Apple’s Time Capsule combines a gigantic 500GB hard drive with a speedy wireless router that dishes out legacy B and G Wi-Fi along with the new N standard. It’s an overall solid package that delivers on its promise of easy-to-use centralized storage for a home network, and its wireless performance is very good as well. The only drawbacks are that the much-touted Time Machine feature only works with OS X Leopard, setup isn’t as easy as we anticipated from an Apple product, and naturally it’s a bit expensive.
Features and Design
The Time Capsule is essentially Apple’s Airport Extreme Base Station router with a half terabyte hard drive inside, making what is essentially a NAS-ready router. The router portion of the Time Capsule sports four Gigabit Ethernet ports (10/100/1000), the ability to broadcast wireless A, B, G and N speeds. It’s available with either a 500GB or 1TB hard drive.
One of the biggest features of Time Capsule is that it works in tandem with the new Time Machine feature found in the latest version of OS X, Leopard. The Time Machine software automatically backs up the entire hard drive of a Mac, then periodically makes backups of whatever has changed since the last backup, allowing the user to go back in time to recover old files. The Time Machine feature is only available in Leopoard, however, so it does not work on PCs.
The router features a built-in firewall, and in addition to its four Ethernet ports also has a USB port for its built-in print server, which allows a USB printer to be shared out to the network from the Time Capsule.
The Apple Time Capsule is compatible with Windows XP SP2, Vista, and Mac OS X 10.4 or later and comes with a one-year warranty, software CD and power cable.
The Time Capsure features a single light that’s on the front that’s either orange (bad), green (good), or blue (ready for wireless client).
The back of the Apple Time Capsule
Use and Testing
We pulled the Time Capsule out of the box and our first thought was “wow, it’s actually pretty heavy.” We’re not used to a router being so heavy, but of course it has a giant hard drive inside. We set it down on our desk and plugged the cables from our existing router into it, then power-cycled our modem for good measure. We then inserted the CD expecting a walkthrough of sorts.
By the time the CD had spun up, our network connection had come back online and everything seemed to be working, we just had to configure the network and wireless settings now. We ran the installation program of the Airport utility, and once it was finished it asked us if we wanted to connect to the Time Capsule with a password. We didn’t know what the password was since we had not entered one anywhere, so we guessed and sure enough it was wrong. We chose to not connect and ignored this error for now. We then browsed to our network and sure enough, the Time Capsure was available. We tried to connect to it but once again, it asked us for a username and password, which we had not set, so we didn’t know what to do at this point.
Next we ran the configuration utility within the Airport software. It easily let us set up WPA/WPA2 security (WEP is also an option for legacy devices) and put a password on the drive (finally) and after that it initialized our network.
We then clicked on the Time Capsule on our network and were able to log in to it easily. We moved a few files over and then went over to our Mac. Sure enough, the Time Capsule was there and so were all the files we just moved onto it. We then went to another PC running XP and it also saw the Time Capsule. All three machines connected to it were able to easily move files back and forth, and read/write speeds seemed fast. We also inserted a USB key into the Time Capsule’s USB port and about ten seconds later it popped up on our network, which is great.
Once we were up and running we tested the Time Machine feature on our Macbook Air. It was super-simple to set up as we just ran the application, pointed it to the Time Capsule with one click and that was it – we were done. It immediately began backing up our entire hard drive. From there, it began performing automatic incremental backups every hour, copying only what had changed from the previous backup. It does all this with no user intervention at all, and the interface Apple designed to “go back in time” is simply spectacular, making it easy to see our files and requiring just one click to restore anything you might have accidentally deleted.
Time Machine lets you go back in time on your PC to recover files, or revert your Mac to a previous state.
Finally, since this is a wireless N router we decided to test its range and came away generally impressed. Though it doesn’t offer superior range or speed compared to otherN routers, it’s performance is up to par and it offered decent throughput that allowed us to stream video even when we were 100 feet away from the access point. When indoors and close to the router we saw similar connection speeds as we have with other N routers.
Once again Apple has delivered another impressive product. Its elegant integration of two things most people need in their lives – network storage and a high-speed wireless router – makes it a highly useful product for both Mac and PC users. Obviously, Mac users will get more mileage out of it due to its ability to work with Time Machine so it’s less of a must-have for PC users. It’s a shame we ran into a few setup issues because once we ironed the problems out the unit performed flawlessly. We’ve heard anecdotally that it’s a lot easier to set up a Time Capsule on a Mac than a PC, however.
• Great backup software for Macs
• High-speed N WiFi
• Very quiet
• No backup for PCs
• Setup issues