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The Mid-2012 Apple Airport Express is Sweet

Just wanted to show some fanboy love here for my latest Apple device – the updated (mid-2012) Airport Express. After recently moving out to Las Vegas (more on that some other time) I picked up the fastest internet I could manage – Cox Communication’s PowerBoost 25+ Mbps. That’s about double what I was getting in Orange County through Time Warner, so I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Apple Airport Express Mid-2012 Refresh

Once the install was done, I hooked up the router (a 4+ year old D-Link) only to get about 4-6mbps. Nothing close to what I’m going to be paying for. The technician verified all the connections (and actually they were really cool about running a fresh line to the house) and when the laptop was run straight to the modem I was getting 30mpbs (sweet!). But the router was just too old.

So, hearing about the latest Apple release of the Airport Express, I was curious. Would it have enough “oomph” to handle the needs of a full household of internet marauders. We’re talking 4 people running streaming video, streaming gaming, multiple Dropboxes, site FTP’s, and online video management. Loads of power. I called my dad to get his thoughts on the Airport Express, and he also couldn’t see a reason not to give it a shot (instead of dropping another $80 (plus tax) on the Airport Express).

Apple TV Chassis, Airport Internals

 

The most notable thing about this new model is the fact that it’s effectively identical to the Apple TV. I almost wished the modem was on the other side of the room so everything could sit with the Apple TV, because the form factor is identical. Just, white.

Unboxing

Like most Apple products nowadays, the unboxing process is part of the “experience.” They’ve got wrapping and packaging down to a science; everything fits perfectly with no room to spare. Considering I read that Apple turns over their inventory every 5 days, it’s not surprising that they’d want to waste as little room as possible for shipping.

Setup

Thanks to its slim size and lack of external parts (like stands, antennae, or other contraptions) the physical installation was as easy as plugging in the ethernet line from the modem and the power line to the wall.

There is a small guide for instructions – most importantly covering what the external lighting means.

Airport Express 2012 Refresh LED Light Descriptions

Airport Utility

Fortunately, I’m a “hybrid” guy so I didn’t have to see what the Airport utility is like for Windows. It’s usually bad, and I’ve got a Windows Vista machine these days, so I can only imagine how clumsy that experience might have been. However, for the sake of this discussion, using the built-in Apple Airport Utility on my Snow Leopard MacBook was a cinch. It found the device and configured it easily. The only thing that was a little odd was that it sets up the Airplay account first, and then configures the WiFi. I was expecting it the other way around.

Performance

I can say – so far the performance has been really solid. My laptop is getting the full rip according to SpeedTest.net – a very sweet 32Mbps down and a respectable 6Mbps up. Of course, that’s sitting in the living room with the Airport. In terms of moving around the house, I can say the range is excellent on this little device. From upstairs and across the house the maximum distances are around 30-50′ and performance has been superb throughout. I can say one of the reasons for the modem’s placement was because I wanted to make sure the WiFi was central to the house so all corners could get it. But so far, in a medium sized 2-story house, the reach has been great.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is this – if you want the classic Apple simplicity experience and a pretty powerful device, absolutely give the Airport Express a shot. It supports “guest” networking too – so if you’re thinking about something for your small business it may be well worth the trouble. Literally the only difference that I could find between this and the Apple Airport Extreme is the inclusion of a 2nd USB port for an external hard disk; and that’s not a very big deal since most of the modern external drives include some sort of network-based backup / management application.

Totally recommended. Well worth the $99.

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