Linksys lovers, look away now! Now we’ve got rid of the Apple haters, we’re doing our review of the fantastically awesome AirPort Extreme, by Apple.

As always a completely non-biased review, naturally.

The Airport Extreme Base Station is an easy-to-use wireless access point with simultaneous dual-band support. Ideally suited to business, schools and home users. The Airport Extreme broadcasts fast, 802.11n Wi-Fi access for Mac computers, PCs and Wi-Fi devices such as iPhone, iPod touch and Apple TV.

Features

Easy wireless networking.

Connect your DSL or cable modem to the AirPort Extreme Base Station, then quickly set it up with the easy-to-use AirPort Utility, which is included for both Mac OS X and Windows. In minutes, you and up to 50 others can use your Mac computers or PCs to surf the web, stream video, share photos and more — without wires.1

Simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi.

For maximum range and compatibility, AirPort Extreme works simultaneously on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, allowing all the devices on the network to use the most efficient band automatically. It uses the latest 802.11n wireless technology, so you can enjoy up to five times the Wi-Fi performance and up to twice the range of 802.11g wireless networks.2 And improvements in antenna design give you up to 50 per cent better performance and up to 25 per cent better range than with the previous-generation AirPort Extreme Base Station.3

Guest networking.

Set up a separate Wi-Fi network with a separate password for your visitors. Simply enable the guest networking feature, and your guests can use the Internet but can’t access other parts of your private network, such as your computers, printers and attached hard drives.

Print without wires.

Have several computers in your home or office but only one printer? No problem. Just connect a compatible printer to the USB port on the AirPort Extreme Base Station, and the printer instantly becomes available to all the computers (Mac and PC) on your wireless or wired network. (See system requirements.)

Share your hard drive.

You can share an external USB hard drive over your wireless and wired networks by simply connecting it to the USB port on your AirPort Extreme Base Station. Called AirPort Disk, this feature is perfect for sharing files and more. If you’re a MobileMe member using a Mac with Mac OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard, you can even access the files on the drive over the Internet.4

Strong security and access controls.

Rest easy — AirPort Extreme takes strong measures to prevent unauthorised intrusion into your wireless network. It offers a built-in firewall and supports industry-standard encryption technologies including WPA/WPA2 and 128-bit WEP. Yet it’s still easy for authorised users to connect to the base station, thanks to its simple set-up utility and powerful access controls.

Works with iPhone, Apple TV and more.

AirPort Extreme works with Mac computers, PCs, iPhone, iPod touch, Apple TV and virtually all 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi wireless devices — all at the same time.

What’s in the Box

  • AirPort Extreme Base Station
  • CD with AirPort Utility (Mac and Windows), AirPort Disk Utility for Mac OS X and Windows, 802.11n Enabler for Mac OS X v10.4 and Bonjour for Windows
  • Power cord
  • Printed and electronic documentation

Aiport Extreme

The design of the AE is amazing! As always with any Apple product, you get a high quality finish and of course – the Apple smell 🙂

The outer shell is essentially a white, shiny plastic. Set on top is a small indented Apple – a nice touch. The underside is covered in a grippy, rubber that offers excellent security when placed on a desk surface (it wont move one bit by accident). There’s a single LED light to indicate network activity and status.

On the back, you’ll find 3 Ethernet ports, a USB port for sharing devices over the network, a reset button and a kensington lock slot.

Even the power adapter looks nice, it’s a shame this will usually be shoved into a crows nest of cables and gather dust.

Test & Set-up

I have to admit feeling very nervous before unplugging my router and creating my own network. Despite my Apple tech ‘knowledge’ – all my previous attempts at setting up home networks between pc’s have failed (and then required me spending money for a technician to come be…technical.) Having used many Apple products however, I thought I’d at least give it a try.

With low expectations, the included instructions were followed to the tee. Unplug your old router…. check. Attach cables to the Airport Extreme (powered off) including the usb printer in my case…. check. Finally, you just need to connect the base station to the modem, and power the router on. I think I had to re-boot the modem, but literally within peeling open the box I had a very nifty network set-up.

My new network shared a printer over the air – something that wasn’t possible with the basic Philips router it had replaced. You could attach a hard-drive here, or even a USB hub and several devices – and set-up is super easy. AirPort Extreme can also set-up a limited ‘guest’ network that requires a password, but denies guest any access to your Macs. Which is super cool – and very useful if you own a Coffee shop or hotel for example.

Set-up then was amazingly simple – and caused me to tweet several times in one week about just how good the AirPort Extreme was.

Now for Performance. Our previous Philips SNK5600 modem would drop out frequently and require rebooting at least once a day to re-gain dropped connections. Since installing the AirPort Extreme into our office we haven’t had one single dropped connection over WiFi.

When several users get on to a network, things can grind to a slow canter. But not with the AirPort Extreme. We found we could now stream a BBC HD program (around 1GB to download) whilst another user browses along and experience no lag – a feat completely unheard of with our old router.

The range is great too – we can sit anywhere in our office without losing a single bar of strength.

Conclusion

This is a brilliant product – and viable router for anyone from home users to small companies / coffee shops. The router works fast and reliably. Great little product. Now for the only downside – the price. The AirPort Extreme tops the scales at around £142. That’s quite expensive – but completely worth it for a pain free installation and day-to-day use.