Which Wi-Fi router is right for you? Apple Time Capsule vs. AirPort Extreme vs. AirPort Express

“Apple sells a range of different Wi-Fi routers, known as AirPort base stations. There are three available: AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express and Time Capsule,” Lou Hattersley writes for Macworld UK.

“If you haven’t got an Apple AirPort Extreme or Time Capsule, and are looking to improve your Wi-Fi network, we recommend you get one of Apple’s base stations. Both are superb devices that offer a range of features and better performance than most routers on the market,” Hattersley writes. “It’s easy to use an AirPort Extreme or Time Capsule to set up a network. The only real differentiation between the devices is whether you also want to create wireless backups. ”

Hattersley writes, “The AirPort Express could be purchased as an additional device at a later point if you decide to expand the network, although it is good for creating a small network on the fly (you could pop one in your suitcase when you head off on holiday for example) and offers an AirPlay audio feature missing from other devices here – it may well get an update soon.”

Much more in the full review here.

18 Comments

  1. I had problems with my network when I was using Time Warner wifi than comes with my router. Especially Apple TV was terrible. When I added my Time Capsule and used it as main wifi it changed everything and now I have perfect Apple TV especially when using Airplay from my Mac and iPad.

    1. Same for me on all of these fronts. Swapped out an old TW cable modem for a new one that could handle the 50 Mbps speeds in my area — told them I don’t want to use the modem’s wifi so I set up a new AEBS. Network and all devices are running fast with zero connection drops.

    2. Same situation here. I avoided renting a TWC supplied wifi/modem and purchased my own TWC compatible cable modem without wifi. The rental fee I saved paid for my own cable modem in less than a year. I upgraded to a new Time Capsule. It provides my wifi and handles TC backup and Apple TV via Ethernet. Throughput and reliability is much improved on all devices, for all reasons.

  2. Hopefully they will soon add 802.11ac to the Airport Express.

    Right now I’m running a current model AirPort Extreme and a current model AirPort Express as a range extender (bridge mode) in my home. I’d like to add another AirPort Express as another range extender, but I’m holding off until I can buy two that support 802.11ac.

    Hopefully Apple will update the Express soon.

    1. Some of us old-timer Apple fans are disappointed that Cook spends all his time pushing server-based computing instead of offering customers new Apple TVs, Mac minis, Airport Extremes, displays, and so forth. That is why so many analysts are tepid about Apple — Cook doesn’t keep his hardware as fresh as it could/should be.

      It doesn’t mean that Apple makes bad stuff, just that leadership is SLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

      1. And you haven’t a clue. As both a customer and stockholder, I’d cheerfully trade a bunch of low-value accessories for the mega-deal that Tim Cook just did with IBM.

  3. Although our cable TV service included a wireless router, we connect through a Time Capsule that is hooked into a stereo system. We also have four Airport Express routers throughout the house, hooked into several old-fashioned stereo systems, a Bose Wave clock/radio, and a boom box we take out onto the back deck. We use Airplay to play music throughout the house. We also have an AppleTV connected to our primary TV.

    1. Sarasota,

      We also have Verizon FiOS but we like our ActionTek router. We have the Gigabit edition. The router is easy enough to configure – not Apple easy – but easy enough. I am just curious as to what issues you are having.

      Having said that, my wife and I will probably add an Apple Time Capsule when it is next updated. We like the idea of the AC speeds (and have a machine which will support it) and the wireless backup.

      Good luck with your setup!

  4. I _never_ recommend the Time Capsule product, for much the same reason that I never recommend a combination amplifier, receiver, tape-player combo – if one thing breaks, EVERYTHING breaks. An Airport Extreme with an outboard drive is less aesthetic, but in my experience much more reliable, especially when having to send things in for service.

    1. Not necessary legitimate in this case. However, folks need to be aware that Apple only supports Time Machine backups to external USB drives connected to Apple Extreme 6th Gen (AC). Otherwise, older version routers with USB volumes won’t be usable in Time Machine without unsupported modifications to OS X.

  5. I have a Airport Extreme and it is awesome. I have an old airport express that I can only use for Airplay. I plan to get another airport express when I get a new MBP so that I can extend the range and be at 5Ghz for the whole house.

    I wish I had faster speed in my town but we live remote so not sure if that is going to change. I had my ISP change their modem to one that isn’t a router and it lets my Extreme do all of the routing for me.

  6. The AirPort Express can also be used as a wireless bridge. My Mac Pro’s internal WiFi goes to G and I purchased an AiPort Express and connect to the AirPort Extreme’s network through it- getting much improved signal and speed.

  7. I’ve used an Airport Extreme with my Comcast modem for a few years and have been nothing but pleased with the performance. I also have an Airport Express that is connected to my printer which is across the room from my iMac and cannot be reached with a cable. The Express also works fine.

    One quirk I came across was trying to use an external hard disk to back up multiple Macs in the house using Time Machine. You cannot do that I discovered because Time Machine will not recognize the external hard drive on another machine with just Mavericks.

    The solution is to install Mavericks Server on the Mac connected to the external hard drive. You then turn on the File Sharing service on the server and then Time Machine can find the external hard drive from all the Macs in the house and use it for backup. It is very simple, even if you know nothing about servers.

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