Dilemma: Time Capsule or Airport Extreme + External Hard Drive

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by urkel, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. urkel, Jul 7, 2011
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2011

    urkel macrumors 68030

    Nov 3, 2008
    I bought the 2TB TC but it seems none of the rumored features were real. So without any new features I'm considering the Airport Extreme instead (cheaper, reported higher speed due to 2.8x power) but if I'm missing something I'd like to know before switching.

    So is it even possible the TC can get a feature update like an iTunes Server ability or is this stuck where it is where you're paying a markup only for "convenience".

    Thought I'd throw in some unscientific numbers for anyone who wants to share or compare info:

    Internal HDD Speeds: 12Mbps
    External HDD Speeds (HFS+): 12Mbps
    External HDD Speeds (FAT32): 3Mbps

    For some reason there's no reviews yet to confirm, but I've seen 24-30Mbps reported from 2011 AEBS users so I was expecting faster speeds. Maybe someone else has different results.
  2. maflynn Moderator


    Staff Member

    May 3, 2009
    I'd go with an external drive, its less money faster and you can use it for other purposes easily. With TC you can only access it through the airport utility.

    I have TC and I'm content with it, but to be honest, I'll not buy a new one when this goes. It was too much $$ and too little benefit
  3. Nielsenius macrumors 6502a

    Apr 16, 2011
    I use an Airport Extreme and a 500GB 5400 RPM external HDD for my Time Machine backups. Other than not looking as sleek as a Time Machine, this setup works great. Backups are relatively quick and require no work on the user's part. If you go this route, you'll probably be happier than if you bought a Time Capsule.
  4. Brian33 macrumors 6502a

    Apr 30, 2008
    USA (Virginia)
    I'd go with the Time Capsule:

    I don't see why the AEBS+HDD would be any faster than the TC in backup speed, wireless speed, or anything else. I haven't seen this reported anywhere.

    The TC (at least the 1st-gen ones) are easy enough to open if it's necessary to retrieve the drive; it's not a locked case. I've done it myself. (The only "hard" part is using a hair dryer to loosen the glue holding the bottom rubber pad on--then it can be peeled off. After you're done reapply it and the case looks like its never been opened.)

    Although using an external drive with AEBS seems to work for most people, for some unknown reason Apple doesn't support it: "Time Machine can’t back up to an external disk connected to an AirPort Extreme"
    (http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?path=Mac/10.6/en/15139.html) and other documents. If (when?) I need to use my backups, I don't want to take the chance that some unnoticed error has rendered them unsuitable.

    I haven't worked out how much cheaper the AEBS+HDD route is, but I do like the neatness of one box (with no power brick) instead of two boxes and a power brick.
  5. paulgarb macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2010
    North Berwick
    Why does this untruth keep getting repeated?

    I'm searching for a coherent answer to the OP's question but everywhere I see the "can't use Time Machine with AEBS + HDD" - which is rubbish. I have just that setup & it works a treat - backups & restores. My real struggle, now I need to upgrade/extend my network, is with the seemingly astronomical price of the TC compared with the combo of HDD + AEBS.

    Can anyone give a clue if either option has advantages or otherwise?

    I get the "tidiness" thing (fewer wires, no power brick) but is the premium worth paying?

    Any advice most welcome.
  6. MaxBurn macrumors 65816


    Nov 25, 2010
    I'm sort of in the same boat, I just picked up a TC today and was testing it out. The router/wireless portions are great. The internal disk performance sucks as far as I am concerned. I was hoping the disk with a TC being SATA inside and connected to gigabit would be far better than something attached via USB2 but it really doesn't look like it. With the performance this is giving me I think an Airport Extreme with a disk attached via USB2 would be about the same.

    Transferring 27gb in 16 files:

    From my computer to my server I can get 83+ MB/s for transfer to it. Admittedly it is a beast with a PERC6i and eight disks in RAID6 over gigabit, running an Atom D510. Gigabit is the limiting factor here.

    The time capsule didn't fare well at all with the same files pushing from the same computer. 27MB/s.

    I'm windows by the way so won't be using the backup features, just want a network share.
  7. Psilocybin macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2011
    Ontario, Canada
    This doesn't make sense. Double check please
  8. MaxBurn macrumors 65816


    Nov 25, 2010
    Check what?

    Source files were my itunes library zipped up and split to DVD size that were stored on an intel 80gb G2 SSD. Same files for both tests.

    Transfer to server:

    Transfer to TC:
  9. danpass macrumors 68020


    Jun 27, 2009
    Miami, FL
    given the reviews on the TC on the apple site I'm leaning toward the Airport Extreme with USB option for TM backups.

    Is that possible? I only ask since my MBP TM function couldn't find any of my other drives. I only hope that's due to those drives being NTFS drives vs TM requiring the actual TC hardware.

    Those TC reviews illustrate several complaints with the unit just suddenly dying out. Another one saying that you can go 10 days max before backing up again or it makes you start all over (that seemed strange), etc ...
  10. paulgarb macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2010
    North Berwick

    Thanks for the informed and 'tested' reply - speed isn't necessarily my top priority for either the TC or my current AEBS + HDD but it is refreshing to read something based on real experience and that addresses a particular problem. It helps a little towards my decision.


    I can absolutely confirm that AEBS + HDD handles Time Machine backups without problem - anything you read about it not working or Apple not supporting is based on the very first iteration of the product (we are 5th generation now & mine is 4th gen).

    The 'TC dying out' posts again are old news that has never been tidied up - improvements make that less likely (or at last no more likely than any other HDD).

    I'm still no clearer on what the premium price of the TC brings me apart from it being a tidy 'all in one' unit.
  11. MaxBurn macrumors 65816


    Nov 25, 2010
    AEBS seems to be priced close to what it should be based on the retail price of the linksys E4200 but that will be on sale everywhere and the apple part will never sell for less. Also I had a E4200 for 48 hours and it in the same situation dropped the DNS every 10 hours so it was defective somehow, and the latest firmware is rumored to break the USB storage portion. AEBS seems priced quite right, maybe even low for a quality top performing part.

    The TC with internal drive connected via SATA with the potential for higher performance than anything connecting to a router via USB2 at $120 higher price where the bare drive alone is approx $85 and the rest goes to an interface isn't priced poorly either.

    The 3TB TC is just stupidly priced. Everyone knows the drive price is only $40 higher or so over the 2TB offering, why that thing is priced where it is...

    If the 2TB TC delivered on some performance it would be a total steal, nothing would compare to what it offers. I'm going to do some more research on this and hopefully uncover the performance, only just got it last night.
  12. paulgarb macrumors regular

    Jun 15, 2010
    North Berwick
    Now this is what I call progress - glad it isn't just me thinking that the 3TB TC price is beyond a joke. I can't see any way it is worth that amount of money - the £150 leap from the 2TB just can't be justified. I would be very interested in any further performance data - I may go for the 2TB TC
  13. MaxBurn, Aug 15, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2011

    MaxBurn macrumors 65816


    Nov 25, 2010
  14. lexvo macrumors 65816

    Nov 11, 2009
    The Netherlands
    1) Which HDD are you using in combination with the AEBS?
    2) How long have you been using this setup?

    I ask because some users reported problems after months of use. I'm still on the fence however for a AEBS+HDD solution, so I'm trying to figure out if some drive types are more prone to problems than others.

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