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Friday, April 04, 2008, 08:00 am PT (11:00 am ET)

Exploring Time Capsule: feature and suitability review


Time Capsule Wrap Up

Home users who want the elegance and simplicity of a wireless network will appreciate the easy to configure and use nature of Time Capsule. Thanks to the firmware update adding Time Machine support, users with a 2007 AirPort Extreme likely won't feel the need to upgrade to Time Capsule, particularly if they already have a shared USB drive they're using. Time Capsule's Gigabit Ethernet feature doesn't offer much reason to upgrade, as the unit (along with newer versions of AirPort Extreme) doesn't really exploit the speed of the bigger pipe.

Anyone considering the purchase of a new base station and interested in centralized file sharing and Time Machine backups would do well to look at Time Capsule, which is priced well considering its 500 GB or 1 TB drive capacity, and the convenience of having the drive and the unit's power supply integrated into a single box. All Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme users should also evaluate using a configuration in the 5 GHz band using wide channels, as this can provide a major boost in data throughput.

Users hoping to set up a Gigabit Ethernet network with high performance file sharing should consider other options, because the wired network performance of Time Capsule (and the nearly identical AirPort Extreme) are not exceptional. They are both designed to primarily serve wireless clients.

Time Capsule earns the same rating as AirPort Express did last year, detailed in An in-depth review of Apple's 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station. It is similarly dinged for lacking any support for direct AirTunes playback; users will need an AirPort Express or Apple TV to distribute audio wirelessly. It seems like Apple could add a digital audio out port at relatively minimal cost and add considerable value to Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme, although the recent upgrade of the AirPort Express to support 802.11n makes this less of a glaring omission. Relatively few users will need to share a stereo, USB printer, and USB disk drive in the same location.

Time Capsule


One last time, while Time Capsule delivers Gigabit Ethernet ports, it does not make full use of the extra bandwidth when serving data from the shared drives. Note that the integrated Gigabit Ethernet switch does perform at full speed for connected computers; it is the server speed of the internal base station that is lacking when compared to a dedicated file server. Apart from those factors, Time Capsule and its simplified, diskless AirPort Extreme cousin offer brilliant design and ease of use at a reasonable price.

Rating 4 out of 5
4-stars


Pros:
  • Competitively priced, slim, solidly designed hardware.
  • Excellent AirPort Utility software.
  • Simple and easy to use network disk and printer sharing features.
  • Offers a big boost in wireless speed and coverage over 802.11b/g.
  • Built in switch for wired Gigabit Ethernet devices.
  • Reasonably priced drive options.

Cons:
  • Lacks AirPort Express' AirTunes for wireless music distribution.
  • Gigabit Ethernet file sharing performance is disappointing.


Where to Buy

500GB Time Capsule - $294 (MacMall)
1TB Time Capsule - $494 (MacMall)

500GB Time Capsule - $299 (Amazon)
1TB Time Capsule - $499 (Amazon)

500GB Time Capsule - $298.95 (B&H Photo)
1TB Time Capsule - $498.95 (B&H Photo)

Previous articles from our in-depth Time Capsule review series:

Exploring Time Capsule: Time Machine over the Network vs USB
Exploring Time Capsule: 10/100/1000 Ethernet vs. 802.11g/n Wireless Networking
Exploring Time Capsule: WiFi 802.11n and the 5GHz band
Exploring Time Capsule: theoretical speed vs practical throughput
Exploring Time Capsule: how it fits into Apple's AirPort family
An in-depth review of Apple's 802.11n AirPort Extreme Base Station
Apple Time Capsule unboxing and preview
A Look Inside Apple's New Time Capsule
Answers to Time Capsule reader questions