in each of its two frequency bands.
Each Wireless-N standard stream can handle bandwidth of 150Mbps rendering the AirPort express effectively an N600 router (offering up to 300Mbps on each band). It doesn’t support 802.11ac and three-stream 450 Mbps 802.11n which is available in N900 routers.
On the other hand, the new Apple AirPort Express advances in terms of appearance. It looks like a miniature version of AirPort Extreme Base Station, Apple’s larger wireless router but it is also compact enough to fit in your palm. It comes in the typical white color of Apple products and feels solid and looks expensive.
There is just one tiny indicator light on the front that shines solid green when everything is ok and amber when something needs attention. On the back, it has an Apple standard power port, a USB port, one WAN port to connect to an internet source such as broadband modem, a standard audio port and one LAN port to hook up to a wired client such as a desktop computer.
The addition of LAN port is a major improvement over previous generations as you can now use the router as a gateway for a home network consisting of both wireless and wired clients. If you have more than one Ethernet-ready devices, you can add more LAN ports via a switch or a hub.
Previous generations of Apple AirPort Express didn’t support wired clients at all. The new router’s LAN port unfortunately doesn’t offer a Gigabit Ethernet network connection. For most consumers, the 10/100Mbps LAN connection will suffice but if you need that much bandwidth you can overcome this shortcoming by getting a Gigabit Ethernet switch. The audio jack of router works with standard optical minijacks or analog minijacks cables and allows you to stream music from any iTunes-equipped computer that is connected to router’s network to any audio output system or a set of externally powered speakers by using Apple’s AirPlay feature or any iOS device. This is a very neat feature as you don’t have to connect speakers directly to playback device.
The router’s USB port doesn’t support storage devices but if you want to use an all in one printer you can only use printing function not scanning features of the device. It means that you can turn hard copy of a document into soft one such as PDF file, for archiving or e-mailing purposes.
It also supports Apple’s Back to My Mac feature which allows Mac users to share data over internet from a Back to My Mac enabled computer. Other than that, it comes with a basic set of features found in most routers such as MAC address filtering, port forwarding, NAT and VPN pass-through. It is compatible with all existing Wi-Fi standards such as 802.11n/g/b and a. it basically works with all existing Wi-Fi clients in the market.
Ease of use and Security:
By default, the Apple AirPort Express ships with both network bands, allowing any device to connect to them. You will need to run AirPort Utility from a connected computer if you want to password-protect your local network. For Mac OS 10.7, version 6 of software is available.
There is also an AirPort Utility mobile app for iOS devices. The app offers most functions that are found in desktop version. It is also to be noted that even when you name the two wireless networks with different names, they will share the same password, however you can hide 5GHz network from being seen by wireless clients.
In addition to two main wireless networks, the router allows you to create a third guest Wi-Fi network that despite of giving access to the internet is isolated from local resources such as printers or files. You can also change this network’s name as password as you like.
Like existing networking devices from Apple and unlike most non-Apple routers, the AirPort Express doesn’t feature a Web interface. It means you have to use AirPort Utility to manage it. This would not be a problem for Apple users but for others it could be a hassle as they must first install the software. Unfortunately, for some platforms like Android and Linux, the AirPort Utility is not available. If the router had a Web interface, this would not a problem since all modern operating systems have at least one built-in internet browser.
Once you have installed the AirPort Utility software, setting up the router is self-explanatory and simple. The manual takes you through basics of setup and you get it up and running in just a few minutes out of the box.
The Apple AirPort Express supports all variations of WPA and WEP encryption methods for security but it doesn’t offer Wi-Fi protected Setup which would let you add to the network a wireless client by pressing a button.
Service and Support:
Since the router is very easy to use, you will not need much support for it but the router do comes with a well-written manual. You can also reset it to its default settings and utilize AirPort Utility to set it up from beginning which is an easy process.
- Compact and pretty
- Decent, dual-band wireless performance
- Offers an Ethernet port
- Doesn’t support 802.11ac, 450Mbps Wireless-N standard or even Gigabit Ethernet.
The new Apple AirPort Express Base Station is a decent upgrade to previous generation but doesn’t offer much beyond its super-sleek looks when compared with its peers.
Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station (ME918LL/A)
19 used from $ 112.00
- Ultrafast 802.11ac Wi-Fi; Reach data rates of up to 1.3 Gbps. compatible with devices using the 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, and 802.11ac specifications.
- Simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi support; New 6.6-inch height with smaller 3.85-inch base
- 6 antennas located at the top allows for a faster and more powerful connection
- Easy setup with Macs and iOS devices. Please note: This product is a Router ONLY and requires a modem to operate
- NOTE: Check User Manual in Technical Specification before use