Apple Airport Extreme Base Station Review

Chris | Live Tech Support | Video Help | Add to iTunes – Since my Linksys router fried itself last week (with no clear explanation as to why), I decided to take this opportunity to see what all the fuss over Apple’s Airport Extreme Base Station was all about.

I took my $100 iPhone Rebate down to the Apple Store and purchased a unit – stopping short of also getting an Airport Express, since it currently doesn’t support the broadcast or extension of wireless N networks.

Setup was, indeed, exceedingly simple – although different from what I was expecting. I plugged one of my MacBook Pros into an open Ethernet port and jogged through Apple’s Airport Utility (after downloading the latest version). It told me that there was already new firmware available for the Airport base station – then proceeded to download and install it after prompting. That’s the way it should be with every router, IMHO – whether its config tool is browser-based or a binary.

I walked through the options and found just about everything I was looking for – including a nice (live) wireless signal meter for all connected clients. If I had attached an external drive via USB, it would have been quickly and easily discovered. Given the sour performance some people have reported with that configuration, I’m likely to stick with either NAS or networked drives on any one of my computers.

I like how you can assign a permanent DHCP address to any given client, too. Across the house, wireless N performance seems rather good.

What I couldn’t find, however, was a way to spoof the base station’s MAC address – which may be a requirement for me if Comcast Business forces me to go through a single MAC address. That’s a tremendous deal killer for some of us.

I was also a little baffled as to why there’s no easy way to download the latest version of the Airport Utility for Windows from the Web (instead, Windows users must install the tool directly from the CD first – which is rather asinine). Then again, since when has Apple been known to give a rip for Windows users (and vice versa).

No doubt about it: this is (by far) the most user friendly home networking router I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. If Comcast does what I expect it to do, I’ll likely have to relegate it to a bridge or a wireless extension device. If Verizon serviced my area with FIOS, life would be so much better…

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