The latest generation of Apple’s AirPort Extreme base station truly deserves the word extreme in its name. It is one of the first 802.11n wireless routers on the market and it delivers incredible performance when paired with a Mac (or PC) featuring 802.11n support, as well as a much wider range than previous models. Speed isn’t the only reason why the $179 base station is extreme. The device is actually much more than a wireless router. It includes a USB port that can be used to wirelessly share printers or even hard drives.
For home users or small business owners, this amazing combination of features for a relatively low price point is a great tool. Many small businesses need a solution for sharing files, but don’t have the need or resources to set up a full-blown server. While network-attached storage devices are also an option, they are often more expensive, and many don’t offer easy Mac-friendly setup tools.
Installing the new base station is a fairly simple process—even more so than Apple’s previous base stations. Like past preceding models, the base station is configured by using an application rather than a web-based interface, which is used with most home or small office routers. Unlike earlier base stations, which have shipped with both a setup assistant and more advanced administration tool, the newest AirPort Extreme base station ships with a single tool called AirPort Utility (a version is included for both Mac OS X and Windows) that can also be used to manage previous generations of base stations including the highly portable AirPort Express. Although it is a single utility, AirPort Utility offers both a guided setup interface that is easy to navigate, even for users with limited technical or network experience.