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Apple Airport Extreme 2013: Setup, Performance & Verdict

Gordon Kelly

By Gordon Kelly



Our Score:


Apple AirPort Extreme (2013) - Setup

Great looks and restricted functionality mean so far so very Apple, but does the cliché extend to the company's slogan: 'it just works'? Well yes and no.

AirPort Express setup 2

Approach the Extreme from Mac OS X and the setup is seamless. It detects not just any old router, but an Apple router and configures automatically and enables you to customise settings. The process is almost as straightforward with iOS, but once connected you will need to download the AirPort app for full configuration options, though that is painless enough.

When it comes to Windows, however, things become more complicated. There is no web browser control for the Extreme so users must download the 'AirPort Utility for Windows' which hasn't been updated for the new model and is 15 months old. It is an ugly, text heavy window full of tabs, menus and tick boxes and we found it wasn't always reliable in detecting the new Extreme.

AirPort Extreme UI

Hopefully things will improve if/when Apple brings Extreme management into iCloud to rival the Cloud platforms created by Asus, D-Link and Linksys, but right now it is a mess and we'd advise Windows users to steer clear even if they're tempted by the Extreme's design.

Apple AirPort Extreme (2013) - Performance

High on style, light on substance and disinterested in other platforms continues the Apple stereotype, but unfortunately our test results found the Extreme eschews the company's most important one: a premium user experience.

AirPort Extreme AC 2In our test environment at 2m and 10m line of sight and 13m behind two standing walls the Extreme's wireless ac performance fell flat, hitting just 26.2MB/s (209.6Mb/s), 25.2MB/s (201.6Mb/s) and 19.8MB/s (158.4Mb/s).

These speeds make the Extreme the slowest wireless AC router we have tested at 2m. It improves dramatically by holding its speed at distance, but it still trails every wireless AC router we've tested this year and is a mile off the 2m record of 39.1MB/s (312.8Mb/s) for the Asus RT-AC66U and the 10m and 13m benchmarks of the Linksys EA6700 - which just edged the Asus - hitting 35.2MB/s (281.6Mb/s) and 28.8MB/s (230.4Mb/s).

When you're beaten at 2m by a router at 13m behind two standing walls, it simply isn't good enough.

There was better news for the Extreme when tested at 5GHz 802.11n. 2m, 10m and 13m test positions recorded 23.7MB/s (189Mb/s), 18MB/s (144Mb/s) and 9.72MB/s (77.62Mb/s), which place it right up with the fastest routers we have tested (the D-Link DIR-868L's incredible 14.1MB/s at 13m aside).

AirPort Extreme 2.4GHzDisappointingly, however, the respite was brief as the Extreme's 802.11n 2.4GHz performance was again off the pace. 7.78MB/s (62.24MB/s) at 2m is amongst the slowest speeds we've seen (bettered even by the PlusNet Fibre single band router) and while 10m performance held up better (7.49MB/s - 59.92Mb/s) at 13m rates of 2.54MB/s (20.32Mb/s) are roughly 50 per cent below what we would expect.

Lastly USB performance was little to write home about. The Extreme achieved 3.3MB/s (26.4Mb/s), which sits it squarely in the middle of the pack. This is enough to stream HD video, but as we have said many times before: until routers up their processor power all USB network connectivity will remain a damp squib.

AirPort Extreme 5

Should I buy the Apple AirPort Extreme (2013)?

Even for those highly tempted by the Extreme's good looks the answer is no. Functionality and performance fall flat and they are ultimately compounded by a £169.99 price tag. This makes the Extreme one of the most expensive 802.11ac routers we have tested (the bizarrely priced £179.99 Belkin AC1800 DB aside) and while 802.11n 5GHz performance is a lone shining light, every modern wireless AC rival gives it a good kicking.

SEE ALSO: Best routers round-up


The most attractive, well crafted router on the market is sadly a letdown. The AirPort Extreme may have added 802.11ac to a great redesign but its performance falls flat and functionality is heavily compromised compared to other next gen alternatives. Apple detractors argue the company is about style over substance. That isn't true, but sadly they are right in this case.

Overall Score


Scores In Detail

  • Build Quality 9
  • Design 9
  • Features 5
  • Performance 6
  • Usability 6
  • Value 5


September 5, 2013, 9:30 am

I know design is a subjective thing, and most routers are still a bit 2000's in their appearance, but I don't get excited by this at all. Sounds like an expensive pile of crap to me. Glad I read the review first!

Any idea if you'll be reviewing the 2013 express?

Gordon Kelly

September 8, 2013, 2:55 pm

If the appearance doesn't grab you then you're lucky - it is what will sell them and sadly the substance behind it is lacking.

And yes that's on the list :)


September 9, 2013, 7:05 am

It is a shame this router performs so badly. I have no interest in the Airport Extreme, but I imagine the router performance of the 2013 Time Capsule will be more or less identical, and as Time Machine refuses to place nicely with any other network drive, the Time Capsule has a very compelling USP for Mac users who want the convenience and peace of mind of continuous backup. If I had a desktop Mac, I'd happily connect an external Thunderbolt drive for backup and leave it connected, but the sad truth is that for a laptop the rigmarole of connecting a USB/Thunderbolt drive means mine at least (and I'm sure I'm far from alone!) doesn't get backed up nearly as often as it should. I was planning to pick up a 2013 Time Capsule and upgrading my wifi to 802.11ac at one fell swoop, with the intention of snapping up Apple's next iteration of the MacBook Pro Retina (which will surely include 802.11ac, as does the recent refresh of the MacBook Air), but may now need to rethink. Maybe the good money is on finding an old Time Capsule for a reduced price and getting a better 802.11ac router elsewhere.


September 26, 2013, 1:39 am

I wonder a bit about these results as I am an IT guy with over 20 years of experience. In my home tests the router maintained a signal at superior distance and throughput to the ASUS or a Netgear 6300v2 AC router. Maybe they got a bad unit or maybe production line improvements have been made.


September 30, 2013, 6:24 pm

You might want to check the dimensions of the predecessor - I doubt it was 16.5mm x 16.5mm and it it was it's hardly a reduction from 98mm x 98mm! ;)

Kordon Gelly

December 16, 2013, 5:13 pm

With a line like "High on style, light on substance and disinterested in other platforms continues the Apple stereotype..." you cannot possibly claim to be unbiased and this cannot possibly in TrustedReview's best interest to publish this.

How come SmallNetBuilder's review (which in my opinion is more trustable than TrustedReviews) shows better results?


December 17, 2013, 12:30 pm

Testing conditions add a fair amount of variability to all router testing. That's just the nature of the beast and I don't agree that stating something fairly obvious makes us biased. The results we obtained back up the statement, though that doesn't make it a bad product by any means, which is why it score a 7/10.

Kordon Gelly

December 17, 2013, 1:32 pm

Kelly Scored it 6/10... not 7/10.


December 17, 2013, 1:35 pm

Apologies, memory failing me.


December 24, 2013, 11:39 am

just gigabit ports, not gigabit capability! I have gigabit internet connection,on pppoe imac spees reach 790-940 mbits, on airport wired connection less than 300 (230mbits)!!!


February 21, 2014, 6:02 pm

Similarly, I'm wondering if firmware updates since this test were done have improved it. We have an Airport Extreme at the office for a few wireless devices that we want off of the main network, and it's been flawless. d

Bob Moose

August 20, 2014, 12:53 pm

I do not like this product at all. Very expensive and very slow. Apple seems to focus on looks and not functionality. In my opinion, a very poor product, indeed. It's refreshing that someone speaks the truth as this review has done.

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