Pros: Compact and affordable
Cons: Doesn't include router or modem
Bottomline: The Airport offers good value as either a wireless print sharer or a music sharer
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The Airport Express is not one of Apple’s best-known products but it’s a handy little gadget.
It looks like a fat mains plug and it goes directly into a mains power socket. Inside that little white plastic case is a wireless access point – the new version is updated to use the latest high-speed 802.11n wireless technology.
However, the Airport Express isn’t meant to be used for setting up a wireless network. Unlike a wireless router/modem, the Airport Express does not include a broadband modem for the internet connection, so it’s not for those who need to set up an entirely new wireless network at home or in an office – a combined modem/router would be much better for that.
In fact, the Airport Express is primarily designed to be a wireless music system to be used in conjunction with an existing network.
The key feature of the Airport Express is the audio connector on the base of the unit that allows users to connect it to a speaker or hi-fi system so that you can stream music wirelessly from the computer to the Airport Express in any room in your house (though you’ll need Apple’s iTunes software running on the computer for this – it won’t work with the Windows Media Player).
You can buy multiple Airport Express units and pipe your music around the entire home if you want. They might sound expensive, at £65 each, but it’s a lot cheaper than rival multi-room music systems such as the Sonos Zoneplayer or Logitech’s Squeezebox. One other use for the Airport Express is as a portable wireless network device.
Its compact design means that you could easily take it on a trip and set up a little wireless network in the hotel room – perhaps using it to tap out a few emails while you lounge on the bed with your notebook. It can also be used to share a printer across the house.
As a wireless router the Airport Express is fairly limited, and there are many better options available. However, it works very well as a simple and affordable wireless music system that can be used to pipe music to any room in your house.