Apple AirPort Time Capsule review

8 Jul 2013

Straightforward set-and-forget backup for Apple users, but little appeal for anyone else

Price when reviewed: 
250208 (£249 inc VAT), 2TBmore
Buy it now for 
4

The paucity of high-speed USB adapters and the lack of support from laptop component manufacturers means we’ve seen little point in upgrading to an 802.11ac router so far. So when Apple updated both its Time Capsule and MacBook Air range to 802.11ac, we were keen to see how fast it could go.

The Time Capsule boasts simultaneous dual-band Wi-Fi – as you’d expect of any self-respecting 802.11ac router – a “six-element beamforming antenna array” (theoretically capable of focusing the signal on connected devices), and three spatial streams with a maximum throughput of 1.3Gbits/sec.

Apple AirPort Time Capsule

We connected to the Time Capsule using a 2013 MacBook Air 13in over 802.11ac and copied 4.77GB of large video files both to and from it. At close range, we achieved a consistent transfer rate of 27MB/sec; at a distance of 40m, with a wooden wall and a double-glazed window in the way, that fell to 2.1MB/sec. That’s a match for any of the 802.11ac routers we’ve tested so far coupled with their own-brand USB adapters.
The new Time Capsule has been redesigned, too.

It’s constructed from solid, glossy white plastic, as before, but instead of being flat and squat, it now looks more like a hi-tech tea caddy. Elsewhere, little has changed. Inside, there’s a single 3.5in mechanical hard disk, either 2TB or 3TB, which can’t be replaced. Arranged in a vertical stack at the rear are three Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports, one Gigabit Ethernet WAN port and a USB 2 port for sharing USB storage or a printer.

It’s as easy to set up as ever: plug it into your network and fire up the Airport Utility on your Mac and it’s immediately available as a file server and Time Machine backup target. As a Time Machine target, it will keep entire system snapshots, making backups on the hour every hour; as a file server, you can drag files and folders to it using the Finder.

Apple AirPort Time Capsule

As with previous versions, the Time Capsule isn’t only for wirelessly backing up Macs – it can also replace your main router (if you’re on a Virgin cable connection) and act as a basic file server for PCs. It’s very simple to administer, but lacks the features we’ve come to expect from the best PC-focused NAS drives and routers.

Although you can set up guest networks and apply time-slot-based internet restrictions on a per-client basis, there’s no media-streaming server or user-definable QoS, nor any way of defining user accounts and storage allocations. There’s no RAID option, either, as it’s a single-drive device.

The new Time Capsule is undoubtedly a significant upgrade in terms of performance, and it offers plenty for the money – an 802.11ac router and 2TB NAS drive for £249 is a very good buy. But the scope of its general appeal is limited. The speed boost is only available to those with the latest MacBook Air, and there aren’t enough additions to warrant an upgrade from an existing Time Capsule. The restricted number of features, meanwhile, means PC users are better off buying a separate router and NAS drive.

Details

Price ex VAT 2TB, £208 (£249 inc VAT); 3TB, £291
Price inc VAT 250
Overall rating 4
Performance 5
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 5

Basic specifications

Capacity 2.00TB
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Services

FTP server? no
UPnP media server? no
Print server? no
Web hosting? no
BitTorrent client? no
Timed power-down/startup? no

Connections

Ethernet ports 4
USB connection? yes
eSATA interface no

Physical

Dimensions 98 x 98 x 168mm (WDH)

Security and administration

Kensington lock slot? no
Admin support for users no
Admin support for groups no
Admin support for disk quotas no

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