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You are here: Wireless Wireless Reviews Extremely Disappointing: Apple Airport Extreme New Simultaneous Dual-Band Router Briefly Reviewed

Extremely Disappointing: Apple Airport Extreme New Simultaneous Dual-Band Router Briefly Reviewed

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Airport Extreme Base Station - Simultaneous Dual Band
At a glance
ProductApple MC340LL/A Airport Extreme Base Station - Simultaneous Dual Band   [Website]
SummaryLatest version of Apple's 802.11n router with disappointing wireless performance.
Pros• Two radios for simultaneous dual-band operation
• High routing speed
Cons• No web administration
• Poor wireless range performance
• Can't use 40 MHz mode in 2.4 GHz
• No jumbo frame support
• Disk sharing choked on 1 GB file transfer

Typical Price: $90  Check NewEgg  Check Amazon


Update 11/13/2009: Added link to follow-up article

Well, it turns out that Apple never even responded to my review request this time. But my curiousity about whether Apple was performing a stealth seeding of three-stream routers in the the wild got the better of me. So I broke down and bought the new MC340LL/A model to see for myself and ended up disappointed on multiple counts.

As soon as I cracked the case, I knew that my three-stream guess was wrong. Figure 1 shows only four antennas, which makes two per radio. And since three-stream routers require three transmit and receive chains, the new Extreme won't be getting a three-stream upgrade sometime in the future.

Inside the new  Airport Extreme Simultaneous
Click to enlarge image

Figure 1: Inside the new Airport Extreme Simultaneous

I was also wrong in my guess that Apple just slipped a new radio module into the old dual-radio Extreme. The previous article showed that the previous Extreme used two Atheros single-chip N radios: an AR9220 dual-band, 2x2 for 5 GHz; and an AR9223 single-band, 2x2 for 2.4 GHz on a mini-PCI module.

Once I got the main board freed from the thermal tape that bonds it to the heat sink blocks, which, in turn, sit on a combination RF shield / heatsink that covers the top of the router, the view shown in Figure 4 was revealed.

New Airport Extreme Simultaneous board
Click to enlarge image

Figure 2: New Airport Extreme Simultaneous board

This is actually an entirely new board, with an all-Marvell design (processor, switch, radios) and more RAM. The new processor is a Marvell 88F6281 1.2 GHz "Kirkwood", which is a popular choice in current-generation NASes, instead of the 88F5181 in the previous model. The switch is now a Marvell 88E6350R 7 Port Gigabit. But Apple's case design still allows only one WAN and three LAN ports to be exposed, none of which support jumbo frames.

RAM has been increased from 64 to 128 MB, but flash stayed the same at 16 MB. Note the big ol' button-cell battery, I guess to keep info alive in RAM. A glance at the bottom of the board revealed a Pericom PI7C9X20303UL PCIe Packet Switch, which I assume helps connect the new radio module to the CPU.

I didn't take the shield off the radio module, so was only able to see the two Marvell 88W8366 devices visible in the photo. Since Marvell keeps details on its devices to itself and its customers, I don't know anything about these devices. But two antenna connections per radio says that it's a dual-stream-only design.

Related Items:

About That New Airport Extreme...
More Surprises From The New Airport Extreme
Apple's New AirPort Extreme Offers No Innovation
Engadget reviews Apple's Time Capsule
Slideshow: Apple Airport Extreme

User reviews

Average user rating from: 3 user(s)

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Questions, review comments and opinions about products not based on actual use will not be published.

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For small Mac Networks this is okay....

Overall rating: 
Reviewed by iphonedoc
January 29, 2011
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I have a small family network and at first I was disappointed by the specs or lack thereof on the device. I was used to updating the settings in a browser, but got used to using the Mac Centric App that came with the device.

I have had no stability issues with the device. It has worked flawlessly for the devices that we have in place. These consists of ipads, iphones, ipod touches, macs and pc's. There has been no throttling, even when using Netflix on 3 of the devices simultaneously.

We are in a mixed environment with a few legacy 10/100 devices intersperesed with 10/100/1000 switches; wireless and lan.

By far my favorite feature is the usb disc. We have a terabyte drive with everyone's personal NAS account, saving the memory on the computer. The disc is automatically partitioned so that, based on password, Individual A sees and stays in Individual A's account only. For kids on the network this is fantastic. A second USB disc is not divided and stores iTunes and movies. That disc is accessible from outside the LAN. I have a network printer, so cannot comment on the usb aspect of that.

When we have guests, they go on the guest network and have limited if any access to the attached drives.

I know that this is a relatively techie crowd, but for a small SOHO or family network I think the Airport Extreme is just fine. We stream Netflix, use Lan Streaming software to stream to our computers or AppleTV usually at the same time. If there is a negative, it is that Windows is not always happy to play along with the AFP filesystem and finds it nicer to use SharePoint and SMB. But other than that, I find this to be a really good network that is relatively inexpensive, given what it actually does.

I am not a Network guru, and I think that this is the consumer that the Airport Extreme was probably designed for.

Great site. thanks.


Airport Extreme: unreliable and over hyped

Overall rating: 
Reviewed by Paul Rosenberger
August 09, 2010
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I am now on my second airport extreme which I purchased along with my 27" imac. I have spent hours trying to get it to work, with the assistance of several patient Apple care representatives, and I am still out of luck.

I don't have the time or inclination to go into the sordid details, but I must state that in my brief experience, this is an extremely troublesome and unreliable device. Furthermore, apple greatly overstated the capabilities of this device. In my situation, its range is only about 50 ft, the same as the airport express which I had purchased a number of years ago and that had finally given up its ghost.

The manual states: "connect a USB hub to your AirPort Extreme and then connect multiple USB devices, such as printers or hard disks. All of the computers on the network have access to those devices." The apple care representative told me that, yes, you can do that if you want to, but it is not supported by apple.

Furthermore, I was told that you cannot connect your Time machine back-up disk to airport extreme; it won't work.

So basically you are limited to a single USB device that you can plug into AirPort extreme.

I have been a Mac enthusiast from the very beginning, but Airport Extreme has left an extremely bad taste in my mouth, and I will most likely send it back for a refund.


Try the new firmware 7.5.1 and be surprised!

Overall rating: 
Reviewed by
August 07, 2010
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After getting the new Extreme we were also disappointed about the performance. But after getting the 7.5.1 firmware this was over! Especially the 5 GHz performance is much better now. We have no means to get actual numbers, but time machine backups and streaming to several Airport Expresses simultaneously works flawlessly now.
Oh and BTW: the guest network is dual band, not 2.4 GHz only as the review reports. It has a single SSID though.
I also like the configuration program. It can copy the settings for one AIrport to another if you get one. You can quickly change all your devices from wireless to wired and back. Who needs a web interface when you have a program like this?
The graphical representation of connected wireless devices is nice and useful, the DHCP server is good and has a proper list that you can configure, logfiles are useful if you need them (not anymore at present).

One other remark: the Airport Extreme with a build-in hard disk (dubbed Time Capsule) has a slightly better RF performance than the Extreme itself.

Firmware has one bug we found: the power reduction setting reduces about 3 dB at most.


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