Apple Time Capsule review:

Apple Time Capsule

Typical Price: £329.00
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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars 1 user review

The Good Clean design; good deal for DraftN router and 500GB or 1TB of storage; low maintenance data backup for Mac users; extensibility via USB port.

The Bad Only average networking performance; few advanced storage features beyond backup capabilities, and those only for Mac users.

The Bottom Line Apple's hybrid 802.11n wireless router/networked hard drive offers some powerful data backup features for Mac owners, as well as Apple's typical pleasing design. Windows users and anyone who demands speed from their 802.11n network will be disappointed

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6.5 Overall

Apple's new Time Capsule is one of only two devices we know of that incorporates both a wireless router and a hard drive into the same product. The other -- the year-and-a-half-old Asus WL-700gE router -- offers neither the same high-speed wireless bandwidth nor as much storage capacity as the Time Capsule, which comes in 500GB (for £199) and 1TB for (£329) varieties.

Time Capsule is essentially an AirPort Extreme Base Station with a built-in hard drive and an easy-to-use, Mac-only automated backup program. Most of what we said in our review of the original, standalone AirPort Extreme applies to the Time Capsule as far as its networking capabilities.

Both products provide you with a 2.4GHz or 5.0 GHz 802.11n wireless network. We're happy to report that we were able to connect an Intel-powered Mac Pro, an iMac G5, a Windows Vista-based HP Pavilion tx2000z laptop and the Windows XP-based Lenovo X300 laptop to the Time Capsule wirelessly with little trouble. Each system was also able to read and write to the Time Capsule's hard drive.

The design of the Time Capsule is clean and visually appealing, and almost identical to the AirPort Extreme Base Station. You still get one indicator light up front and a row of ports on the back. That's it. Many routers offer an array of blinking status LEDs, but the Time Capsule gives you only a static green light to let you know that it's working.

The backside provides you with a single Gigabit Ethernet port for a connection to your cable or DSL or LAN connection, three Gigabit ports for hard-wired network devices and a single USB 2.0 input. There's no power button, but you do get a reset button to restore the factory default settings. The power cable -- and it's just a cable, not a brick -- plugs directly into the back.

We should note that while the Time Capsule is basically silent, the top gets hot, especially when the hard drive is moving a lot of data. Be sure to store it in a well-ventilated area.

Apple made the claim that setting up the Time Capsule to manage your network is easy, and if you're comfortable with basic networking concepts, it is. If you don't know whether you have a static IP address or you're unfamiliar with abbreviations like PPP and DHCP, you can still probably navigate Time Capsule's handful of setup screens, thanks to mostly clear English descriptions that accompany each option.

You initiate the installation by inserting the Time Capsule CD, and from there -- on a Mac -- it will update your AirPort Utility, and then prompt you to select various options. Windows drivers are also included on the disc. With your network established, Windows users should be able to see the hard drive in their network folders, and read and write files to it as with any networked storage device.

You can set up a password to connect to the drive, although you get no user management interface like that of the HP MediaSmart Server. You can also access the Time Capsule's drive remotely through a .Mac account, which you have to pay for. The HP Server provides you remote access for free, although it's not a router.

Mac users can use the Time Capsule's hard drive for basic storage as well, but they also get more benefit from Time Capsule than the Windows crowd, due to its interface with Leopard's Time Machine feature. Time Machine lets you set automated backups from the Macs on your network directly to the Time Capsule. It took about two hours to back up a relatively sparse 21GB of data on a MacBook laptop over a wired Gigabit connection to the Time Capsule.

Apple has also preset Time Capsule to perform several backups a day for the first week you set it up, several backups a week after the first day and then throughout each month until you run out of drive space. Each backup only saves the information that's changed, so you don't have to do the complete multi-gigabyte data transfer every time. You can also tell Time Machine to back up manually whenever you want.

This brings us to the Time Capsule's USB port. The AirPort Extreme Base Station had one as well, so much of the functionality is the same. The idea is that you can plug pretty much any networkable USB device into the Time Capsule and share it across your network. It can also accept a USB hub if you want to attach multiple devices.

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