Teardown of Apple's New AirPort Extreme Reveals Hard Drive Slot, but No Connectors

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Apr 12, 2001
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While iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks drew most of the attention at this week's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, another one of Apple's introductions also generated a significant amount of discussion and controversy: redesigned AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule Wi-Fi base stations.

The new vertical designs take up considerably more volume than their predecessors, although footprints have been reduced to just 3.85 inches square. The new base stations include support for the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, and Apple has increased the number of antennas from three to six. The vertical design is intended to optimize range and signal strength by elevating the antennas, while also helping the base stations offer beamforming, which automatically finds 802.11ac devices and targets Wi-Fi signals toward those devices for optimum performance.

The teardown experts at iFixit have obtained one of the new AirPort Extreme units and have torn it apart to examine its internals. Given that the AirPort Extreme and AirPort Time Capsule have identical external designs, it should be no surprise that the AirPort Extreme contains space for a hard drive, although it appears that users will not be able to build their own Time Capsules by simply adding hard drives to their AirPort Extremes.
We free the top cover, only to find...3.5? of empty space. While the AirPort Extreme doesn't come equipped with storage, we dug up a standard 3.5? SATA hard drive, just to test it out. Perfecto!...Except we can't find any connectors where we'd plug in the hard drive, only empty spaces on the logic board--so chances of DIY AirPort Extreme to Time Capsule upgrades are slim.
Looking further, iFixit found the usual array of chips on the logic board, and was also able to trace the antenna cable up through the center of the device to a large plate at the top which serves to distribute the Wi-Fi signals. And overall, iFixit gives the AirPort Extreme a repairability score of 8 out of 10, citing standard Torx screws, a relative lack of glue, and modular components as positives and slightly difficult prying to open, difficult fan access, and breakage-prone connectors as negatives.

Apple's new AirPort Extreme is priced at $199, while the AirPort Time Capsule base stations incorporating hard drives for wireless backup storage are priced at $299 for 2 TB and $399 for 3 TB.

Article Link: Teardown of Apple's New AirPort Extreme Reveals Hard Drive Slot, but No Connectors
 

Jack97

macrumors regular
Nov 30, 2010
143
1
Agreed.

I've got the current shape Extreme and it's classy, yet unobtrusive.

This design is perplexing.
Yep - whereas this design doesn't feel like it could be tucked away neatly - it actually feels bigger. :(
 

lotzosushi

macrumors 6502
Jan 10, 2007
401
332
They really should have made a smaller profile design instead of wasting space with the Extreme version... I'm hoping there will be 3rd party connectors for sale later on that will let us add our own hard drives.

Also, seriously.... still only 3 ports? -_- that tower can easily fit 10 ports at least. Come on now.
 

Ballis

macrumors 6502a
May 27, 2008
891
792
Oslo, Norway
Hate the design. Been looking forward to AC and beter range, but my next wireless will not be from apple. I want something thats wall mountable. the previous generations was with 3rd party mounts.

And only 3 ports on that thing... Come on.
 

ZMacintosh

macrumors 65816
Nov 13, 2008
1,234
338
They took a more function over design with this one. which i like.
you cant really slap 6 antennas in the current model and allow it to really make much difference, without being pointless and the signal not getting degraded anyway.


i love the ventilation on the AEBS and APTC.
 

gmanist1000

macrumors 68030
Sep 22, 2009
2,659
200
I like it. 6 antennas, beamforming, 802.11ac, better wireless range... I think I'll pick one up!
 

napabar

macrumors 6502
Jun 12, 2008
313
452
Jeez, people! Do you not READ? The tower design is to help with the antennas and the 802.11 AC performance. Stop whining and READ!
 

Meandmunch

macrumors 6502
Jan 3, 2002
496
143
The design makes sense as explained in the article. Taller and more antennas, perhaps those were issues that needed addressing based on the previous model consumer feedback and testing. It does have a smaller footprint and might look cool on your desk just like your Darth Vadar head coffee mug that holds all your pens and pencils.
 

balamw

Moderator
Staff member
Aug 16, 2005
19,366
978
New England
i love the ventilation on the AEBS and APTC.
I think Apple must have seen the light. The AppleTV 1 and 1st generation Time Capsule both had thermal problems for me. These new designs seem somewhat inspired by Seymour Cray's design philosophy.

"Cray frequently cited two important aspects to his design philosophy: remove heat, and ensure that all signals that are supposed to arrive somewhere at the same time do indeed arrive at the same time."

B
 

iSee

macrumors 68040
Oct 25, 2004
3,525
253
Yep - whereas this design doesn't feel like it could be tucked away neatly - it actually feels bigger. :(
They really should have made a smaller profile design instead of wasting space with the Extreme version... I'm hoping there will be 3rd party connectors for sale later on that will let us add our own hard drives.

Also, seriously.... still only 3 ports? -_- that tower can easily fit 10 ports at least. Come on now.
The focus is on wireless.

No USB 3.0 because USB 2.0 is faster than the bandwidth of a wireless connection anyway.

The profile is to provide better wireless range and performance.

And only three wired ports because that's a secondary, edge case for this device.

I don't understand the one USB port though. This thing should be a hub for your shared printer and time machine backup drives.
 

rcp27

macrumors regular
May 12, 2010
202
1
I bet I could fit a Raspberry Pi in there. Could make a nice little DIY NAS box.
 

GenesisST

macrumors 68000
Jan 23, 2006
1,708
591
Where I live
Agreed.

I've got the current shape Extreme and it's classy, yet unobtrusive.

This design is perplexing.
And the current design cannot tip over... unless there are some weird gravitational issues where you live...

I really wish this is about functional needs, like new antennas for ac and what not. And not just a designer whim. I could accept that.

But it currently is a non-issue for me as I have no plans to change my 2010 MBP and TC for the foreseable future.
 

JaySoul

macrumors 68030
Jan 30, 2008
2,618
2,754
Jeez, people! Do you not READ? The tower design is to help with the antennas and the 802.11 AC performance. Stop whining and READ!
That's fine but my current Extreme works flawlessly well in my house, and the design is better.

I don't need 6 antennas and ac right now, nor will I in the next 3-5 years probably.
 

downpour

macrumors 6502
Oct 20, 2009
409
87
No USB 3.0 because USB 2.0 is faster than the bandwidth of a wireless connection anyway.
No it isn't.

802.11ac is 1300Mbps

USB 2.0 is just 480Mbps (much less in reality)

Other manufactures are including USB 3.0 (5000Mbps) in their routers and charging less.
 
Last edited:

jakebot

macrumors member
Mar 2, 2007
82
1
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Definitely Pick one up once I have a device that supports ac. In the future, they should definitely include usb3 and more ports... even if it's mostly used for backup over wifi, why limit the speed to usb2. More ports would also be useful as well. For now, it has enough to fit my home setup so let's go iphone with ac!
 
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