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Wireless Reviews

Introduction

Updated 10/17/2007: Removed AppleTV 5 GHz information. Corrected troubleshooting agent info in Hands On section.

Apple AirPort Extreme

At a Glance
Product Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station with Gigabit Ethernet (MB053LL/A)
Summary Dual Band draft 11n router with gigabit Ethernet, print and file servers
Pros • Easy to set up
• Virtually no WPA2 throughput loss
• Print and file servers
• Gigabit Ethernet ports
• Works as router or access point
Cons • Doesn’t work on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz simultaneously
• Very high WEP-enabled throughput loss
• Only three LAN ports
• No SPI firewall
• Lacks support for port triggering

If Apple is known for anything, it’s for elegant industrial designs. So it really comes as no surprise that Apple’s new AirPort Extreme Base Station with Gigabit Ethernet is probably the nicest looking wireless router on the market.

Although the product name is one of the longest ones on the market, it doesn’t completely describe the product’s capabilities. In addition to being a speedy router with gigabit LAN and WAN ports, the Extreme is a dual-band 802.11n Draft 2.0 wireless router. This draft specification, while not an IEEE ratified standard, is a stable draft and is the basis for the Wi-Fi Alliance’s latest certification program

Product Tour

Front view

Figure 1: Front view of the AirPort Extreme Base Station

Measuring 6.5" X 6.5" X 1 3/8", the AirPort Extreme base station is housed in a glossy white case. Unlike virtually every other wireless router on the market, the AirPort Extreme has just a single LED status indicator on the front panel. This multi-colored LED shows normal operating conditions, as well as error conditions. By default, this LED does not blink to indicate network activity, but you can change this in the admin interface.

Rear view

Figure 2: Rear view of the AirPort Extreme Base Station

A glance at the rear panel of the AirPort Extreme shows that it’s quite different from other wireless routers. First, noticeably absent are the multiple external antennas that adorn competing products. Its three antennas are contained inside the base station, giving it a sleek, clean look. 

Second, there are only three LAN ports—most consumer products have four. It’s important to note, however, that both the WAN port, as well as the three LAN ports, support gigabit Ethernet (but not jumbo frames). The rear panel also has a power connector jack, security lock slot, and a single USB port that can be used for printer sharing or for attachment of an external USB Drive.

Apple deserves credit for its external power supply. It’s a color-coordinated white inline brick that features a six-and-a-half-foot long white AC power cord and a 10-foot long white DC power cord. The extra length cables give you more options for placement of the base station. In addition, of course, an inline brick-type power supply doesn’t tie up multiple power outlets like many "wall wart" transformers tend to do.

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