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WiFi Express Lane
June 25, 2012 - Dave Hecei
This year's WWDC was definitely a major event for Apple. While this event is normally dedicated to the software and hardware developers of Apple products, this year they went above and beyond and used part of this year's keynote to introduce new hardware along with the expected previews of upcoming Apple operating systems. While the big news was the Retina based MacBook Pro, there were other offerings from Apple.
The most disappointing news was a minor update to the Mac Pro tower. This update has been eagerly awaited by a small but devoted group of professionals ( video and audio editors, photographers, 3D animators, and the like). This update was more or less just enough to let Apple call this Mac Pro new. This update was pretty much merely a processor bump in speed and a narrowing of the line, there is a quad-core and a 12-core model. The new models do not have faster graphics, USB 3.0, or even Thunderbolt. Disappointing might even be an understatement.
On the cool end of things is the new Airport Express. The old Express had a unique design that looked more like the power adapter for the MacBooks than a wireless router. It was designed so that the entire unit could be plugged into an ac outlet. The new model also has a somewhat unique design, just not as cool as the previous model.
Looking at the new Express you could easily mistake it for a white Apple TV 2. This is probably because the Express is the same 3.9 inches square as the Apple TV 2. Inside the Express is a pretty impressive simultaneous dual-band 802.11n wireless access point.
It has one Ethernet port to connect to the Internet, such as a Cable or DSL connection. There is another port to connect to a single PC, or an Ethernet switch if you have multiple devices. So this is not really a true router like those available from Linksys, Netgear, or D-Link, which have 4 ports.
Like the original Express, the new model has a USB 2.0 port to connect a printer. By connecting a compatible USB printer to the Express it can be shared with multiple computers. I couldn't find any information if a hard drive could be shared over a WiFi network. The new Express retains the Airplay mini-jack allowing you to play your iTunes library in practically any room in your house - at least where the WiFi goes.
The new Airport Express has lost its unique power-plug design, but it does still have a built-in power supply so there are no AC power adapters to loose. Add to this a compact design, fast throughput, and the ability to use both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz bands simultaneously the Express packs a lot of punch in a small package. The Express is shipping now and is priced at $99.
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