The AirPort Extreme is a residential gateway product from Apple Inc. combining the functions of a router, network switch, wireless access point and NAS as well as varied other functions, and one of Apple's AirPort products. 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.
According to a Bloomberg report on November 21, 2016, "Apple Inc. has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers, another move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, according to people familiar with the matter."
- Fully featured 802.11ac 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 NetBSD.
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, allowed AirPort Disks to be used in conjunction with Time Machine, similar to the functionality provided by AirPort Time Capsule. This behavior was not officially supported.
On March 3, 2009, Apple unveiled a new AirPort Extreme with simultaneous dual-band 802.11 Draft-N radios. This allowed 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 4th generation 24.57 286.42 100 -10.3 5th generation 24.10 257.04 89.7 802.11g 4th generation 21.56 143.22 100 +114.8 5th generation 24.88 307.61 214.8 802.11n HT20 4th generation 21.17 130.92 100 +96.8 5th generation 24.11 257.63 196.8 5745–5825 802.11a 4th generation 23.07 202.77 100 +61.1 5th generation 25.14 326.59 161.1 5745–5805 802.11n HT20 4th generation 22.17 164.82 100 +104.6 5th generation 25.28 337.29 204.6 5755–5795 802.11n HT40 4th generation 21.44 139.32 100 +181.8 5th generation 25.94 392.64 281.8
Note: 3dB more equals a doubling of power output
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) features three-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology with a maximum data rate of 1.3Gbit/s, which is nearly three times faster than 802.11n. Time Machine is now supported using an external USB hard drive connected to AirPort Extreme (802.11ac model only).
Approx. release date Consumer nickname AirPort Extreme Model Wireless standard Gigabit Ethernet Guest network Radio type MIMO IPv6 router mode*** Time-Machine Backup January 7, 2003 Original/round M8799LL/A A1034 802.11b/g No No Single band
No 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 Yes 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 Yes 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 Yes 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 Yes 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 Yes 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, but not over PPPoE 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to AirPort Extreme.|
- Gurman, Mark - Apple Abandons Development of Wireless Routers November 21, 2016 BLOOMBERG
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Setting up Wake on Demand", "Setting up a Bonjour Sleep Proxy
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- Test Report – Previous version Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- Test Report – Current version Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- AirPort base stations: Time Machine hard drive compatibility
- About the guest network feature of AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule