Since Apple released updated Time Capsules and AirPort Extremes last month, little has been said about their differences compared to the previous generation. While the Time Capsule gained additional storage capacities, the AirPort Extreme seemed like more of a “silent” update, with no advertised changes. New tests, however, have revealed that they are significantly improved inside, and feature significant improvements in both range and performance.
While the devices look identical to their predecessors from the outside, the folks at AnandTech took some of the new units apart, and did some in-depth testing. Their findings suggest that the new models are capable of significantly improved data rates, especially over distance.
The new AirPort Extreme dramatically improves its throughput, and was able to broadcast its signal to places unreachable by its predecessor. Even in the worst case, the performance improved fron being completely unusable to perfectly fine. In locations where Macs were unable to connect using the old unit, connections os 23Mbps were achieved when using the updated unit.
The new models feature a new Broadcom BCM4331 WiFi stack, replacing the Marvell 88W8366 in the previous generation, resulting in much better range (but at the cost of higher power usage). The 2.4GHz network performed almost at almost full strength in some places where the previous model had barely a signal.
The same findings are true of the updated Time Capsules, which reflect the same internal WiFi hardware as the previous generation. Finally, AnandTech dismissed the idea of software update caching even though code was found in the latest builds of the Time Capsule’s firmware.
Considering this last finding in particular, and speculating about Apple’s recent hire of 20-25 laid-off Cisco engineers, this only strengthens the possibility for me that Apple might be working on a serious new revamp of both the Time Capsule and the AirPort Extreme, perhaps adding an A5 chip, a custom build of iOS and the ability to cache software updates to future units.