Apple AirPort Express

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Apple AirPort Express
  • Apple AirPort Express
  • Apple AirPort Express
  • Apple AirPort Express

Pros

  • Small size, easy configuration

Cons

  • No room for external antenna

Bottom Line

If you're after a simple way to share a broadband connection between several computers with the added benefit of being able to pipe music through your house, look no further. Be prepared to pay for Apple's styling, though.

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Apple's AirPort Express with AirTunes is designed to share an incoming broadband connection between up to ten computers wirelessly, while at the same time allowing users to play back music through speakers connected to the unit.

The Express measures 9.5 x 7.5 x 3cm and weighs just 190g. The 802.11b/g device includes an Ethernet connector, a single USB port for sharing a printer, and Walkman-style audio jack to connect to a stereo or speaker set. Setup is straightforward, and it takes just a few minutes to be up and running. The software set includes an application called the AirPort Express Assistant for Mac OS X and Windows XP that helps guide you through the settings required to configure the unit.

The small device works with iTunes 4.6 and above, on a Mac OS X 10.3 or Windows 2000/XP-based system with a Wi-Fi card, and is controlled from the host computer (where the songs are stored and iTunes is running). iTunes enables you to pipe the stereo music directly from a computer to the Express, and there's no latency during playback - it runs smoothly, free from pops, crackles, or skipping.

The small white plastic brick doesn't feature a connector to attach an external antenna, but managed to maintain a connection up to a range of 35m during testing, which should prove ample to cover most houses.

The AirPort Express is also well appointed from a security perspective, and boasts Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) along with support for 40- and 128-bit WEP. It also offers the ability to filter devices based on their MAC address, and basic NAT (Network Address Translation) functionality provides an entry-level hardware firewall to protect against attacks from the Internet.

All up, Apple has designed a simple, effective, and secure product that works as promised. Many wireless devices on the market include the ability to share a printer, and the AirPort Express is a relatively expensive way to share a net connection between up to ten computers. That said, the ability to pipe music to a remote location wirelessly is worth the added expense.

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