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Apple AirPort Extreme base station supports Draft N spec

Apple's new AirPort Extreme base station includes Draft 11N support.

Apple Computer

Amid all the exciting phone and TV announcements that Steve Jobs made at today's Macworld keynote address was an aside that probably deserved a little more attention: the latest iteration of the AirPort Extreme base station supports the Draft N standard. The new base station not only supports the current version of the standard, but it's also backward-compatible with 802.11a/b/g, so it operates in both the 5GHz and the 2.4GHz bands. While backward-compatibility with 802.11b/g is common, compatibility with 11a is less so. Having 802.11a support is great because you can choose to operate the base station in the 5GHz band in order to reduce network interference.

The back of the new AirPort Extreme base station Apple Computer

A peek at the back of base station (well, a peek at a picture of the back) shows one WAN port and three LAN ports (four LAN ports are more common on most wireless routers), though to the disappointment of many fans, none of them are Gigabit Ethernet ports. There is, however, a USB port for networking an external hard drive or a USB printer (or both if you add a USB hub). As far as wireless security goes, the new AirPort Extreme base station supports WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP.

Apple has changed the physical design of the base station, too: it employs the Mac Mini/Apple TV design, though it's slightly shorter than the Mac Mini. The Draft 11N AirPort Extreme will ship in February for $180, in line with pricing for Draft 11N routers from the likes of Linksys and Belkin.