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First Take: Updated Apple Time Capsule improves value equation

Apple updates Time Capsule with more storage space for the dollar.

Apple's updated Time Capsule is unchanged externally, but it now offers more storage for a lower price. Sarah Tew/CNET

At least according to its spec sheet, Apple's new Time Capsule backup device/wireless router has only received updates to its hard-drive capacity. Where previously you paid $299 for a Time Capsule with 1TB of storage space and $499 for a 2TB model, you now get 2TB for $299 and 3TB for $499. We have test hardware on the way, and will report on any additional features we find, as well as both storage throughput and networking performance, but at first glance this update seems to merely improve the Time Capsule's price competitiveness in relation to its storage space.

The Time Capsule has always had few direct competitors. LaCie's Wireless Space is the only other recent product we're aware of to combine a router and network attached storage in one device. Right now you can get a 1TB Wireless Space for about $199, and you can get a 2TB model for $299. At least for its entry-level Time Capsule, Apple seems to be aware of its competition.

If you don't care that the Time Capsule offers storage and wireless networking in a single device, you might also consider the cost of buying a wireless router and an external hard drive individually. The $159 Linksys E4200 router, for example, matches the Time Capsule in offering dual-band 802.11n wireless routing capability, and includes NAS support as well as the newer batch of 450Mbps wireless chips.

Throw in a 2TB external drive for about $99, and your piecemeal total comes to about $260. That's $40 in savings next to a 2TB Time Capsule, but also involves the added hassle of setting up an extra piece of hardware, and includes none of the Time Capsule's compatibility with Apple's OS X Time Machine backup software. You could reasonably argue those things are worth an additional $40.

If the 2TB Time Capsule seems fairly priced, paying $499 for the 3TB model seems less sensible. Going back to our piecemeal example, you can use that same $159 Linksys router, and add a 3TB external drive for $150. That's $310, or roughly $180 less than the 3TB Time Capsule. For that kind of savings, we expect many people would stomach an extra piece of hardware.

At least from this rough price perspective, the 2TB Time Capsule looks like the way to go. We'll report back later in the week with a full review of the new Time Capsule, including storage and networking performance results.