The back of a 2007 AirPort Extreme
Historical development of some wireless router chipset variants

The AirPort Extreme is a residential gateway combining the functions of a router, network switch, wireless access point and NAS as well as varied other functions, and one of Apple's former AirPort products. The latest model, the 6th generation, supports 802.11ac networking in addition to older standards. Versions of the same system with a built-in network-accessible hard drive are known as the AirPort Time Capsule.

Apple discontinued developing its lineup of wireless routers in 2016, but as of 2023 continues limited hardware and software support.[1]


The first AirPort Extreme was announced at the MacWorld expo in San Francisco on January 7, 2003.[2] It featured 802.11g wireless technology for the first time in an AirPort base station.

The name "AirPort Extreme" originally referred to any one of Apple's AirPort products that implemented the (then) newly introduced 802.11g Wi-Fi standard, differentiating it from earlier devices that ran the slower 802.11a and b standards. At that time (circa 2003) the gateway part of this lineup was known as the AirPort Extreme Base Station. With the addition of the even faster Draft-N standards in early 2009 the naming of "Base Station" was dropped, and was renamed to AirPort Extreme. Several minor upgrades followed with the wireless-N models, mostly to change antenna and wireless output power. In 2013, a major upgrade changed the physical structure of the device, added 802.11ac support, and added more antennas.

The AirPort Extreme has gone through three distinct physical forms. The earliest models had a similar plastic housing to the original AirPort Base Station, in a round "flying saucer" shape. From 2007 to 2013, the devices took on a flat rounded rectangle shape, similar in layout and size to the Mac mini or early models of the Apple TV. The 2013 model had a more vertical form, taller than it was wide.


In approximately 2016, Apple disbanded the wireless router team that developed the AirPort Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme router.[3] In 2018, Apple formally discontinued both products, exiting the router market.[4] Bloomberg News noted that "Apple rarely discontinues product categories"[4] and that its decision to leave the business was "a boon for other wireless router makers."[3]



AirPort Disk

The AirPort Disk feature allows users to plug a USB hard drive into the AirPort Extreme for use as a network-attached storage (NAS) device for Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows clients.[7] Users may also connect a USB hub and printer. The performance of USB hard drives attached to an AirPort Extreme is slower than if the drive were connected directly to a computer. This is due to the processor speed on the AirPort Extreme. Depending on the setup and types of reads and writes, performance ranges from 0.5 to 17.5 MB/s for writing and 1.9 to 25.6 MB/s for reading.[8] Performance for the same disk connected directly to a computer would be 6.6 to 31.6 MB/s for writing and 7.1 to 37.2 MB/s for reading. NTFS-formatted drives are not supported.

Models by generation

Original generation (2003)

First three AirPort Base Station models, including the AirPort Extreme to the right (Called AirMac Extreme in Japan).

The original AirPort Extreme Base Station in 2003 was so named because of its support for the 802.11g standard of the day, as well as for its ability to serve up to 50 Macs or PCs simultaneously.[9] One feature found in most models of this generation was an internal 56K dial-up modem, allowing homes that lacked a broadband connection to enjoy wireless connectivity, albeit at dial-up speeds.[10] It was the last generation to retain the "flying saucer" form factor. Later generations would adopt the short, rounded-square form factor that would be seen until 2013.

1st generation

On January 9, 2007 the AirPort Extreme began shipping, with support for 802.11n draft specification, and built-in wireless print and storage server.

2nd generation

On March 19, 2008, Apple released a firmware update for both models of the AirPort Extreme that, according to third-party reports, allowed AirPort Disks to be used in conjunction with Time Machine, similar to the functionality provided by AirPort Time Capsule.[11][12]

3rd generation

On March 3, 2009, Apple unveiled a new AirPort Extreme with simultaneous dual-band 802.11 Draft-N radios. This allowed full 802.11 Draft-N 2x2 communication in both 802.11 Draft-N bands at the same time.

4th generation

On October 20, 2009, Apple unveiled an updated AirPort Extreme with antenna improvements.

5th generation

On June 21, 2011, Apple unveiled an updated AirPort Extreme, referred to as AirPort Extreme 802.11n (5th Generation).

The detailed table of output power comparison between the 4th generation model MC340LL/A and the 5th generation model MD031LL/A can be seen below:[13][14]

Frequency range (MHz) Mode AirPort Extreme model Output power (dBm) Output power (mW) Comparison (percent) Difference (percent)
2412–2462 802.11b 4th generation 24.57 286.42 100 -10.3
5th generation 24.10 257.04 89.7
802.11g 4th generation 21.56 143.22 100 +114.8
5th generation 24.88 307.61 214.8
802.11n HT20 4th generation 21.17 130.92 100 +96.8
5th generation 24.11 257.63 196.8
5745–5825 802.11a 4th generation 23.07 202.77 100 +61.1
5th generation 25.14 326.59 161.1
5745–5805 802.11n HT20 4th generation 22.17 164.82 100 +104.6
5th generation 25.28 337.29 204.6
5755–5795 802.11n HT40 4th generation 21.44 139.32 100 +181.8
5th generation 25.94 392.64 281.8

Note: A 3dB increase is equivalent to a doubling of power output.

6th generation

On June 10, 2013, Apple unveiled an updated AirPort Extreme, referred to as AirPort Extreme 802.11ac (6th Generation). The 6th generation AirPort Extreme (and 5th generation AirPort Time Capsule) featured three-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology with a maximum data rate of 1.3Gbit/s, which is nearly three times faster than 802.11n. Time Machine was now supported using an external USB hard drive connected to AirPort Extreme (802.11ac model only).[15]

Comparison chart

Approx. release date Consumer nickname AirPort Extreme Model Wireless standard Gigabit Ethernet Guest network[16] Radio type MIMO IPv6 router mode*** Time-Machine Backup**** CPU RAM FLASH
January 7, 2003 Original/round M8799LL/A A1034 802.11b/g No No Single band

2.4 GHz

No No No
January 9, 2007 1st generation MA073LL/A A1143 802.11a/b/g/n* No No Dual band

2.4 GHz or 5 GHz

3×3:2 No No Marvell 1850 step A0 (Feroceon core) [88F5281 Rev 4] 64 MB 16 MB
August 7, 2007 2nd generation MB053LL/A Yes No 3×3:2 No No
March 3, 2009 3rd generation MB763LL/A A1301 Yes Yes Dual band (simultaneous)

2.4 GHz and 5 GHz

2×2:2 (in each band) No No
October 20, 2009 4th generation MC340AM/A A1354
802.11a/b/g/n Yes Yes 3×3:3 (in each band) Yes, but not over PPPoE Yes, with latest software
June 21, 2011 5th generation MD031LL/A A1408 Yes Yes Yes, but not over PPPoE Yes, with latest software ARM926E-S rev 1 (ARM9E-S core) 128 MB 16 MB
June 10, 2013 6th generation ME918LL/A A1521 802.11a/b/g/n/ac** Yes Yes Yes, but not over PPPoE Yes BCM53019 (dual Cortex-A9) 512 MB 32 MB

*802.11n draft-specification support in 1st- to 3rd-generation models.
**802.11ac draft-specification support in 6th-generation model.
***All models support IPv6 tunnel mode.
****Supported by Apple.[15]

Discontinuation and support

According to a Bloomberg report on November 21, 2016, "Apple Inc. has disbanded its division that develops wireless routers, another move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, according to people familiar with the matter."[3]

In an April 2018 statement to 9to5Mac,[17] Apple announced the discontinuation of its AirPort line, effectively leaving the consumer router market. Apple continued supporting the AirPort Extreme.[1][18]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Vintage and obsolete products". Apple. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  2. ^ "Apple Delivers AirPort Extreme 802.11g Wireless Networking". January 7, 2003.
  3. ^ a b c Gurman, Mark (November 23, 2016). "Apple Abandons Development of Wireless Routers". Bloomberg News. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  4. ^ a b Gurman, Mark (April 27, 2018). "Apple Officially Discontinues Its AirPort Wireless Routers". Bloomberg News. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  5. ^ "Mac OS X v10.6: About Wake on Demand (Apple Article HT3774)". Apple. August 27, 2009. Retrieved October 6, 2021. Setting up Wake on Demand", "Setting up a Bonjour Sleep Proxy
  6. ^ "AirPort Extreme: Apple Breaks 90 Mbps". Archived from the original on February 6, 2010. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  7. ^ "AirPort Extreme – Sharing". Apple Inc. Archived from the original on April 2, 2013.
  8. ^ Klug, Brian. "Airport Extreme (5th Gen) and Time Capsule (4th Gen) Review – Faster WiFi". Airport Extreme (5th Gen) and Time Capsule (4th Gen) Review. AnandTech. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  9. ^ "AirPort Extreme". Archived from the original on June 8, 2004.
  10. ^ "AirPort Extreme – Technical Specifications". Archived from the original on June 8, 2004.
  11. ^ Patel, N. (March 19, 2008). "Time Machine now works with AirPort Extreme's AirDisk feature". Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  12. ^ Dalrymple, Jim (March 19, 2008). "Update allows Time Machine backups on AirPort Extreme". Macworld. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  13. ^ Test Report – Previous version Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  14. ^ Test Report – Current version Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
  15. ^ a b "Backup disks you can use with Time Machine". Apple Inc. January 29, 2021.
  16. ^ "Set up a guest network in AirPort Utility on Mac". Apple Inc.
  17. ^ Hall, Zac (April 26, 2018). "Apple officially discontinues AirPort router line, no plans for future hardware". 9to5Mac. Retrieved October 6, 2010.
  18. ^ "Update the firmware on your AirPort base station". Apple Support. June 21, 2019. Retrieved October 6, 2021.