Apple AirPort Express Base Station gets hardware upgrade

If you have been waiting for Apple to finally release a new hardware version of its AirPort Express Base Station Wi-Fi router, you have likely been waiting a long time. Apple hasn't done a full hardware refresh of the product since 2008. Today, Apple, as part of its WWDC event, finally revealed a new version of the AirPort Express Base Station and you can buy it now at Apple's online store.

As you can see in the photo above, the new version has ditched the wall power plug in favor of a built-in power supply. The new square design is now similar to Apple's larger Extreme Base Station and its Time Capsule product. While the 2008 version had two wireless radios for 802.11n in both 2.4- and 5-GHz bands, the new version allows for both those wireless connections to be run simultaneously for the first time.

There's also two 10/100 network ports on the device, one for Ethernet LAN and the other for WAN. There's also a single USB port (sadly it's just for printers) and an audio jack. Overall, the new AirPort Express Base Station should be a welcome upgrade for people who have been waiting for the simultaneous wireless radio support. It's now on sale for just $99.

Source: Apple | Image via Apple

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Am I the only one who finds it hilarious that a bunch of people are commenting about how Apple's omission of gigabit support on a device with a single LAN port indicates that Apple customers are uninformed? Does that mean that every commenter that points that out is an Apple customer?

This doesn't include gigabit because that would be pointless given the intended and common use of the Airport Express. The label of "low end router" is inaccurate and likely the cause of most of the confusion. It's not intended to be the primary router in a household. It can perform any of the following functions and many of them simultaneously

-Portable Router for hotel/travel
-Wireless to Ethernet Bridge
-Print Server for standard USB Printer
-Airplay Target (for streaming audio to anything that's compatible with its 3.5mm output)
-Wireless Network Repeater/

Show me ANY other router that provides an identical feature set.

The original design of the Express was unique in that it was designed for simple portability, such as for travelers, since it was all integrated into a single piece that plugged directly into a power socket. I really fail to see how moving to an external power supply design is an "improvement".

Miuku. said,
You need to read the article again.

I read the ****ing article. It doesn't address why they changed to a different physical design. The difference in radios has jack **** to do with the physical shape of the device, or if it has an internal or external power supply. The only "improvement" is that it now looks like the other two devices in their wireless lineup (Time Capsule and Airport Extreme), and the AppleTV.

edit: it seems it still actually has an internal power supply (I misread it earlier, since the article seemed to imply that the previous model didn't, it was somewhat confusing), it now simply uses a cord instead of having the power plug built in. This just reinforces my assertion that changing the physical design was unnecessary.

Edited by roadwarrior, Jun 12 2012, 11:31pm :

My point exactly Roadwarrior, it has an internal PSU

The cord is useful in situations where you have confined spaces or you wish to have access to the device further away without needing a bulkier extension.

Miuku. said,
My point exactly Roadwarrior, it has an internal PSU

The cord is useful in situations where you have confined spaces or you wish to have access to the device further away without needing a bulkier extension.


FYI, if you remove the plug from the previous version of the Airport Express (the plug is interchangeable for use in different countries), you have exactly the same type of power jack as the new model does. That is a standard 2-prong jack for a power cord that you can pick up in most stores for a dollar or two. Again, there was no real good reason for them to change that part of the design.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/i.../I/71YygXVYpIS._AA1500_.jpg (that shows the old model with the plug removed).

The Express is the "cheapo" model which doesn't include a gigabit LAN.

Throw in 40-50e more and you get the Extreme model with 4 gigabit sockets which is still cheaper than my DLink.

Miuku. said,
The Express is the "cheapo" model which doesn't include a gigabit LAN.

Throw in 40-50e more and you get the Extreme model with 4 gigabit sockets which is still cheaper than my DLink.


The Airport Extreme is a fantastic router. The only router that came close in stability was my old D-Link DGL 4300. I'm sure there are routers with more or similar features that may even be cheaper, but to me the stability is very much worth it. I've never had to reboot the thing, even after engaging day after day in network activity that would cause my other routers to require a reboot after a few hours.

The trouble is that people hear that the Airport is Apple's "cheap model" and then either expect it to be very cheap, or they expect some other features. I always thought of the Airport as being a network extender. It can be used as a stand-alone router, and for most people it's probably sufficient, but it's clearly not as full-featured as a standard router.

Miuku. said,
The Express is the "cheapo" model which doesn't include a gigabit LAN.

Throw in 40-50e more and you get the Extreme model with 4 gigabit sockets which is still cheaper than my DLink.

I have an Extreme, and while I'm happy with the reliability and range, I'm finding it has a lack of configurability offered through Airport Utility. It's perfect as a "router for dummies" though.

ahhell said,
Wrong. The most expensive consumer DLink router (<$149) is still $30US cheaper than the Extreme ($179).

D-Link DIR-855/E Wireless N 184,90 €

Which is the router I have - which happens to be about 30€ more expensive than Extreme.

Please don't comment on things you have no idea about.

humanz. said,
It's ashame Apple knows its consumer base are ignorant

Funny isn't it, a few years ago there were no trolls in the comments here. Now we can't get through a single article without someone trying to insinuate that people are stupid because they don't buy the cheapest products on the market.

what said,
Funny isn't it, a few years ago there were no trolls in the comments here.

Why do you think there's a thread in the General Discussion regarding the drop in Neowin quality.

what said,

Funny isn't it, a few years ago there were no trolls in the comments here. Now we can't get through a single article without someone trying to insinuate that people are stupid because they don't buy the cheapest products on the market.

I think he meant it's funny because this piece of **** SHOULD be the cheapest, and yet idiots pay a relatively high price for it because of the brand.

Martin5000 said,

I think he meant it's funny because this piece of **** SHOULD be the cheapest, and yet idiots pay a relatively high price for it because of the brand.

And again with the trolling...

What he actually said was Apple customers are ignorant, which is incredibly infantile and really not necessary.

And what you're now saying is that anyone who buys this is an idiot.

Here's what I think: you two are the morons for putting people down for having a degree of brand loyalty. People are also willing to pay a premium for products that look good.

What people do with their own money is of no concern to you, so why insult them? You clearly have a problem with Apple products, so next time you see an article about them, just scroll past it and save yourself the effort of typing out a comment that makes you look eight years old.

what said,

And again with the trolling...

What he actually said was Apple customers are ignorant, which is incredibly infantile and really not necessary.

And what you're now saying is that anyone who buys this is an idiot.

Here's what I think: you two are the morons for putting people down for having a degree of brand loyalty. People are also willing to pay a premium for products that look good.

What people do with their own money is of no concern to you, so why insult them? You clearly have a problem with Apple products, so next time you see an article about them, just scroll past it and save yourself the effort of typing out a comment that makes you look eight years old.

You're one of those types who thinks anyone who disagrees with you is a troll, which makes you ignorant of what a troll is.

I believe people are idiotic to pay over the odds for something because of brand loyalty, that is a perfectly reasonable opinion.

Immaturely throwing personal insults at me is particularly odd thing to do when you are also saying I am "eight years old", read all the comments again from a third parties perspective, who's do you think looks more infantile?

Martin5000 said,

You're one of those types who thinks anyone who disagrees with you is a troll, which makes you ignorant of what a troll is.

I believe people are idiotic to pay over the odds for something because of brand loyalty, that is a perfectly reasonable opinion.

Immaturely throwing personal insults at me is particularly odd thing to do when you are also saying I am "eight years old", read all the comments again from a third parties perspective, who's do you think looks more infantile?

Feeding trolls generally brings the tone down to their level. That's why trolls troll in the first place.

I just don't see why you have to go around calling people stupid. What's wrong with saying "it's overpriced"? It's always "it's overpriced and anyone who buys Apple products is an idiot".

Usually I just put trolls on my ignore list but it'd be really nice to know why you can't be friendly about it. Everyone managed okay five years ago.

what said,

Feeding trolls generally brings the tone down to their level. That's why trolls troll in the first place.

I just don't see why you have to go around calling people stupid. What's wrong with saying "it's overpriced"? It's always "it's overpriced and anyone who buys Apple products is an idiot".

Usually I just put trolls on my ignore list but it'd be really nice to know why you can't be friendly about it. Everyone managed okay five years ago.

Having an opinion that you don't agree with is not being a troll.

Also, please don't misquote me I didn't say "it's overpriced and anyone who buys Apple products is an idiot", you said those words because they are easier for you to disagree with, I actually said "I believe people are idiotic to pay over the odds for something because of brand loyalty". I think you're trying to find offence, and then when you don't you distort it so you can get angry and call everyone a troll.

Also, you were throwing the personal insults, so it's you being unfriendly, by your own definition you are being a troll (for clarity I'm not saying you're being a troll).

Martin5000 said,

Having an opinion that you don't agree with is not being a troll.

Also, please don't misquote me I didn't say "it's overpriced and anyone who buys Apple products is an idiot", you said those words because they are easier for you to disagree with, I actually said "I believe people are idiotic to pay over the odds for something because of brand loyalty". I think you're trying to find offence, and then when you don't you distort it so you can get angry and call everyone a troll.

Also, you were throwing the personal insults, so it's you being unfriendly, by your own definition you are being a troll (for clarity I'm not saying you're being a troll).

The quote was not a real quote, it was an example. If you would like a quote, here's one:

and yet idiots pay a relatively high price for it because of the brand.

And by that comment you are trying to provoke a reaction from anyone who has bought one in that past. That is what trolls do.

Funnily enough I don't disagree with you. I think it is overpriced, but what people do with their hard-earned cash is up to them. I don't see the need to call them names.

I bought an airport base station last year just to see what all of the fuss was about, was the worst wifi router I have ever owned, horribly overpriced for what you get, almost tripped over myself taking it back, it really was that bad.

Order_66 said,
I bought an airport base station last year just to see what all of the fuss was about, was the worst wifi router I have ever owned, horribly overpriced for what you get, almost tripped over myself taking it back, it really was that bad.

Huh, I'm using an Airport Extreme myself, and it's been solid so far. Maybe my demands are just low, but I just want something that doesn't die after a month and puts out a decent signal.

THolman said,

Huh, I'm using an Airport Extreme myself, and it's been solid so far. Maybe my demands are just low, but I just want something that doesn't die after a month and puts out a decent signal.


/Facepalm This thread is about the Airport EXPRESS and not the Extreme.

ahhell said,
"two 10/100 network ports on the device"
Weak. Not even gigabit??

I would expect Gigabit as well. Though I've never seen n wireless operating above 100Mbps in real life.

ahhell said,
"two 10/100 network ports on the device"
Weak. Not even gigabit??

My thoughts exactly. $99 for a couple of 10/100 ports, my oh my..

ahhell said,
"two 10/100 network ports on the device"
Weak. Not even gigabit??

What exactly would be the point? One of the network ports is for your internet connection (few if any people using this device would have an internet connection greater than 100Mbps). The other is to pass that internet connection on to a wired computer. I can sort of see the issue where you were transferring files from a wireless device to the wired device, but really, in practice when do you EVER see anything approaching 100Mbps from a wireless n device?

roadwarrior said,
in practice when do you EVER see anything approaching 100Mbps from a wireless n device?

Why are you focusing on wireless? I have my entire network switched into 1 Ethernet port on my router, being locked to 12.5MBps during a large file transfer would suck, especially during backups, and would lag the network.

roadwarrior said,

What exactly would be the point? One of the network ports is for your internet connection (few if any people using this device would have an internet connection greater than 100Mbps). The other is to pass that internet connection on to a wired computer. I can sort of see the issue where you were transferring files from a wireless device to the wired device, but really, in practice when do you EVER see anything approaching 100Mbps from a wireless n device?

A few years ago Apple introduced Macs with gigabit Ethernet, and some were talking about how Apple was using technology that was so advanced that their competition would be left behind because of it. Apple sells computers with gigabit networking, but if you want to stay in the Apple ecosystem, I guess you cannot be as advanced as Apple's competition.

funkydude said,

Why are you focusing on wireless? I have my entire network switched into 1 Ethernet port on my router, being locked to 12.5MBps during a large file transfer would suck, especially during backups, and would lag the network.

You have your entire network switched into 1 Ethernet port? That has just gone over my head. Can you explain this more clearly, and exactly how a wireless router with 2 ethernet ports at 100Mbps would affect (what I would assume) is a Gigabit switch's operation?

Edit: Are you referring to your WAN being more than 100Mbps?

funkydude said,

Why are you focusing on wireless? I have my entire network switched into 1 Ethernet port on my router, being locked to 12.5MBps during a large file transfer would suck, especially during backups, and would lag the network.

The only problem I see is if your internet is over 100Mbps, otherwise 10/100 is fine LOL!

offroadaaron said,

The only problem I see is if your internet is over 100Mbps, otherwise 10/100 is fine LOL!

Not so much. Gigabit is effective transferring between devices, not necessarily across your internet. If I want to transfer from one laptop to another and don't have access to an external drive, you can guarantee I'd choose the Gigabit connection over the wireless connection any day.

ahhell said,
"two 10/100 network ports on the device"
Weak. Not even gigabit??

This is the airport express. It's their low-end, low power router, that's rarely used as an actual router.

Everyone I know who owns one uses it as either a print server, AirTunes music player (hooked into a living room stereo, for instance), or a WiFi->ethernet bridge. (or combinations of the above).

On the off-chance you ARE using it as a router, then you'll have your modem plugged in on one port, and only have one other free port anyways... so the point of having gigabit ethernet is essentially moot.

rkenshin said,

Not so much. Gigabit is effective transferring between devices, not necessarily across your internet. If I want to transfer from one laptop to another and don't have access to an external drive, you can guarantee I'd choose the Gigabit connection over the wireless connection any day.

Yes, but the point being made was how a 2-port router (where one port is for WAN only), would affect network speed between computers if the bottleneck is the wireless - I assumed that in the real world, and from experience, wireless n never gets above 100Mbps. Therefore, you use the one Ethernet port to connect to a Gigabit switch. I'm somewhat confused by funkydude's comment.

roadwarrior said,

What exactly would be the point? One of the network ports is for your internet connection (few if any people using this device would have an internet connection greater than 100Mbps). The other is to pass that internet connection on to a wired computer. I can sort of see the issue where you were transferring files from a wireless device to the wired device, but really, in practice when do you EVER see anything approaching 100Mbps from a wireless n device?

That would be fine if the device was released 3 years ago, but it doesn't fly today. Internet speeds are finally crossing the 100Mbps level on the top tiers (Verizon just recently pushed FiOS to 300Mbps) so if you expect to own this device for a few years it might quickly grow into a bottleneck for you.

roadwarrior said,

What exactly would be the point? One of the network ports is for your internet connection (few if any people using this device would have an internet connection greater than 100Mbps). The other is to pass that internet connection on to a wired computer. I can sort of see the issue where you were transferring files from a wireless device to the wired device, but really, in practice when do you EVER see anything approaching 100Mbps from a wireless n device?

This is a textbook example of fanboism. Make a note of this!

Gigabit Ethernet is needed not necessarily for Internet sharing. I have a Raid6 NAS and I have a MBP and a PC connected via Ethernet cable. So on 100Mbit LAN, wasting time in copying to and from NAS at 12.5 MBps speed is just waste of time.

This time Apple dropped the ball in convincing people like me to upgrade. ASUS RT-N56U is still unbeatable for $110.

sanke1 said,

This is a textbook example of fanboism. Make a note of this!
...

I think people are missing the point that this wireless router has only 2 Fast Ethernet ports. One for LAN, one for WAN. Your ASUS router has 4 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports which allow you to connect up to 4 devices including your NAS. This router would require its 1 LAN port to be connected to a Gigabit switch to be able to connect more than 1 Ethernet device to it.

The two main ways this thing is bottle necked is if firstly, your WAN (read as Internet) speed is above 100Mbps; secondly, say both WAN and Wireless were operating at 80Mbps and trying to transfer data at the same time across the single LAN port which is capped at 100Mbps. Thirdly, you use a hub instead of using a switch when connecting the extra devices (this would be silly though).

So what actually is missing is the fact that most wireless routers come with 4 ports. Only then does the real benefit of Gigabit kick in. Obviously, the bottle neck points above would still hold true, so if one of them apply to you, then Gigabit would have been better.

cyberdrone2000 said,

This is the airport express. It's their low-end, low power router, that's rarely used as an actual router.

$99 for a low end router?!

Enron said,

$99 for a low end router?!

Um yeah but its white and glossy.

Seriously it's funny seeing the Apple zombies trying to defend such a piece of utter crap.

It's 2012, anything below gigabit is just going to be a cheapo piece of rubbish. I can get broadband faster than 100mb/s now ffs!

funkydude said,

Why are you focusing on wireless? I have my entire network switched into 1 Ethernet port on my router, being locked to 12.5MBps during a large file transfer would suck, especially during backups, and would lag the network.


If you have a switch connected to your router, the connection between the router and the switch is irrelevant to the speed you will get when transferring files between the computers connected to the switch.

rkenshin said,

Not so much. Gigabit is effective transferring between devices, not necessarily across your internet. If I want to transfer from one laptop to another and don't have access to an external drive, you can guarantee I'd choose the Gigabit connection over the wireless connection any day.


If you were trying to connect two devices by wire to this router, you are going to need a separate switch anyway, so as I said, the connection between the router and your switch is irrelevant.

I'm thinking that some of the people complaining about this aren't understanding that this router only has ONE ethernet connection for a computer to be attached to, the other ethernet connection is for your WAN (internet) connection.

Martin5000 said,
I can get broadband faster than 100mb/s now ffs!

Good for you. The vast majority of Apple's potential customers (especially in the US, where they sell the majority of their computer hardware), however, cannot.

roadwarrior said,

Good for you. The vast majority of Apple's potential customers (especially in the US, where they sell the majority of their computer hardware), however, cannot.

Ok, so we agree it's a limited low end product, nothing wrong with that, but it has a relatively high end price. And also, this is the upgrade, if they were still selling the same old product from 1995 then fine, but its not.

offroadaaron said,

The only problem I see is if your internet is over 100Mbps, otherwise 10/100 is fine LOL!

Unless your LAN port on your cable modem/DSL modem is gigabit - then you're screwed.

It's not just FIOS - cable's DOCSIS/EuroDOCSIS 3 is quite capable of going over that -that is why most DOCSIS3/EuroDOCSIS 3 devices have gigabit WAN ports (and gigabit LAN ports as well if they also function as routers); a perfect example is Motorola Broadband's SB-61xx/SBG-65xx cable modems and gateways.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/...&Tpk=motorola%20SB-6121

roadwarrior said,

the connection between the router and your switch is irrelevant.

LULZ. So uh. Lets think hypothetical speeds. Lets say I wanted to transfer something from my server over 300Mbps wireless. Unless you have a dedicated wireless access point, this router is going to function as that.

You'd want a gigabit port to connect to your switch so that :
PC -> switch -> router = gigabit
router-> wireless client = 300Mbps.

with this nonsense, it's:
PC->switch @ gigabit
switch -> router @100Mbit
router -> wireless device @300Mbit

guess what? 100Mbit is your slowest link speed now. All things being Ideal, I'll take gigabit all the way up until it turns into a wireless link. Thank you.

roadwarrior said,

but really, in practice when do you EVER see anything approaching 100Mbps from a wireless n device?

I've gotten around 20+MBps across 300N. The point being however, that since NO connection (at least wireless, I can almost max my gigabit links) performs at rated speed, the faster you can connect the higher you can get. point being:

54Mbps G: 3-4MBps (24-32Mbps)
300Mbps N: 20-30MBps (160-240Mbps) This now is faster than 100Mbit ports

That's fine for now, but what if you have 450, or 600 N...or even gigabit N?

SirEvan said,

LULZ. So uh. Lets think hypothetical speeds. Lets say I wanted to transfer something from my server over 300Mbps wireless. Unless you have a dedicated wireless access point, this router is going to function as that.
...

What a few of us were saying was we have never seen Wireless n speeds above 100Mbps in real life. I once squeezed 80Mbps without other clients connected, and sat next to the AP. It seems a lot of people here have ignored the assumption made earlier in the topic. Reply to the real-world assumption and say you have achieved greater than 100Mbps - we all know that Fast Ethernet would be saturated and a Gigabit port required to relieve the bottle neck. Wireless Gigabit N - this router doesn't support it?

In any case, I bet the Wireless gear (i.e. antennas, chipset, processor etc.) in this router is gonna be cheap and not able to run anywhere near full specification speeds, otherwise the manufacture would have put Gigabit ports in.

ShMaunder said,

What a few of us were saying was we have never seen Wireless n speeds above 100Mbps in real life. I once squeezed 80Mbps without other clients connected, and sat next to the AP. It seems a lot of people here have ignored the assumption made earlier in the topic. Reply to the real-world assumption and say you have achieved greater than 100Mbps - we all know that Fast Ethernet would be saturated and a Gigabit port required to relieve the bottle neck. Wireless Gigabit N - this router doesn't support it?

In any case, I bet the Wireless gear (i.e. antennas, chipset, processor etc.) in this router is gonna be cheap and not able to run anywhere near full specification speeds, otherwise the manufacture would have put Gigabit ports in.

I was refering more to wireless speeds overall, not specifically this router (i know this doesn't do gigabit wireless), but the trend is that most manufacturers, even those making 450/600Mbps wireless devices arent putting gigabit ports on, only the highend routers get gigabit jacks.

Considering the fact that the previous model ONLY had a WAN port and didn't have a LAN port at all, this model is still an improvement in the networking area.