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Apple AirPort Express Base Station gets new look and AirPlay

Apple has updated the AirPort Express Base Station with a new design and new features including simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi and AirPlay.

It's been a busy day for Apple. You may have missed it in all the iOS 6 hoopla, but Apple has updated the AirPort Express Base Station with a new look and new Wi-Fi features, joining the MacBook Pro with Retina display and refreshed MacBook Air and MacBook Pro in the Apple Store today.

The AirPort has a new look. The new design, a rounded rectangle, makes it look like the Apple TV, Mac mini and Time Capsule. Previously, the AirPort was a plug -- yup, a boxy plug you plugged straight into the wall. But now you can sit it neatly on top of your other Apple boxes and beam a Wi-Fi signal around your house, stream music around your home or connect a printer to print from anywhere in the house.

Probably the best new feature is that the AirPort Express now supports simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi. That means it beams out 802.11n Wi-Fi on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands -- 2.4GHz is the more common, and therefore more congested band, but devices such as the Kindle and most phones can't handle 5GHz. So the new AirPort Express lets you connect your iPad and Mac to the web over the 5GHz network, with your phone connecting on 2.4GHz.

You can also set up a separate Wi-Fi network with a separate password just for your guests, if you're in the habit of inviting people into your home who you don't entirely trust. Or if you're a business or something.

The new box also includes 10/100 Fast Ethernet WAN and LAN ports, 3.5mm audio minijack for analogue or optical digital sound, and a USB 2.0 port for a printer. Once your printer is plugged in, you can then send documents to it from any computer on the Wi-Fi network.

On the software front, you get WPA2 and WPA2 enterprise-level encryption, MAC address filtering, a NAT firewall and scheduling access controls for different times, perhaps to keep the kids off the web when they're supposed to be revising, or out robbing cars.

Oh, and it's got AirPlay too. AirPlay is Apple's streaming system so you can send music round your house to AirPlay-enabled speakers, docks and stereos.

All of this is controlled on your iPad or iPhone with an updated AirPort Utility iOS app, which also now supports IPv6 websites.

The new AirPort Express is on sale now for £80. Will you be checking in with this AirPort? Transmit your thoughts to the comments or our Facebook page.