The AirPort Extreme is a residential gateway product from Apple Inc. combining the functionality of a router, network switch, wireless access point and NAS as well as varied other functions. The latest model, the 6th generation, supports 802.11ac networking in addition to older standards. Versions of the same system with a built-in network-accessible hard drive are known as the AirPort Time Capsule.
The name "AirPort Extreme" originally referred to any one of Apple's AirPort products that implemented the (then) newly introduced 802.11g Wi-Fi standard, differentiating it from earlier devices that ran the slower 802.11a and b standards. At that time the gateway part of this lineup was known as the AirPort Extreme Base Station. With the addition of the even faster Draft-N standards in early 2009 this naming was dropped, and from then on only the gateway has been known as the AirPort Extreme. Several minor upgrades followed, mostly to change antenna and power in the Wi-Fi. In 2013, a major upgrade added 802.11ac support and more internal antennas.
The AirPort Extreme has gone through three distinct physical forms. The earliest models were packaged similar to the original AirPort Base Station, in a round housing known as the "flying saucer". From 2007 to 2013 the Extreme was packaged in a rounded-rectangle white plastic housing, similar in layout and size to the Mac mini or earlier Apple TVs. The 2013 802.11ac model was re-packaged into a more vertical case, taller than it is square.
- Fully featured 802.11n Wi-Fi base station
- Sleep Proxy Service
- 4 Ethernet ports (3 LAN ports, 1 WAN port) — all ports are gigabit Ethernet on newer versions
- USB interface for disk and printer sharing
- Built-in file server (AFP and SMB)
- Runs VxWorks Operating System by WindRiver or a customized version of OpenBSD
The AirPort Disk feature allows users to plug a USB hard drive into the AirPort Extreme for use as a network-attached storage (NAS) device for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows clients. Users may also connect a USB hub and printer. The performance of USB hard drives attached to an AirPort Extreme is slower than if the drive were connected directly to a computer. This is due to the processor speed on the AirPort Extreme. Depending on the setup and types of reads and writes, performance ranges from 0.5 to 17.5 MB/s for writing and 1.9 to 25.6 MB/s for reading. Performance for the same disk connected directly to a computer would be 6.6 to 31.6 MB/s for writing and 7.1 to 37.2 MB/s for reading. NTFS formatted drives are not supported.
AirPort Extreme models by generation
The original Airport Extreme Base Station was so-named because of its support for the 802.11g standard of the day, as well as for its ability to serve up to 50 Macs or PCs simultaneously. One feature found in most models of this generation was an internal 56K dial-up modem, allowing homes that lacked a broadband connection to enjoy wireless connectivity, albeit at dial-up speeds. It was the last generation to retain the "flying saucer" form factor. Later generations would adopt the short, rounded-square form factor that would be seen until 2013.
On January 9, 2007 the AirPort Extreme began shipping.
On March 19, 2008, Apple released a firmware update for both models of the AirPort Extreme that according to third party reports allows AirPort Disks to be used in conjunction with Time Machine, similar to the functionality provided by AirPort Time Capsule.
On March 3, 2009, Apple unveiled a new AirPort Extreme with simultaneous dual-band 802.11 Draft-N radios. This allows full 802.11 Draft-N 2x2 communication in both 802.11 Draft-N bands at the same time.
On October 20, 2009, Apple unveiled an updated AirPort Extreme with antenna improvements.
On June 21, 2011, Apple unveiled an updated AirPort Extreme, referred to as AirPort Extreme 802.11n (5th Generation).
Frequency range (MHz) Mode AirPort Extreme model Output power (dBm) Output power (mW) Comparison (percents) Difference (percents) 2412–2462 802.11b Previous 24.57 286.42 100 -10.3 Current 24.10 257.04 89.7 802.11g Previous 21.56 143.22 100 +114.8 Current 24.88 307.61 214.8 802.11n HT20 Previous 21.17 130.92 100 +96.8 Current 24.11 257.63 196.8 5745–5825 802.11a Previous 23.07 202.77 100 +61.1 Current 25.14 326.59 161.1 5745–5805 802.11n HT20 Previous 22.17 164.82 100 +104.6 Current 25.28 337.29 204.6 5755–5795 802.11n HT40 Previous 21.44 139.32 100 +181.8 Current 25.94 392.64 281.8
On June 10, 2013, Apple unveiled an updated AirPort Extreme, referred to as AirPort Extreme 802.11ac (6th Generation). The 6th generation AirPort Extreme (and 5th generation AirPort Time Capsule) feature a three-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology with a maximum data rate of 1.3Gbit/s, nearly three times faster than 802.11n.
Approx. release date Consumer nickname AirPort Extreme Model Wireless standard Gigabit Ethernet Guest network Radio type MIMO IPv6 router mode*** January 7, 2003 Original/round M8799LL/A A1034 802.11b/g No No Single band
No No January 9, 2007 1st generation MA073LL/A A1143 802.11a/b/g/n* No No Dual band
2.4 GHz or 5 GHz
3×3:2 No August 7, 2007 2nd generation MB053LL/A A1143 802.11a/b/g/n* Yes No Dual band
2.4 GHz or 5 GHz
3×3:2 No March 3, 2009 3rd generation MB763LL/A A1301 802.11a/b/g/n* Yes Yes Dual band (simultaneous)
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
2×2:2 (in each band) No October 20, 2009 4th generation MC340LL/A A1354 802.11a/b/g/n Yes Yes Dual band (simultaneous)
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
3×3:3 (in each band) Yes, but not over PPPoE June 21, 2011 5th generation MD031LL/A A1408 802.11a/b/g/n Yes Yes Dual band (simultaneous)
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
3×3:3 (in each band) Yes, but not over PPPoE June 10, 2013 6th generation ME918LL/A A1521 802.11a/b/g/n/ac** Yes Yes Dual band (simultaneous)
2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
3×3:3 (in each band) Yes
*802.11n draft-specification support in 1st to 3rd generation models.
**802.11ac draft-specification support in 6th generation model.
***All models support IPv6 tunnel mode.
- "Mac OS X v10.6: About Wake on Demand (Apple Article HT3774)" (in several languages). Apple. August 27, 2009. Retrieved September 15, 2009.
Setting up Wake on Demand", "Setting up a Bonjour Sleep Proxy
- Apple.com – AirPort Extreme – Sharing, Retrieved on January 17, 2007.
- "Airport Extreme (5th Gen) and Time Capsule (4th Gen) Review – Faster WiFi". Airport Extreme (5th Gen) and Time Capsule (4th Gen) Review. AnandTech. Retrieved October 24, 2011.
- "AirPort Extreme". Apple.com. Archived from the original on June 8, 2004. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Airport Extreme – Technical Specifications". Apple.com. Archived from the original on June 8, 2004. Retrieved November 1, 2014.
- "Time Machine now works with AirPort Extreme's AirDisk feature". Engadget.com. March 19, 2008. Archived from the original on March 20, 2008. Retrieved March 19, 2008.
- "OS X Mountain Lion: Disks you can use with Time Machine". Apple. July 31, 2012. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
- "Time Machine doesn't back up to AirPort Extreme AirPort Disks". Apple. April 25, 2012. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
- Test Report – Previous version Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- Test Report – Current version Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- About the guest network feature of AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule