Customer Review

456 of 477 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High performance WiFi (yes), my own cloud (cool), and easy setup (nice), July 26, 2011
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This review is from: AirPort Extreme 802.11n (5th Generation) (Personal Computers)
Although setup is quick, it is the high performance 802.11n dual RF bands and the creation of my own cloud storage (HD on USB port) that makes the AirPort Extreme a best-in-class choice!

Setup:
After reading the other reviews, I knew this was going to be quick and easy. I started a pot of coffee thinking I could enjoy a cup while plugging in the AirPort Extreme Base Station (AEBS) and configuring it. Here are the steps:

1. Attached an ethernet cable from the AEBS to my ISP connection. Plugged in the AC adapter and power cord. AEBS powered up. Status light flashed green for a second, glowed amber for several seconds, then flashed amber until the AEBS was configured from a computer.

2. From my MacBook Pro (wireless access works fine for this step), the airport utility app had already launched and was waiting for me (otherwise, go to Applications\Utilities\AirPort Utility.app). Followed instructions that included typing in a router name and two passwords. The default AEBS configuration selects channels and RF bands automatically to optimize speed.

3. Plugged a spare hard drive (in my case: Mac OS Extended (Journaled) formatted 1 TB HD) into AC outlet and the USB port. As soon as the HD had started, it showed up as a MBP network drive device on 'Finder'. I then created a folder, transferred a file, and read it back.

At this point, the coffee machine beeped to let me know my coffee was ready. I was done before the coffee was even ready - about three minutes from opening the box to being operational! Gotta luv it.

Basic Performance Testing:
Not about to let the coffee go to waste, I proceeded with some performance testing. I conducted some very basic data throughput tests by transferring files from the MBP through the AEBS to the HD. This test arrangement kept my ISP download and upload data rates out of the equation. For the wired tests, the MBP was connected to one of the three AEBS Gigabit ports.

Test 1 (a control test configuration between MBP and HD via USB on MBP):
Write to HD: 33.8 MBytes/sec
Read from HD: 34.3 MBytes/sec

Test 2 (wired data transfer)
From MBP to AEBS via Gigabit port, then from AEBS to HD via USB): 13.6 MBytes/sec
From HD to AEBS via USB, then from AEBS to MBP via Gigabit port): 18.3 MBytes/sec

Test 3 (wireless data transfer - 5 GHz RF band)
From MBP to AEBS, then from AEBS to HD via USB): 7.8 MBytes/sec
From HD to AEBS via USB, then from AEBS to MBP): 12.6 MBytes/sec

Test 4 (range test, 5 GHz RF band between MBP and AEBS with a max capacity of 300 Mbits/sec):
3 ft, devices in close proximity: 300 Mbits/sec
50 ft, indoors, no ext walls in path: 243 Mbits/sec
70 ft, outdoors, one ext wall in path: 144 Mbits/sec
80 ft, outdoors, one ext wall in path: 104 Mbits/sec

Default settings seem to provide high bit-rate connections. Using 'manual setup' in Airport Utility.app, I tested several variations on the configuration without improving the rate/range for the 802.11n wireless provided by the default setting of the APBS. Reading data from the HD back through the AEBS to the MBP was always faster than writing data to the HD. Including ethernet into the data transfer path (Test 2 compared to Test 1) reduced data rates in half. Including WiFi into the data transfer path (Test 3 compared to Test 2) reduced data rates to 2/3. Range test performance was very good for distances within 50 feet.

My own storage cloud:
Originally, I envisioned just using the HD (USB port on AEBS) as a network drive for a SVN (i.e., software version control) repository in support of software development on my MBP. But, I realized that this drive is a common storage location for all my devices (MBP, iPad, iPhone, iTouch) that is accessible wirelessly on my local WiFi. And with a VPN connection, from anywhere with WiFi access to the internet. Simply stated, I have my very own cloud! We aren't talking about a skimpy few GB either, but a full TB of dedicated exclusive mine-only cloud. Now, that's cool.

Why buy the 5th generation AEBS:
- High performance 802.11n wireless performance
- Easy and quick setup
- USB port for attaching a hard drive or printer
- Capability to create my very own AEBS WiFi storage cloud for all my devices
- Guest access to ISP without access to other devices or attached USB device
- Sleek clean stylish look

I am so completely pleased with this purchase.
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Comments

Tracked by 11 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 34 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 18, 2011 7:17:21 PM PDT
UpperDown says:
Excellent review ::applause::

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2011 8:55:11 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 12, 2011 8:59:49 AM PDT
Not trying to be a pest, but I would like to set up a network such as the one described in your post, I have the airport extreme, and a 1 Tb external hard drive, but I always get confused when manually adjusting the settings. Is there any resources you could point me to that may aid me in successfully setting up a configuration such as yours.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 9:39:08 PM PDT
Thanks so much!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2011 9:43:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 14, 2011 10:41:12 PM PDT
There is a manual on Apple's website: http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/Apple_AirPort_Networks_Early2009.pdf

At 72 pages in length, it includes screenshots that show how to manually configure or customize the settings for the AEBS. Even though it was written in 2009, most of it is still applicable.

After plugging in the HD to the AEBS USB, I played with the configuration settings in Airport Utility. The following tutorial was helpful:

http://www.switchingtomac.com/tutorials/how-to-attach-an-external-usb-hard-drive-to-your-airport-extreme/

After a wifi connection is established from a mobile wireless device (e.g., iTouch, iPad) to the AEBS, access to the HD can configured. In my case (iTouch, iPad), I downloaded an app (e.g., file browser) that allows access to files/folders and configured it. The unique part of that setup was to find the HD which is defined by the router device name created for the AEBS followed by '.local'. That should do it.

Hope that helps.

Posted on Sep 20, 2011 11:07:48 AM PDT
J. Schwarz says:
Will this work with the Xoom and Windows?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 20, 2011 9:00:19 PM PDT
The small setup guide that comes with the AEBS explains how to connect using a windows-based computer (extra step: download AirPort Utility v5.5.3 or later). Here is the link to the setup guide:

http://manuals.info.apple.com/en_US/airport_extreme_5th_gen_setup.pdf

I don't have access to a Motorola Xoom tablet so I can't say for sure.

Cary

Posted on Sep 21, 2011 1:11:39 PM PDT
Eddie says:
If you don't mind, how did you measure transfer speeds going from your MBP to your APE Hard Drive?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2011 5:13:08 PM PDT
I just timed how long it took to copy about 8 GBytes worth of files/folders (a few video files, several hundred photos, and lots of smaller files) between the HD on the MBP and the APE HD. I repeated the same test in each direction under various APE configurations. In my case, that represented a realistic test since I planned to use the APE HD as a backup HD for a subset of my files/folders on the MBP.

Cary

Posted on Nov 20, 2011 10:35:51 AM PST
aikanae says:
Very helpful review. Will this read several hard drives connected by a hub? Thx.

Posted on Dec 12, 2011 2:23:21 PM PST
Renjith C says:
Hi Cary,
Thanks for the results from your performance testing... I did perform it when I setup my system back in 2009 (4th gen). But I never took the time to post it..

You mentioned "And with a VPN connection, from anywhere with WiFi access to the internet." - How do you setup a VPN connection to your home network? I do have my AEBS hooked up to my 2TB hard drive. But I never tried to access it from outside of my WiFi because of security reasons. If you can provide some insight on how to get a properly authenticated network connection from the internet, that will be awesome.

Thanks in advance,
Renjith
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