Hidden away among all the software and MacBook Air announcements out of WWDC last week was the launch of a new Airport Extreme and Airport Time Capsule. Both units are identical except for the 2 or 3 TB hard drive in the Time Capsule.
I tested the new Time Capsule. It looks quite a bit different than the old square design. Apple has switched to a vertical box standing 6.6 inches tall and 3.85 inches to accommodate the 6 antennas inside, 3 for 2.4 GHz and 3 for 5 GHz for optimal orthogonality for 802.11ac’s new beamforming. That is the big change, the addition of the new 802.11ac standard with three streams giving a theoretical transfer speed of 1.3Gbps. It also features simultaneous 3×3:3 802.11n on 2.4 GHz.
- Broadcom BCM53019 router SOC with gigabit switch
Hynix H5TC4G63AFR 4 Gb (512 MB) synchronous DDR3 SDRAM
Micron 25Q256A 32 MB serial flash
Skyworks 5003L1 5GHz WLAN power amplifier
Skyworks 2623L 2.4GHz WLAN power amplifier
- TDK TLA-7T201HF (which appears to be a pulse transformer)
As far as external connections go it is almost the same as the previous model: 3 Gigabit LAN port a WAN port and a USB 2 port for a hard drive or printer. I would have liked a USB 3 port.The power port is slightly different because the power supply is inside the device..a huge improvement for cable management with no external power block to deal with.
Setup was typically Apple simple: Using the new Airport Utility I accepted the default settings for the network and was up and running in less than a minute. Setting up the Time Machine settings for my Mac mini and MacBook Air were equally simple. From the box to a fully functioning network and Backup system in less than 5 minutes is, in my book outstanding.
Now to performance. I tested transfer speed with a 1.38GB MP4 file between a Mac mini and a MacBook Air. On a fourth generation Airport Extreme the transfer t00k 2:26 for a transfer speed of 9.5MBps. The same transfer on the new Time Capsule was a more impressive 1:40 for a speed of 13.8MBps. Even more impressive was the transfer from the Time Capsule hard drive to the MacBook Air at 1:06 for a transfer speed of 20.9MBps. I tried to do a 802.11ac transfer to a Windows 7 PC using a D-Link AC1200 Dual Band USB Adapter without much success. While it established a link at 866Mbps the actual transfer was the same as the 802.11n transfers to the Mid-2012 MacBook Air. I hope to try it out on a new MacBook Air soon. Range was marginally less than other routers I have tested. Most deliver a marginal and intermittent signal to my front porch while the Time Capsule seemed unable to punch anything through the brick wall. Everywhere in the house performance was excellent.
The Apple Airport Time Capsule and the Airport Extreme are solid well built devices that deliver excellent performance. I would recommend the time capsule for any Mac user..it is a great router and backup system. I would recommend the Airport Extreme to anyone looking for a good top of the line 802.11ac router although it is about $20 more expensive than the competition.
The Airport Airport Extreme and Time Capsule are available for $199 and $299 (2TB) $399(3TB) wherever Apple products are sold.