Apple Airport Time Capsule Review, Is It Still Great?

By Paul Gregory / September 13, 2018
Apple Time Capsule Review

​MacTakeAwayData Rank

Released to the market in 2013 users familiar with the previous generation will find the new Airport Time Capsule 2TB and 3TB to be significantly more compact in its footprint. More attractive in its design than Apple's fourth generation. But several years on from its release is it still great?

And if it is, Why? This reviews aims to give you the insider's view.

​Apple Airport Time Capsule

Apple Airport Time Capsule 2TB


Time Capsule Pros

​Attractive design with smaller footprint

  • Fast performance with backup services
  • Supports 802.11ac Wifi
  • The Wifi antenna is now up right and that substantially improves the Wifi range

Time Capsule Cons

  • ​Apple has disbanded the division that develops the wireless routers and the hot news May 2018 is that Apple is ending production of the AirPort Basestation range of routers - The Airport Express, Airport Extreme and Airport Time Capsule.
  • Read the article in Mac Observer and the one in Zdnet
  • The product will be available until the current stocks run out and will be supported for service and parts for the next five years.

Airport Time Capsule Review 2018 Verdict

​Apple users who have bought the 5th generation of the Airport Time Capsule love its fast Wifi, dual band, small footprint and great Wifi range. Along with its tie into the rest of the Apple eco system.

You'll have to move quick as when the current stocks go those wishing to purchase and Apple Time Capsule will be looking to the refurbished and second user market place.

Due to the demise of the Apple Airport Time Capsule I decided to check the market to see if there were any suitable alternatives, find out how I got on.


​Feature Overview of the Apple Time Capsule

​This Airport Time Capsule review discusses the Apple Time Capsule from design to internal storage capacity.

​Apple Time Capsule Model Comparison Table

​(Click on the Images to View on Amazon)


​​Airport Express

​Airport Extreme

​Airport Time Capsule

​Image

​Wifi


​Yes -802.11n

​Yes - 802.11ac

​Yes - 802.11ac

​Internal Hard Drive?

​No

​No

​Yes - 2TB or 3TB

USB Ports

​Printer Only

​​Printers and External Hard Drive

​Printers and External Hard Drive

​Ethernet Ports

​2 x 10/100 BASE-T

4 ​x Gigabit

​4 x Gigabit

​Guest Networking

Yes

Yes

Yes

​Airplay

Yes

​No

​No

You'll see that not all of the Time Capsules have internal drives. The Airport Express and Airport Extreme work mainly as Wifi routers and boosters.

How Does Apple Time Capsule Work?

​It truly is a two in one appliance. What does that mean?

Most of us have a router supplied by our Internet Service Provider. That router services all our devices in our home or office.

But what

  • if you had dead zones in your home or office space, areas where the Wifi signal finds it difficult to reach,
  • And what if you needed to use your Mac, iPhone or iPad in that area
  • And you also needed external storage as backup but you really don't want to run or can't run cables.

Then the Time Capsule 5th generation is for you.

The Apple Time Capsule works by integrating into one device a Wifi router, and external storage of 2TB or 3TB. The Time Capsule acts as

  • a Wifi router and booster for your Apple devices
  • a place where you can centrally store files
  • use with Time Machine the Apple Time Capsule can backup your Mac, or several Mac's over wifi
  • Its USB 2.0 port can support a printer that is then available as a network printer or
  • the USB port can support an additional external hard drive that is then also available as networked storage.
  • and can extend the range of your wifi network

Apple Airport Time Capsule 2TB

​Benefit Tear Down of the Apple Time Capsule

​When Apple gets into an area there is no doubt that they do an excellent job.

The Apple Time Capsule is easy to use. And no, it may not be the cheapest device out there but

when you buy Apple, what you buy will look good and just work.

With the Airport Time Capsule Apple doesn't disappoint.

Apple Time Capsule Wifi Range and Speed

​The Apple Time Capsule offers Wifi coverage on 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz frequency bands. The Time Capsule 5th generation is a true Airport Extreme device and raises its network credentials by increasing the number of antennas to six and relocating them at the top of the Time Capsule for better Wifi range.

There are three antennae for 5 GHz and three for 2.4 Ghz and so the Apple Time Capsule is a true dual-band router. That is

Capable of transmitting and receiving on both those bands at the same time, supporting all types of Wifi clients.

The Time Capsule uses something called beamforming in its antenna array.

This means that Apple Time Capsule works out where a 802.11ac device is located in its vicinity and then targets its signal to the device. Meaning a stronger more consistent signal. Clever eh.

UnBoxing The Time Capsule YouTube Video

​If you are curious about what comes in the box I've found a cute unboxing video on YouTube.

Video Credit: hashtag it

Time Capsule's Better Wifi Speed Support for the Apple Family

The latest range of Apple - Macbook, Macbook Pro, iMac, iPad Pro, iPad, IPhone, iPod Touch, iPad Mini 4, Apple TV 4K all support the faster 802.11ac Wifi networking and for the slightly older Apple devices you may have at home the Airport Time Capsule supports 802.11 a, b, g and n standards.

The top tier 802.11ac standard offers 1.3 Gbps wireless data speeds (3 x faster then 802.11n) although those speeds are only available to 802.11ac enabled clients and at 5 GHz frequency.

For 802.11n clients, The Airport Time Capsule offers 450 Mbps data speeds.

Bear in mind that actual wifi speeds can and do fluctuate and so can be considerably lower than the headline speeds stated here. Users who have the Airport Time Capsule rave about its Wifi speed and superior Wifi coverage and reliability.

Pairing the new 802.11ac Wifi standard with 802.11ac enabled clients unlocks the most notable feature, which is that the Time Capsule boasts the fastest wireless data speeds.

The Sleek Design

​You certainly would be happy to put this device on display and there aren't many Wifi routers and storage devices you could say that about.

The Airport Time Capsule's footprint is 6.6” height x 3.85" x 3.85”, which is a change from the square flatter shape of the older generations.

Apple used a top-down minimalist design to reduce the device’s footprint while retaining its attractive style. The 75% footprint reduction doesn’t affect its features, thanks to the smart placement of the ports and the powerful internal hard drive.

On the front of the Apple Time Capsule, a status light glows green when everything is as it should be but glows amber in case of an issue.

What the status light glows and responds to can be configured so that you can decide what the device tells you and what you want to respond to, which is a nice touch.

Connecting The Apple Time Capsule

​On the back are the four ports users of the previous generation will be familiar with. The ports are now stacked vertically on the 5th generation (compared to horizontal - the previous set up).

Apple Time Capsule 3TB Ports

Apple Time Capsule 3TB Ports

There are three Gigabit LAN ports for connecting to your Mac and the other wired clients you may have and one WAN port for connecting to your Internet source.

Every port is gigabit-compatible with up to 1,000 Mbps data speeds.

The Airport Time Capsule has a built in firewall to protect you from hackers over the Internet but the firewall isn't user configurable and some users may find that frustrating.

There is also a USB port. Apple using the USB 2.0 standard is a bit of a disappointment, since the faster USB 3.0 standard would have been a better choice more modern.

However the Airport Time Capsule 2TB and 3TB options allows you to connect its USB port to a USB printer so that it can then be used as a networked shared printer or

you can connect the USB port to an external hard drive (see below).

Finally at the front is the power port and right beside that is the reset button, should you need to reset the Apple Time Capsule.

The Apple Time Capsule is going away. Before you think about buying a wireless external hard drive take a look at my article about the current wireless drives.

Expanding Time Capsule Storage

​The single USB port on the Airport Time Capsule allows you to expand the Time Capsule's storage to by connecting an external hard drive. Yes, it is a USB 2.0 port and many of the external drives available support USB 3.0 but due to backwards compatibility you can put those drives on the Time Capsule as well.

The Time Capsule will talk to those external drives at USB 2.0 speed.

The addition of an external hard drive allows you to store additional files and use the external hard drive as a network storage resource for the Macs on your network.

Note that any external drive you attach to the USB 2.0 port must already be formatted to Mac OS Extended (Journaled) file system for Mac, or partitioned to have ExFAT partitions if you want to support Windows PCs and share files between Mac and Windows users.

Connect up the external hard drive to your Mac first, format and or partition then connect to the Apple Time Capsule and you are good to go.

You can learn how to set up an external hard drive in my article here.

Can you Use Time Capsule as an External Hard Drive?

​Yes, and after its great Wifi performance this is its second main benefit.

The internal 2TB or you can choose the Apple Time Capsule 3TB version contains a server grade hard drive.

Being server grade means the internal 2TB or 3TB drive is robust. And seems to have proven itself as such in the field.

This is just as well as the Apple Time Capsule’s design does not allow for parts replacement and service repair by the user. In that feature it is similar to most of Apple's other products but this may be inconvenient for those users who like to get in to upgrade or change parts.

But if you’re the type who likes stylish design on all your Mac’s accessories, even the ones that are usually hidden under the table, then it’s a great buy.

What Other Users think and Say about the Airport Time Capsule

​It is always worth taking a look at what users say about the product. I've provided a link below to the Apple Time Capsule 2TB page on Amazon. Click on the link and scroll down to the bottom of the page to take a look at the Reviews.

How do you use a Time Capsule?

You can configure Time Capsule on your iPhone

You can configure Time Capsule on your iPhone

Set Up

​The set up in a word is easy. Airport Time Capsule requires the Apple software AirPort Utility to set up, manage and configure the device.

Airport Utility is supplied as standard on Mac OS for Mac users and can be freely downloaded as an app from the App Store for IOS on iPhone and for iPad users.

It is available from the Apple App store for free download, for Windows PC users.

And the beauty is that you can use an iPad, iPhone or iPad Touch to set up and manage the Airport time Capsule as easily as on a desktop or laptop Mac or Windows computer.

It is so easy too!

The Airport Time Capsule once physically connected to its Internet source and mains power will boot up in a default configuration. Then it is a matter of going into the Airport Utility on the Apple or Windows PC device you want to set it up on (the Wifi on the device must be turned on) and you pretty much follow the prompts to install the Time Capsule.

I have an article on how to do that here.

Airport Time Capsule for File Storage or Backups

​You can decide how you use you Apple Time Capsule,

  • as extra space for file storage
  • as a Backup location for Time Machine
  • as a shared drive for Mac, IOS or Windows PC

Partitioned up for either of the above options

It's truly flexible.

The Time Capsule connects with Time Machine for Mac users, which is easily set up. Once set up, backups are automatic over your Wifi so no user interaction is required.

Via your Mac the Airport Time Capsule allows you to back up your IOS devices as well automatically and seamlessly over Wifi.

Apple Time Capsule Remote File and Printer Sharing

​Back to my Mac is an interesting feature for those who need to access files on their Mac when they are out and about and connected to the Internet.

It needs to be enabled in both Time Machine and on the Mac to work.

Data performance will of course depend on the network you are on and of course there is the issue of how comfortable you are opening up your network to the Internet even if managed by an Apple device.

Those issues aside it’s a pretty good feature.

Note that: No Media streaming is supported or FTP is offered by Back to my Mac on the Airport Time Capsule.

Apple Time Capsule Guest Networking

​I think the guest networking feature is a really neat option. It allows you to set up a guest login and password and separate your guests from access to the devices and files on your network. It gives your guests access to the Wifi and the Internet - nice - and there is no need for you to share your own login details with guests.

Time Capsule on a Network

Expanding and Extending Your Wifi Range

​The ability to daisy chain Airport Time Capsules together allows you to expand or extend the range of your Wifi. Useful for covering those dead zones or difficult areas you may have on your property or even for extending your Wifi out to the back yard or garden. It's a really neat feature.

I have an article that discusses this and you can find it here.

How do I Access My Time Capsule?

​Accessing the Time Capsule

For File Storage

​Yes, you can drag and drop files to the Time Capsule, particularly if you want to share files with a Windows PC. The best way is to create a partition on the Airport Time Capsule to store the files you want to drag and drop there.

And then make sure that partition is shareable, so that you can see it in your finder window.

You can then drag and drop files as you wish.

One thing to note is that you then have no backup of those files. If your Time Capsule fails for any reason you will loose those files.

It may be better to use your Time Capsule for Backup with Time Machine and use a separate external drive for dragging and dropping files to. But then it does depend on your exact needs.

Time Capsule for Backup

Time Capsule for Backup

For Backup

​Once the Apple Time Capsule is up and running you just join it up to Time Machine on your Mac by going into Time Machine preferences and your Mac will see the Time Capsule on the network and you can click to use it as your backup device. - I have an article here that goes into this in more detail.

For IOS devices you cannot backup to Airport Time Capsule directly. iPhone's and iPad's need to be first backed up to a Mac with iTunes and then when Airport Time Capsule backs up your Mac your mobile device backup is taken care of.

Airport Time Capsule Review Last Words

​The Apple Time Capsule is a great product and I think it is a pity that Apple has decided to discontinue manufacturing it.

The Apple Time Capsule 2TB and its bigger brother the Time Capsule 3TB works well with Time Machine. And if you use Time Machine on your Mac to back up your other Apple devices, iPad, iPhone, you can have a full, easy to restore backup held on your Time Capsule.

The device is also excellent as a Wifi base station, thanks to its 802.11ac Wifi networking.

And there is nothing to stop you getting a second Time Capsule and daisy chaining them for extra backup and file storage.

Unless you move soon to get one you'll be reliant on finding a refurbished or second user Time Capsule. You may wonder about the other wireless external hard drives out there on the market. Take a look at my post Wireless External Hard Drives For Mac Need to Knows Before You Buy.

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