The Apple Time Capsule is a powerful wireless router and a fast network drive for automatic backups of your Mac. In fact, this dual-purpose device is easier to use than any other backup solution we have tested for Mac or PC. It's available in both 500GB ($299) and 1TB ($499) versions. We tested the 1TB version and came away very impressed, despite a few missing features.
Fast and Easy Backups
As a network drive, the Time Capsule is definitely no slouch. We performed a backup using a MacBook and Time Machine (the automated backup program for Macs), which took about 6 hours for 80GB of data over wireless. A raw transfer of one 700MB file took only 45 seconds over Ethernet, one of the fastest results we've seen and better than the Netgear ReadyNAS, which took 30 seconds longer to transfer the same amount of data. To the Maxtor drive, the transfer speed was a more predictable 90 seconds.
As a router, the Time Capsule is an exact replica of Apple's AirPort Extreme, right down to the 120-Mbps speed from 5 feet away and about half that from across the room. It can connect up to about 450 feet, which is very good range.
The Time Capsule uses channel bonding (a technique to boost speed) in the 5-GHz mode to avoid interference with MacBooks and their built-in Bluetooth; in 2.4-GHz mode the speed dropped to 72 Mbps in Ixia Chariot (www.ixiacom.com) from the same distance. Like the Extreme, the Time Capsule supports WPA2 and Gigabit Ethernet.
The Time Capsule easily recognized a Maxtor OneTouch Mini external hard drive hooked up to its USB port. When we attached an HP PhotoSmart 7280 printer to the port, we found we could easily send photos to print from the PC over Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, the Time Capsule is a bit stuck in the past compared with some other network-attached storage drives. It doesn't support UPnP or DNLA for media streaming; a Logitech Duet could not find it on the 802.11g network. And there's no option for remote access. Mac users must upgrade to OS X Leopard and use Time Machine to get the fully automated backup experience.
Apple Time Capsule Verdict
Other NAS drives, such as the Buffalo TeraStation, let you easily stream and remotely access files. However, the Time Capsule works better than software backup solutions because it integrates so smoothly with Apple's Time Machine. It's so easy to use, that Mac users now have no excuse not to back up their content.
5 feet: 120 Mbps
50 feet: 82 Mbps
100 feet: 35 Mbps
300 feet: 15 Mbps
600 feet: No connection