Apple Time Capsule Wi-Fi router

The latest version of Apple's Wi-Fi router with an integrated hard drive offers simultaneous dual-band operation.

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Apple Time Capsule
  • Apple Time Capsule
  • Apple Time Capsule
  • Apple Time Capsule
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Simultaneous dual-band operation, guest networking, integrated hard drive, fast, WDS configuration

Cons

  • No backup utility for Windows, won't backup to external hard disks, expensive

Bottom Line

The latest update to the Apple Time Capsule brings new features that make it a more versatile wireless router. If it wasn't for an exorbitant price tag, it would be a must-buy.

Would you buy this?

The latest version of the Time Capsule — Apple's Wi-Fi router with an integrated hard drive — has some new tricks up its sleeve that make it a more versatile backbone for a home wireless network. Its cost and a lack of compatibility with Windows-based backup utilities are a trade-off for simultaneous dual-band operation and decent speeds.

Apple has offered 802.11 draft-n networking in its AirPort wireless routers for some time, but the new Time Capsule adds simultaneous dual-band operation as well. Like the Linksys WRT610N, this means that the Time Capsule can operate a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi access point — used by 802.11b/g devices and prone to interference from other consumer devices — while simultaneously providing a 802.11a-compatible Wi-Fi access point over the 5GHz spectrum for bandwidth-heavy uses. A network can also be set up for guests, with a separate password and the ability to share the Internet connection or grant read/write access to the Time Capsule's integrated hard drive.

This version of the Apple Time Capsule has Wireless Distribution System (WDS) technology, allowing you to extend a network using multiple access points without requiring a single networked backbone. The system is a little tricky to set up, requiring you to link MAC addresses, but thanks to a firmware update to older AirPort devices, your AirPort Extreme or AirPort Express can still become a part of a WDS configuration. Since it is not a Wi-Fi Alliance–certified technology it may only work with Apple network routers, but computers and other wireless devices will have no trouble accessing WDS-enabled networks. WPA, WPA2 and WEP security options are all supported.

The back of the Time Capsule has four Gigabit Ethernet ports — though one is reserved as a WAN connection — and a USB port for sharing printers and external hard drives.

We tested wireless throughput speeds by transferring 5GB worth of files between an Apple iMac and a notebook with a 7200rpm hard drive. At a range of 2m, the router transferred data at 5.9 megabytes per second over the 2.4GHz network and 12.8MBps over 5GHz. At 20m, these speeds dropped to 1.4MBps over 2.4GHz and 3.7MBps over 5GHz. During simultaneous operation the Time Capsule acquitted itself well, slowing only slightly to 4.5MBps over 2.4GHz and 8.9MBps over 5GHz at close range. The Time Capsule rivals the Linksys WRT610N for speed, and will handle tasks like high-definition media streaming well.

Most routers rely on a Web-based interface for configuration, but the Time Capsule wireless router uses dedicated software. The Windows version of the application is cumbersome compared to its Mac counterpart, and, annoyingly, you have to restart the router after making even minor settings changes.

The hard drive component of the Apple Time Capsule can be used as a simple network drive, but it is designed primarily for use with MacOS X Leopard's integrated backup software, Time Machine. The Time Capsule acts as a networked backup drive for Time Machine, and backs up the contents of your computer in its entirety or in increments. Apple doesn't provide any backup utility for Windows.

Our main gripe with this wireless router is its price. The Time Capsule is essentially an Airport Extreme wireless base station with an internal hard drive tacked on, for which Apple adds a $200 premium for the 500GB model, and a $500 premium for the 1TB version. Given that you can pick up an external 1TB hard drive for anywhere between $280 and $400, it means that Apple is charging at least $100 too much. If you require a network drive to use with Time Machine then the price is justified, but otherwise it is hard to come to terms with.

Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.

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