Apple AirPort Express 2012 Review: This Is What A Router Should Be

It's hard to have significant feelings about a router — it's supposed to just work and shut up. But no router has ever just worked and shut up like Apple's newest AirPort — a white inch closer to networking perfection.

What Is It?

A fast, $119, dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n wireless router with built-in AirPlay support.

Who's it For?

Anyone who wants a good router that works very well and doesn't require occult chants and mechanical diagrams to configure. That should be everyone.

Design

You might miss the old design, which swankily plugged straight into your wall outlet. Apple's discarded it for near-flawless minimalism. It's a tiny snow white box with a single soft light.

Using It

Unlike most gadgets, you don't ever want to have to use your router. It should just sit there, beaming internets around your house. This is that router. Any changes you need to make are easy with the AirPort Utility app.

The Best Part

Wanna futz around with NAT settings or IPv6 DNS server configuration? Go ahead; behind the minimalism, there are heaps of customisation options should you need it. This is a powerful router — and hey, it can turn any sound system in your house into an AirPlay music system.

Tragic Flaw

The range and speed afforded by the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands are terrific, but if you live in a large house, you might need an extender.

This Is Weird...

The new range on the new AirPort Exptress is about the same as the old model — not much improvement if any at all.

Test Notes

Internet downstream speed with both a MacBook Air and iPhone 4S were better on the new Express: 26.8Mbps vs 19.74Mbps and 23.34 vs 15.67, respectively. Speedtest.net was used and the results averaged, with the MacBook Air running on the 5GHz band and the iPhone running on the 2.4GHz band.

Network transfer speeds were significantly speedier on the new AirPort Express — almost by a factor of four. A 1.65GB file, transferred between two MacBook Airs, took about 20 minutes using the old Express, but only six with the 2012 model. Being able to ride the 5GHz spectrum, which provides a huge speed boost at closer distances, is fantastic — and you can let the rest of your devices drive along the 2.4GHz lane without having to muddle everything together with slow compatibility modes, as was the problem with previous models.

Should You Buy It?

Absolutely — this thing is pretty, fast, wonderfully simple and appropriately capable. Unless you're a mega-power networker with a need for intricate customisation, or you're put off by the less sophisticated Windows version of AirPort Utility, the 2012 Express is the ultimate buy it and never think about it again object. For a router, that's the ultimate praise.

Apple AirPort Express

• Output: one ethernet port, 802.11a/b/g/n, optical/analogue audio-out for AirPlay speaker connectivity • Simultaneous users: 50 • Printer sharing: Yes via USB Networking features NAT, DHCP, PPPoE, VPN Passthrough (IPSec, PPTP and L2TP), DNS Proxy, SNMP, IPv6 (6to4 and manual tunnels) • Weight: 240g • Size: 98mm x 98mm x 23mm • Price: $119 RRP in Australia


Comments

    Looks like an overpriced piece of crap to me.

      I tend to disagree. It's full featured and works perfectly fine with all devices. Some other vendor's supply much slower and less full featured products at double the price.

      This device can also be used as a Wifi Repeater/AP (If i read Apple's spec sheet accurately) so it's actually quite well priced all things considered.

      Your seemed to have put a lot of time thought and research into your comment.

      Your wife was an overpriced piece of crap but we don't judge you for that.

    What are people's thoughts on issuing this if you're not running any other Apple equipment? I'm looking for a new router and I believe airplay is possible from android and pc?

      Running it on an Airport network is definately preferred, but they play nice (most of the time) with others. One thing I have found is that , in true Apple fashion, on an Airport network, you can't use non-apple devices as bridges/extenders but this shouldn't be a problem for most cases.

      I have a dlink modem/router wired to an Airport Extreme base Station at one end of a big, two-storey house. An Aiport Express in the kitchen with a set of speakers connected to it acting as a bridge and a second express in the lounge room connected to the home theatre for air play. Coupled with a apple tv in the upstairs bedroom and a PC laptop with a freeware Airplay Speaker app running on it, an iMac, multiple iPhones, iPods and iPads means that anyone can play any song fom any computer in any room in the house. And it was easy to set up, which is a bonus.

      just buy yourself a standard Dlink or netgear stick in the CD, hook it up and click the next button. No point wasting money on a router that has terrible signal strength. My girlfriend got one yesterday its a pile! But she loves Apple so i couldnt talk her out of it.

    My Airport Extreme base station died only a few weeks ago, and being low on cash at the time I've just been using my previous-to-this-one Airport Express as my only form of wireless since.
    I'm ready to spend the money to replace it now, but can anyone tell my why I should buy the $200 Airport Extreme now that this new Airport Express is out for $119 and with seemingly the same specs?
    What are the advantages of the more expensive model (I couldn't tell looking at the information pages for each on the Apple website - they both seem to be exactly the same!)

      Extreme 4 x RJ45 10/100 lan ports, 1 x RJ45 Gigabit WAN port, slightly faster wifi speeds.

      Express only has 1x RJ45 10/100 LAN and 1 x RJ45 10/100 WAN.

      I can only remember one thing off the top of my head and that is that the Base station has 3 internal aerials and gets better range.

    I'll agree about the range, it's crazy that my much physically smaller Nokia N8 gets better wireless range than an Airport Express. But I've been told Nokia has spent billions on aerial wireless technology where apple has only spent in the millions.
    Disagree about the ultimate part, ultimate would be if it had NFC tap to pair (join the network). And if it had a web interface for the settings - just a bit easier IMO, but the Airport setup software does have some advantages like automatically popping up if there is a network problem.

    Whilst this unit is of no use to me (because I need multiple ethernet ports), the audio jack is an awesome addition for anybody that's got an iDevice. I routinely AirPlay music through my Apple TV and it's incredibly convenient.

    next time test it with some windows machines

    "The new range on the new AirPort Exptress is about the same as the old model"

    I don't find this weird at all.

    Sounds like more apple fanboy talk to me.

    No router I have ever owned has ever required "occult chants and mechanical diagrams to configure". Most are actually fairly straightforward. And you should need to touch any router once set up (Unless you want to play with forwards and stuff), which seems to be one of your selling points.

    Plenty of other brands on the market offering similar performance with better range for around the same price.

      Spot on.

      I find the ones that try to over simplify and do everything with wizards to be the hardest to make work.

        It does not work like your typical wizard. I've used a number of different routers and each of them came with some sort of wizard which was next to useless, and I would endup configuring manually. Since I used my first Apple extreme I found a very different and much better experience. The setup is considerably easier and in my experience more robust than previous solutions I've used. The only downer is requiring a separate modem, but it's easy to understand why they did that.

    But you'd still need to buy a DSL modem wouldn't you? Why buy this when you can get a modem/router in 1 for the same price?

      I have one for its ability to act as a bridging device to connect to another router. Some other routers can do this, but these are nice and small, relatively cheap and mobile too.

      I have the previous model but yeah, it isn't my primary router.

    another apple fanboy review by Sam Biddle. Lol

    Apple TV in white...?

    Do you still need another modem to connect this to the internet? If so why does apple not fix this and give us an all in one unit?

    Absence of 802.11ac or USB ports should surely make this 4 stars at most.

      Good thing it has USB ports then.

        So it does. Can you use it as a NAS? This review was not thorough..

    I'm a big fan of Billion and Cisco/Linksys when it comes to home networking. However I've had the pleasure of having to deploy a few of these at client sites over the past few months and bugger me, they are EASY to configure. Plug it in, turn it on, configure it from your phone (I use an iPhone 4S for work phone, company supplied *groan*" however it's bloody simple. And then, adding an extender to it? Childs play. For the people who aren't really technical at all, these are a dream come true. However if you're heavily into NAT'ing, routing, forwarding, etc etc, you'll want to go elsewhere for your needs. Overall they are a decent consumer grade product. I rate them.

    Deleting my comment about being a fanboy just shows its true.. lol

    For those with a house of iDevices it is hassle free, plug and play solution and wouldn't recommend anything else other than the AirPort Extreme (for USB disk sharing). For everyone else un-necessary.

    If you can't open ports, it's not a router

    Now this is how you write a review... also needs a competition comparisons, in table form, and keep it growing and consistant.

    I see the new Giz editor is making some nice changes!

      You can open ports. I have one set up now doing exactly that.

        Not all ports - only what Apple think you need, which is typical of Apple

    This thing is ugly, all white, gaudy, what were they thinking?

    Got a new Linksys/Cisco WiFi router last year and it was easy to set up, has great range, looks nice (but still functional as a router) and has operated flawlessly. This BS about "occult chants and mechanical diagrams" is pure fanboy drivel... oh wait it's Sam Biddle, shouldn't have expected any less...

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    One ethernet port. Cheapskates. Doesn't even say if it's gigabit.

      I completely missed that thinking it would have at least 4... wow, all others in this price range give you more. Terrible review..

    Over the last 5-6 years ive used over half a dozen different routers. Never had a issue configuring them. every router has a setup wizard, run it. input ur username/password and done.
    "occult chants and mechanical diagrams"?? load of bull shit. its just an over priced router. A good billion or linksys will cost less and sync at a higher rate. And it'll work with any other device attached to it.

    Oh look, also no dyndns. What the hell.

    Can I plug in an external hard drive? And then have my PS3 pick it up to play movies?

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