Apple AirPort Extreme review - Easy to setup; with extremely good transfer speeds
Lacks advanced features but as a wireless router excels
The AirPort Extreme has one of the most striking designs we’ve seen in networking kit. Its footprint is identical to that of the Apple TV, but it’s taller at 168mm high. It’s encased in a smooth, glossy white plastic, resulting in an attractive object that successfully hides its mundane purpose.
The internal PSU is a welcome improvement, too, with only a small figure-8 cable required to power it up.
The AirPort Extreme has six internal antennae (Apple says it has put the antennae at the top, creating a higher platform for dispersing the signal), offering simultaneous dual-band wireless networks with support for all wireless bands. There’s a limited set of connectors at the rear, though – a single USB 2.0 port, three gigabit ethernet LAN ports and one ethernet port for a WAN connection.
The router has been designed with ease of setup in mind, either via a Mac or an iPhone or iPad. Instead of the usual web-browser-based administration interface, a dedicated software application, AirPort Utility, is built into OS X. It automatically detects the router, and configuration screens load quicker than on a browser-based interface. Annoyingly, though, changing some settings still requires a full reboot. See more WiFi and Networking reviews.
There’s IPv6, WPA and WPA2 encryption, port forwarding and support for dynamic DNS services, but it lacks certain features such as MAC address cloning, QoS and VPN support.
Performance on both 802.11n and 802.11ac wireless bands is extremely good. It recorded one of the fastest peak 802.11ac speeds we’ve seen, breaking all records at 706Mb/s, before settling down for a still-impressive average of 578Mb/s at short range, and 540Mb/s at the longer 10m distance. We recorded reasonable transfer speeds on 802.11n, too, with an average 105Mb/s at long range.
Read our in-depth review of the new Apple Time Capsule.
The AirPort Extreme is pricey, but it offers the best experience in many ways. The lack of some advanced features might put off power users.