Review – Apple Airport Extreme Base Station

Airport Extreme

The Airport Extreme. What a great looking bit of kit, but as with everything, it has it’s problems.

I’ll get on to that later but first the good, and there is a lot of good with the Airport Extreme… it looks amazing sitting on your shelf or desk, there is no doubt of that. Then there is the ease of use – it’s so simple that my cat could set it up, plus it took me less than 10 mins to get it up and running perfectly.

Now it doesn’t come with a web management system which is a bit annoying but it does come with some software called Airport Utility, which is a very simple interface that lets you control a large amount of Apple’s wireless products including the Extreme.

The Extreme also has simultaneous dual-band which means it can use the 2.4GHz band for 802.11g traffic and the 5GHz band for 802.11n traffic. This means it is very efficient, fast and lets you get the best range from all your devices.

It also has ‘Guest Networking Capabilities’ built in with lets your guests join your network without letting them access your private files and information. This means in theory, you can have 3 wireless networks all from one Airport Extreme (The normal 2.4GHz network, the 5GHz network and a guest network).

The security is good… WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP with a built in intelligent firewall that only lets through what is safe, so you have no need to worry about your Airport being attacked.

But now we come to the problems… First of all the compatibility. You would think that as it has a USB port and clearly states that you can connect your hard drive up to it, that you would be able to do just that. But no. It will only work if your hard drive is powered, formated in HFS or HFS+ or has an Apple compatible logo on it. It says in the manual that you can connect hard drives formated in FAT format to it, but I tried that and didn’t get it working. So don’t go buying any old hard drive and expect it to work, because it won’t.

Now, gamers. You would expect this to be the perfect router for you… 802.11n, great range and speed, etc. I’m afraid I have some bad news… the NAT is open but doesn’t allow connections all the time. This has forced me to use a special setup including a second router. You may think “So what”, it has port forwarding. Ahh, but you will only be able to use port forwarding if you have a cable connection and not a DSL connection. This is because the Airport only has a WAN port on the back of it and not a DSL port meaning if you have DSL, you will have to have another DSL enabled router before the Airport, and plug an ethernet cable from the Airport into that. Then you have to put the Airport into a ‘bridge mode’ meaning that port forwarding will be disabled. So in my special setup, I’m using a secondary router that has fully open NAT as my gaming router, and then my Airport is plugged into that. Now I know all this can be solved by getting a cable connection and putting the Airport into ‘Share a Public IP address mode’, but the only cable broadband company by me is ‘Virgin Media’, and then can cost a bit too much so for now, I’m sticking with cheap DSL. 🙂

So… what have we learned? – The Airport is a fantastic product if you are a casual home user and won’t use it for gaming or connecting a hard drive to. And the price… as with all Apple things isn’t too admirable at £142 ($179), but for the overall ease of use, speed, range and compatibility between other Apple products, I would put it high up my list of best routers. Technically, it’s not the best router going but based on it’s looks, they would make me buy it alone… actually I think they did!

If you have any questions, queries or suggestions just leave me a comment or drop me a line and I’ll get back to you. Thanks!

Prices correct as of 7th February 2010

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~ by Eddie on February 25, 2010.

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