Apple AirPort Base Station 2.0 review: Apple AirPort Base Station 2.0

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CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars Excellent
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good Easy setup; great wireless performance; supports AOL; stylish looks.

The Bad Has only two Ethernet ports; minimal printed documentation; weak support.

The Bottom Line The new and improved AirPort is a quality product that will appeal to both novices and experts.

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When the first UFO-shaped AirPort Base Station landed in stores, it was part of the wireless-networking vanguard. Today, there are loads of devices that support 802.11b (or Wi-Fi), and the AirPort has quickly fallen behind the feature curve. For version 2.0, Apple has gone back to the drawing board to extend the AirPort's features. It now offers two Ethernet ports, support for more users, better range, and increased security--all without raising the price. When the first UFO-shaped AirPort Base Station landed in stores, it was part of the wireless-networking vanguard. Today, there are loads of devices that support 802.11b (or Wi-Fi), and the AirPort has quickly fallen behind the feature curve. For version 2.0, Apple has gone back to the drawing board to extend the AirPort's features. It now offers two Ethernet ports, support for more users, better range, and increased security--all without raising the price.

Mostly easy setup
Like other wireless routers, the $299 AirPort supports the 802.11b standard. It can send data at speeds up to 11Mbps within a range of approximately 150 feet. The back of the AirPort has an RJ-11 port for a dial-up modem and two RJ-45 ports for Ethernet connections. It also has built-in roaming support, which lets users maintain their network connection as they move out of the range of one base station and into another. In addition to the AirPort, each Mac desktop or notebook you want to connect must be equipped with a $99 AirPort card.

Apple is a master at making its products easy to set up, and the AirPort is no exception. First, attach the AirPort to your telephone, DSL, cable, or Ethernet connection. A convenient Setup Assistant smoothly guides you through the highways and byways of configuring the base station to work in either a wireless or a mixed network. The assistant's big menus, clearly labeled buttons, and easy choices help. Printed documentation is limited to a spare 32-page booklet that outlines basic hookup and base-station administration and provides simple troubleshooting information. If you need to manage a large network or one that hosts computers from different platforms, a handy networking guide on the installation CD takes you through the process. You can also configure more advanced settings such as channel frequency, access control, and port mapping using the AirPort Admin Utility.

Unlike earlier versions, this model lets you use the AirPort's built-in 56K modem to dial up your AOL connection. Apple includes special connection files on the installer CD. To share an AOL connection, however, you still need multiple accounts.

Apple piles on the features
Feature for feature, the AirPort holds up well against the competition. It sports a stylish, white-graphite plastic case, and it can now support 50 users (up from 10). Apple beefed up the built-in antenna for better range and added a second Ethernet port that allows the AirPort to perform as a cable/DSL router as well as feed the signal to a traditional wired network. But while we appreciate the upgrade, most Wi-Fi routers from other companies offer up to four Ethernet ports for wired networks. With an AirPort, you're forced to buy a separate hub or a switch.

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Where to Buy See all prices

Apple AirPort Base Station 2.0

Part Number: M8209LLA
MSRP: $299.00 Low Price: $19.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Ports Qty 2
  • Data Transfer Rate 11 Mbps
  • Data Link Protocol Ethernet
  • Type none