The original AirPort Express was a basic 11g wireless router, majoring on portability and built into a white plastic case very much like the MacBook power charger.

Along with Apple’s complete refresh of its MacBook line in June 2012 came a new look AirPort Express. This third-generation product loses the charger-style convenience of being able to plug directly into a mains wall socket, but gains a sleek new flat and square look.

If you’ve seen the latest Apple TV, this new shape will look familiar – it’s the exact same shape and size as Apple’s set-top box media player, only finished in virgin white rather than black.

Where the Mark I was limited to 802.11g, and the second to single-band operation of either 2.4GHz or 5GHz 802.11n, the new 2012 model is capable of concurrent 2.4/5GHz coverage using 11n Wi-Fi.

Setup really is a breeze. Apple is the only router maker we’ve encountered that doesn’t use a web browser to setup the device. Instead, you get a dedicated app for Windows and Mac, and an iOS app will allows limited management of AirPort devices too. 

When the Apple AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) is first powered up, the AirPort Utility software automatically opens on nearby Macs. This guides you through the simple process to get the network operating.

The AirPort Express remains a versatile unit – you can use it as a main router connected to an external ADSL or cable modem, leaving you with one LAN network port for direct connection to a PC; or add a network switch to expand your LAN connections. 

Apple AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation)

Keeping it simple, the Apple AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) with one in, one out – plus dual-band concurrent Wi-Fi and digital audio

A popular use for the Express is as a repeater to extend the wireless network. But the AirPort Express has another very useful capability as an audio distribution systems.

Using iTunes on one computer, you can send your music to an AirPort Express in another room in the house, a system that’s been expanded to include AirPlay now from iOS devices and Mountain Lion-running Macs.

And thanks to the digital optical output option, you can plug into a high-end audio system for great sound. 

As with most things Apple, the system works simply and reliably, with next to no technical knowledge required.

We tested the Apple AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation) for performance and could comfortably transfer files at around 94 Mbps using the 5GHz band.

Apple AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation): Specs

  • Wireless dual-band router
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 1x 10/100 WAN port
  • 1x 10/100 LAN port
  • USB 2.0 for printers
  • 3.5mm audio jack with Toslink optical out
  • NAT firewall
  • MAC address filtering
  • WEP, WPA 2 Personal and Enterprise
  • 802.1X, PEAP, LEAP, TTLS, TLS, FAST
  • 2.4GHz: Ch 1-13, 5GHz 36-64 and 100-140
  • 98 x 98 x 23mm
  • 240g
  • Wireless dual-band router
  • 802.11a/b/g/n
  • 1x 10/100 WAN port
  • 1x 10/100 LAN port
  • USB 2.0 for printers
  • 3.5mm audio jack with Toslink optical out
  • NAT firewall
  • MAC address filtering
  • WEP, WPA 2 Personal and Enterprise
  • 802.1X, PEAP, LEAP, TTLS, TLS, FAST
  • 2.4GHz: Ch 1-13, 5GHz 36-64 and 100-140
  • 98 x 98 x 23mm
  • 240g

OUR VERDICT

The move to the new Apple TV case makes the 2012 AirPort Express cute as well as compact, while dual-band capability expands the usefulness of this most easy-to-use wireless routers.

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