Apple's new AirPort Express 802.11n takes the slow lane

I’ve always wanted an AirPort Express Base Station, if only because my stereo and laser printer are in a closet in my living room. If I hooked up the AirPort Express in that closet (I do have a power outlet), I could wirelessly connect the printer via its USB port and stream my iTunes library from any computer in the apartment.

I’ve always wanted an AirPort Express Base Station, if only because my stereo and laser printer are in a closet in my living room. If I hooked up the AirPort Express in that closet (I do have a power outlet), I could wirelessly connect the printer via its USB port and stream my iTunes library from any computer in the apartment. OK, so I only have two rooms, but who doesn’t need a closet upgrade?

AirPort

So while everyone blogged the new Apple AirPort Express Base Station when it was announced on Tuesday, I waited for a hands-on review to get a better take on the device. CNET has just posted this review, and notes that the only change in the device is the upgrade to 802.11 Draft-N. And that update doesn’t deliver all that much: CNET reviewer Rich Brown says the AirPort is near the end of the 802.11n pack when it comes to performance.

But given the diminutive form factor (it’s definitely small enough to take on the road and use as a portable router), it’s not surprising that performance is weak. The AirPort is roughly the size of a Mac notebook power adapter, and has only three ports: Ethernet, USB, and audio out. I have a lot of music purchased from Apple’s iTunes store, and because the company still maintains its DRM lockdown, there is no way to stream music from a PC to a stereo (unless you have an Apple TV). So that feature makes it pretty unique.

What’s really regretful, however, is that you can’t connect an external hard drive to the USB port. And that limitation is enough to convince me to pass.