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Apple updates Airport Extreme base station  
Tuesday, January 9, 2007 | by Rob Galbraith

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New Extreme: Front and back views of the new Airport Extreme Base Station. Click to enlarge. (Photo courtesy Apple)

Apple today has announced a major update to its Airport Extreme Base Station. The new version of Apple's flagship wireless access point now supports the draft 802.11n wireless standard for greater range and claimed 5X faster throughput than 802.11g (the device also supports 802.11a/b/g). It also gains the ability to turn any external USB hard drive into network attached storage (NAS), a feature Apple is calling Airport Disk.

The Airport Extreme Base Station incorporates four 10/100 Ethernet ports (one is for connecting to a cable or DSL modem), it can be used to share a USB printer across a network and, with the addition of a USB hub, it can share both printers and USB hard drives at the same time. Printers and hard drives can be shared across both wired and wireless networks, and by both Mac and Windows computers.

If you're not sure when Apple will begin shipping Macs that support 802.11n, the good news is that they already are, and have been for several months:

All Mac computers with Intel Core 2 Duo and Intel Xeon processors except the 17-inch iMac with 1.83GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor support the 802.11n technology in AirPort Extreme. These 802.11n-compatible Mac systems require enabler software that is included on the AirPort Extreme CD.

The new Airport Extreme Base Station is US$179 in the U.S. when purchased direct from Apple. The current ship date is given as February 2007. Belkin has also announced that their N1 Wireless ExpressCard, which will enable earlier MacBook Pro models to connect at 802.11n speeds, will begin shipping soon.

Update, January 15. 2007: MacFixit notes that the 802.11n enabler software will also be available for purchase separate from the new Airport Extreme.
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