Apple's new Time Capsule is one of only two devices we know of that incorporates both a wireless router and a hard drive into the same product. The other -- the year-and-a-half-old Asus WL-700gE router -- offers neither the same high-speed wireless bandwidth nor as much storage capacity as the Time Capsule, which comes in 500GB (for £199) and 1TB for (£329) varieties.
Time Capsule is essentially an AirPort Extreme Base Station with a built-in hard drive and an easy-to-use, Mac-only automated backup program. Most of what we said in our review of the original, standalone AirPort Extreme applies to the Time Capsule as far as its networking capabilities.
Both products provide you with a 2.4GHz or 5.0 GHz 802.11n wireless network. We're happy to report that we were able to connect an Intel-powered Mac Pro, an iMac G5, a Windows Vista-based HP Pavilion tx2000z laptop and the Windows XP-based Lenovo X300 laptop to the Time Capsule wirelessly with little trouble. Each system was also able to read and write to the Time Capsule's hard drive.
The design of the Time Capsule is clean and visually appealing, and almost identical to the AirPort Extreme Base Station. You still get one indicator light up front and a row of ports on the back. That's it. Many routers offer an array of blinking status LEDs, but the Time Capsule gives you only a static green light to let you know that it's working.
The backside provides you with a single Gigabit Ethernet port for a connection to your cable or DSL or LAN connection, three Gigabit ports for hard-wired network devices and a single USB 2.0 input. There's no power button, but you do get a reset button to restore the factory default settings. The power cable -- and it's just a cable, not a brick -- plugs directly into the back.
We should note that while the Time Capsule is basically silent, the top gets hot, especially when the hard drive is moving a lot of data. Be sure to store it in a well-ventilated area.
Apple made the claim that setting up the Time Capsule to manage your network is easy, and if you're comfortable with basic networking concepts, it is. If you don't know whether you have a static IP address or you're unfamiliar with abbreviations like PPP and DHCP, you can still probably navigate Time Capsule's handful of setup screens, thanks to mostly clear English descriptions that accompany each option.
You initiate the installation by inserting the Time Capsule CD, and from there -- on a Mac -- it will update your AirPort Utility, and then prompt you to select various options. Windows drivers are also included on the disc. With your network established, Windows users should be able to see the hard drive in their network folders, and read and write files to it as with any networked storage device.
You can set up a password to connect to the drive, although you get no user management interface like that of the HP MediaSmart Server. You can also access the Time Capsule's drive remotely through a .Mac account, which you have to pay for. The HP Server provides you remote access for free, although it's not a router.