Apple has updated its AirPort Extreme to support the Draft N wireless standard giving it significantly improved range and faster transfer speeds. The £119 router also includes a couple of extra wired Ethernet sockets and a USB port that can handily be used to share a printer or hard drive with all the computers on your network.
The official 802.11n wireless standard may not be due until 2009, but who wants to wait that long for increased wireless speed and range? Certainly not us after we've tested the AirPort Extreme, which uses technology based on the latest draft of the upcoming standard.
The advantages are pretty plain to see. Whereas our ageing Netgear Wireless G router always found it difficult to reach certain areas in our home, the AirPort Extreme has no such problems. Everywhere we tried was bathed in a strong signal.
It's much faster, too. Using a new MacBook with built-in support for Pre-N wireless we were able to pull a 5GB file from a PC connected to the Airport Extreme via Ethernet in 15 minutes and 3 seconds. The same task took 31 minutes and 50 seconds with our old Netgear router. That's not quite the 2.5x performance increase that Apple quotes, but it's not too far off it either.
The AirPort Extreme features a USB port, which lets you add a printer or hard drive on to your network
There are other benefits, too. The USB port on the rear can be used to share a printer or hard drive across your network. With hard drives or memory sticks you just plug them in and the AirPort Disk Agent will pop up on your PC or Mac asking you whether you want to connect to the drive.