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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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.
• 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