CNET First Look
Apple AirPort Extreme Base StationThe Apple AirPort Extreme cures networking headaches for novice Mac users with a simple setup, but competing devices offer Windows users more network customization and faster speeds for less.
Hi! I'm Justin Yu, Associate Editor for cnet.com. This is your first look at the Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station. The latest refresh-- it doesn't really change much from the previous model that it came out in December of '09. It borrows the same unobtrusive rectangular design with an all white housing and an internal antenna that match up with Apple's computers and peripherals. The front of the router has a hidden LED that indicate connection status, but the rear has all the place you need to create a network or attach a hard-wired connection. Like the previous model, you get the standard WAN port to connect it to a DSL or cable modem, a single USB port to add an external hard drive or a printer on your network and three LAN ports for a hard-wired high speed connection. Unlike other routers, Apple doesn't supply a web-based set of wizard to guide you to do the process. Instead, you can establish your network using the AirPort Utility pre-installed on Mac operating systems, but it's also available for download on PC's. We were able to get our connection running in less than 5 minutes using AirPort Utility but you won't find many of the advanced menus that you get on competing routers. Things like Dynamic DNS and Mac replication, Port Forwarding, etc. We compared several routers including the older model to the updated Extreme and found that it's still not as fast as our Editor's Choice Winning Ace at distances of both 15 feet and 100 feet away. However, we did notice that at the 5GHz band, the 2011 extreme did showed significant improvement over past Apple routers which could be attributed to a boast in the maximum power output of the wireless transmitter. That's as reported by the folks over at Apple Insider. Now, the price of the new AirPort Extreme Base Station is 179 bucks at the time it is review which makes it more expensive than competing routers that gave you the same features for less money. Things like Simple installation, Dual-Band Connectivity and Guest Networking have become the standard for modern routers but Apple charged it a little bit more than average for the aesthetic value and integration with their ecosystem. With that said you can certainly stretch your dollar further with the Ace we mention here and in the text review on cnet.com. But, if you ultimately decide that aesthetic value is a high priority for you, you won't be disappointed with Apple's router. I'm Justin Yu and you just took a first look at the Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station.