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AirPort Extreme Base Station ("AirMac Extreme Base Station" in Japan)
AirPort Extreme Base Station ("AirMac Extreme Base Station" in Japan)

AirPort is Apple's trademarked name for wireless networking, based on IEEE 802.11 standards.


AirPort (original version)

AirPort is a device that can be installed in many different model Macintosh systems for adding Wi-Fi networking according to the 802.11b standard, providing up to 11Mbps of bandwidth.
This device was discontinued in June, 2004. Original AirPort cards have become quite expensive to acquire and can go as high as $90(US) on online stores such as eBay.

AirPort Extreme

AirPort Extreme is Apple's trademarked name for Wi-Fi networking according to the 802.11g standard, which provides up to 54Mbps of bandwidth.
AirPort Extreme was updated in January 2007 and features a new design, 802.11Draft-n support, USB support for hard disks and more.

In October 2009 AirPort Extreme was updated to the 802.11n (Final-N) standard.

On June 21, 2011, Apple unveiled the updated AirPort Extreme Base Station.
Compared to its predecessor, it has achieved a great wireless performance gains of both speed and range.

Comparison table

The detailed table of output power comparison between the previous model MC340LL/A and the current model MD031LL/A can be seen below:

Frequency range (MHz) Mode AirPort Extreme model Output Power (dBm) Output Power (mW) Comparison (percents) Difference (percents)
2412 - 2462 802.11b Previous 24.57 286.42 100 -10.3
Current 24.10 257.04 89.7
802.11g Previous 21.56 143.22 100 +114.8
Current 24.88 307.61 214.8
802.11n HT20 Previous 21.17 130.92 100 +96.8
Current 24.11 257.63 196.8
5745 - 5825 802.11a Previous 23.07 202.77 100 +61.1
Current 25.14 326.59 161.1
5745 - 5805 802.11n HT20 Previous 22.17 164.82 100 +104.6
Current 25.28 337.29 204.6
5755 - 5795 802.11n HT40 Previous 21.44 139.32 100 +181.8
Current 25.94 392.64 281.8

Sources: Test Report - Previous version Test Report - Current versionFederal Communications Commission (FCC)

Buyers Guide

Recommendation: Buy Now! Product just updated
Last Release: June 21, 2011
You must be very careful and check the model number before the purchase!
The model number of the current generation Airport Extreme Base Station: MD031LL/A

A lot of sellers are using the fact that Airport Extreme from different generation looks very similar to each other:
they are still selling old Airport Extreme, which are inferior to new Airport Extreme, at the same price!
For example, Draft-N Airport Extreme is compatible with Final-N devices, but might be incompatible with other Draft-N devices.
And every generation of Airport Extreme has improvements in both speed and range, if compared with older generation.

AirPort Hardware

Nearly all Macintoshes sold after the introduction of AirPort include either a built-in interface, or a slot where a user can add an interface.
Earlier Macs include an AirPort slot, while later models include an AirPort Extreme slot.
Macs equipped with AirPort and AirPort Extreme slots have a built-in antenna, which attaches to the interface card.

AirPort interface

The original AirPort interface card resembles a PC Card device and has a very similar form factor.
The card can physically fit in an actual PCMCIA slot, and PC Cards can fit in an AirPort slot, but the electrical interface is not idenetical.
AirPort cards do not work in PCMCIA slots, and third-party PC cards usually do not work in a Mac's AirPort slot.

AirPort Extreme interface

The AirPort Extreme card has a different form factor from the original AirPort card. It is a Mini PCI card, rather than PCMCIA.
As a result, you can not put an AirPort Extreme interface in a Mac that has an AirPort slot.

Base stations

Along with interface cards, Apple has released several different base stations.
These attach to an Ethernet network and allow computers with 802.11b/g networking capability (not just those with AirPort interfaces) to access the network.

In addition to basic Wi-Fi LAN access, several models also include a 56k modem, to accommodate users of dial-up internet access.
Some models include a USB port, to allow printer sharing without dedicating a computer to act as server.

In January 2007, Apple released a new Airport Extreme with Wireless n support, it has a USB port to allow printer sharing or network file access, it also supports parental controls.
In August 2007[1] the Airport Extreme was updated to add Gigabit Ethernet Support.

AirPort Express

AirPort Express ("AirMac Express" in Japan)
AirPort Express ("AirMac Express" in Japan)

AirPort Express is a small-scale portable AirPort Extreme base station. It can be used to either provide wireless access to an Ethernet LAN, or to extend a LAN via a Wi-Fi segment. It includes a USB port for printer sharing and an audio-out port, allowing computers running iTunes to stream audio over the LAN via AirTunes. Unlike the full-sized AirPort Extreme Base Station, AirPort Express only supports 10 clients at a time.

Some features, like WDS and bridging (mentioned above) will only work in conjunction with other Apple Extreme/Express Base stations. AirPort Express can operate in "client mode" on any 802.11b/g network, however. In this mode, the base station can join a third-party access point and just provide wireless audio and print serving features. More on client mode can be found here.

While the USB port cannot be used for any data connections besides printers, it has been reported that an iPod with a USB 2.0 cable can charge through the AirPort Express's USB port.

Time Capsule

Time Capsule
Time Capsule

The Time Capsule is a wireless network-attached storage device combined with a wireless residential gateway router made by Apple Inc.
It is described as a "Backup Appliance", designed to work in tandem with the Time Machine backup utility, introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard".

The device includes a full AirPort Extreme Base Station with 802.11n wireless (now with Dual Band Support), an Ethernet WAN port, three Ethernet LAN ports, and one USB port. There is also a "Server grade" hard drive inside the casing. Time Capsule was introduced at Macworld Conference & Expo on January 15, 2008 and released on February 29, 2008, with pricing announced at US$299 (£199) for the 500 GB version and US$499 (£329) for the 1 TB version.

The USB port can be used for an external hard drive or a printer to be shared over the network. In early 2009, Apple released a newer model offering simultaneous 802.11n dual-band operation to allow older devices to use the slower wireless speeds without affecting the overall performance of devices that can use the higher 802.11n speeds.
Also released in this new version is Guest Networking which allows guests to sign on with a different password to ensure your private network is kept private.

In July 2009, Apple doubled the hard-disk storage space that comes with each model. The $299 Time Capsule now holds 1TB (instead of 500GB) and the $499 configuration holds 2TB (instead of 1TB). Also by reconfiguring the internal wireless antenna Apple reported 50% better performance and 25% better wireless range on the fourth generation model.
Apple again increased the hard-disk storage space in each model in June 2011. The 2TB Time Capsule is now being sold for $299 (replacing the 1TB model) and the new 3TB model sells for $499.

See Also

Keeping your Wireless Network Secure