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Apple AirPort Time Capsule review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 8 Jul 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: 2TB, £208 (£249 inc VAT); 3TB, £291 (250 inc VAT)

Buy it now for: £281
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
3 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

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.

Author: Jonathan Bray

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User comments

More detail please?

I understand there is a significant speed boost with the 'n' wireless too - did your review test that for those of us not yet ready to refresh our wifi to the new 'ac'

By paulgarb54 on 8 Jul 2013

If this supports PPPoE in theory it could be used with BT Infinity as well since the modem is separate to the router.

By tech3475 on 8 Jul 2013

@tech3475

Just like the Airport extream this supports MER authentication which is what Sky use on their Fibre Broadband router. It wont replace the Openreach modem but can replace the Sky router, you just need to capture the username/password using Wireshark (many articles about this on the sky forums).

By Benih007 on 8 Jul 2013

...which can’t be replaced

Let's hope the hard drive doesn't fail then.

By Alfresco on 9 Jul 2013

ifixit replaced the drive

http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/AirPort+Time+Capsul
e+A1470+%28Mini%21%29+Teardown/15067/1

By ssjandu on 9 Jul 2013

Works fine with BT Infinity (mostly)

I use that config and have the HomeHub 3 in a draw. Local network performance is far better with this router than HH3.

However - it does not seem possible to get the BT Internet channels to work - such as BT Sport and Eurosport. I had long conversations with BT but they gave up in the end and said I had to use a HH3.

I didn't. I kept this router and watch those channels on my ipad and use Airplay to display on the tv instead - problem solved!

Cheers

Ian

By IanBlackburn on 10 Oct 2013

Fast, beautiful, simple

Out of the box I was set up and running in 15 minutes. It's plugged directly into my router and my internet access over the wifi at the far end of the house went up another 1 mps.

By Northstarweb on 13 Nov 2013

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