Apple AirPort Extreme review

Apple AirPort Extreme fast router

The Apple AirPort Extreme is an individual-looking router that boasts super-fast WiFi speeds. At £199/$199 it's not cheap, but it looks great and performs at top wireless speeds.

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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.

The AirPort Extreme (version 6) features simultaneous dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11ac wireless, Gigabit Ethernet WAN port for connecting a DSL modem, cable modem or Ethernet network, USB2 port for connecting a USB printer or hard drive; and three Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for connecting a computer, Ethernet hub or networked printer.

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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.

Apple AirPort Extreme review: speed tested

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.

Apple AirPort Extreme

Apple AirPort Extreme review: design

The AirPort Extreme has one of the most striking designs we’ve seen in networking kit. Although three years old it's a timeless design, worthy of Jonathan Ive's finest. 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 built-in internal Power Supply Unit (PSU) is a welcome improvement, too, with only a small figure-8 cable required to power it up rather than another power brick to hide away in your home.

There's a small status light on the front that glows green when working well, and flashes amber when there's a problem.

You can add an external hard drive to its USB port.

Originally released in 2013 this version may seem a little long in the tooth but it's still one of the fastest wireless routers we've tested, and is perfect for the complete Apple fan. And aspiring Windows users can get an Apple fix too, as it's cross-platform compatible.

You can buy this router with built-in back-up storage as the Apple Time Capsule. The Apple Time Capsule is basically the AirPort Extreme with either 2TB (£299/$299) or 3TB (£399/$399) capacity.

Read our in-depth review of the new Apple Time Capsule

OUR VERDICT

The Apple AirPort Extreme is pricey, but it offers the best experience in many ways. The lack of some advanced features might put off power users, but in terms of wireless speed this router is hard to beat.

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