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Latest AirPort Extremes and Time Capsules Offer Improved Wi-Fi Range and Performance

The new Airport Extreme and Time Capsule released by Apple in June didn't have an advertised upgrade, outside of a capacity bump on the Time Capsule. However, Brian Klug at AnandTech has written an extraordinarily detailed review of the new devices and found they are notably improved from the prior generation.

Klug notes that the new devices are virtually indistinguishable from their older counterparts, but in detailed testing, they found increased throughput and range.
At the end of the day, the new Airport Extreme dramatically improves throughput in the best case and in a few regions where signal was previously unusable. In the worst case (location 4), performance improves from being essentially unusable to totally fine, and in the case of the 2010MBP goes from not being able to connect at all to pushing 23 Mbps.


The main improvements with AFS (real-world file transfer) happen out at the extremes where previously signal was unusable on 2.4GHz, and likewise on 5GHz. That really tells the story of the (sometimes dramatic) difference that the higher power WLAN solution in the 5th generation makes over the 4th generation.
The highest speeds are attained with the 2011 generation MacBook Pro which includes an upgraded "three spatial stream compliant WLAN stack", which basically is next-generation wireless software and hardware.

The new Airport Extreme includes a slightly different chipset as well, moving from one sourced from Marvell to one from Broadcom:
The result of the move from Marvell to Broadcom is twofold. First, performance and range is definitely better thanks to more transmit power and the improved sensitivity afforded by newer generation chipsets. Second, the combination of lots of Broadcom in Apple’s hardware lineup (from the iPhone, iPad, and MacBooks, to iMac and Mac Mini) with Broadcom in the access point likely allows for the use of frame bursting or some other packet aggregation technique that speeds things up in some scenarios. It’s another example of how having that complete hardware control can in fact result in some benefit—in this case, faster WiFi.
Klug finishes the review by noting the Airport Extreme is reasonably priced compared to the competition and he prefers it due to it "actually work[ing] without locking up, becoming unstable periodically, dropping the session from overheating when being pushed to 100% for hours, or requiring a daily reboot."

Related roundup: AirPort

Top Rated Comments

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40 months ago
What he forgot to leave out is that he got a new house.
Rating: 15 Votes
40 months ago

Ugh why do they always use stupid names like "Airport Extreme"?

Just call it a Wireless 802.11N Router and be done with it. Also who would actually buy a router from Apple? Get an Asus rt-n16.

The router you mentioned doesn't support simultaneous dual-band, nor does it seem to support dual-band in the first place... 2.4ghz band only. You really think that router is somehow better than the extreme? You seriously have no idea what you're missing my friend.
Rating: 11 Votes
40 months ago
I wish it was easier to fully explain the nuances of wifi technology like this to the technology inept. I am a salesperson at a computer store and if there is one apple product that people balk at the price of more then any other its the airports. People think the endless number of $40 to $60 routers from Linksys, netgear, belken, etc are the same level of product. As far as they are concern 802.11n is better then 802.11b/g and thats about as far as they care and then they complain they have to restart their routers all the time or that their internet is slow.
Rating: 10 Votes
40 months ago
Label your axes!!!
Rating: 9 Votes
40 months ago

Also who would actually buy a router from Apple? Get an Asus rt-n16.

Well how about 450Mbps vs 300Mbps?

Or dual band 2.4GHz & 5GHz vs single band 2.4GHz?

Or simultaneous 2.4GHz & 5GHz networks?

But that might just be me. ;)
Rating: 7 Votes
40 months ago

I heard apple routers have problems with xboxs and stuff like that. Can anyone that has one confirm or deny?

We have a new (current gen) AirportExtreme, and we run two XBox 360s off of it with no problems.

Also, two SmartTVs, two blu-ray players, an iMac, a MacBook Pro, two iPhones, an iPad, an iPod Touch, and two Windows laptops, and a Wii. We even have an old first generation AirportExtreme running as a wireless bridge connected to it.

These things run like champs.

Just last week I tried to "skimp" by buying a Linksys for $50 less than the new AE but I just couldn't get it configured to work with my UVerse. After a full day, I gave up and bit the bullet and bought the new AE. I plugged it in, set up the dual band network, set my other AE into bridge mode, and everything just worked like butter.

I don't know why I bothered, after all that was how I got to the AirportExtreme in the first place. Years ago I was uber cheap, so I always bought the cheapest. I had Linksys, Buffalo, ActionTec, you name it. They would all die, lock up, reset, or cause problems. Over and over, I pulled my hair out... I gave up fighting, and paid the extra for the AE which plugged in and worked from day one, never needing a reboot or a reset. After all these years I guess I forgot that lesson, and tried again. I went on consumer review sites and tried to find the best non-apple router I could find. I read and read, and picked one with high reviews which was supposedly a robust "pro" model with lots of power and features. Nope - still caused me hassle.

Sure, maybe I am a fanboy. But these Airport Express routers are *worth every penny* in my book.
Rating: 7 Votes
40 months ago

It was a total goldfish.

Don't be so koi....
Rating: 6 Votes
40 months ago

Was the old router just absolute carp

It was a total goldfish.
Rating: 5 Votes
40 months ago
I'm curious what exactly QoS does that makes some people not want one of these?

a cheap router might work well for some people if all their devices use 5ghz so nothing slows it down, but if their buddy comes over with 2.4 ghz you won't be able to watch your HD movie over wifi most likely until they stop using their crap, and might even have to reset the router after he leaves to make it fast again, and if you want that dual band simultaneous with another brand it's going to cost a bunch too.

Remember when regular 802.11b cost like $300 less than 10 years ago? Be happy, we're living in good times that would boggle the minds of our ancestors. Lol at people who just post angry stuff. But I thank the apple haters for helping me make $$ on aapl so many times. That's how I afford all the fancy apple stuff. If you don't think their stuff is worth it, don't buy it. If you bought one share of aapl and sat on it from 2008 till now you could sell it and have one of these puppies for less than the $300 you made on your $80 investment. I have been using apple stuff since the mac SE and love how it adds to my life, like a digital upgrade to my brain. I am just pissed I didn't buy aapl a long time ago and be retired by now...

I bet people who complain about the price spend lots on driving their suv's, going to concerts, starbucks, eating out, landline phones, newspaper subscriptions, or other stuff that americans blow their money on while bitching about the economy and being broke. It's the american way. It's all about priorities. Look how many people figure out how to afford an iphone when they probably should put the money to better use...

My old roommate was of the older generation and he bought all pc stuff, would think all my mac stuff was a ripoff compared to the specs he got for his $$, but he spent so much time battling and fighting to get his crap to work and I have had nothing but smooth sailing pretty much. Life is short, time is valuable, don't waste it waiting for slow wifi.
Rating: 5 Votes
40 months ago

Label your axes!!!

I can't resist this one. Ok, I'll label my "axes"

Notice the product label on the handle! ;)
Rating: 4 Votes

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