For this reason, we would recommend having a separate wireless network name for each band, to allow more control of which band a client wants to use. Fortunately, the 'wireless option' button in AirPort Utility allows you to do this.
You can't turn off either of the bands separately. You can choose to turn off the wireless function of the router altogether, but, once it's on, both bands are on. This means using the router to work with the 2.4GHz or 5GHz band only is impossible. All other true dual-band routers we've reviewed allow more control over the router's wireless functionality.
The Base Station's guest-networking feature worked well in our trial. Guest networking lets you create a separate wireless network that has access to the Internet but not local resources, such as your computer or printer. The router allows you to create an additional network, encrypt it, and give guest clients the ability to interact with one another. Again, unlike other routers that offer guest networking, the Base Station doesn't allow you to pick what band you want the guest network to operate in, nor can you make a separate guest network for each band.
The Time Capsule doesn't read drives formatted in the NTFS file system -- only files formatted as FAT32 and Mac OS Extended. In general, it's more difficult to format a drive larger than 32GB using FAT32 than it is using NTFS. This means that, because the majority of external hard drives nowadays are much larger than 32GB, Windows users can't simply plug most of their USB external hard drives into the router and expect to share the data contained on them. If you are willing to reformat your hard drive, you'll need to use a computer to do so, as Time Capsule doesn't include a formatting function.
We tried the router with two USB external hard drives, the G-Tech G-Drive mini Triple and the Seagate FreeAgent Go. Neither of them -- when formatted using FAT32 and tested with a MacBook -- worked with the Base Station. The router kept showing a 'disk needs repair' message, without revealing any details or stating how to repair it.
Nonetheless, the drives worked when we formatted them using Mac OS Extended. Once plugged in, the router took about 30 seconds to see the hard drives. After that, the default share folder appears in the finder of any Mac in the network running Mac OS X 10.4 or later. In Windows, the AirPort Base Station Agent software will make the network drive for you or you can browse for it using the network browser, as long as you have Bonjour installed on the machine.
If you are a Mac and MobileMe user, you can access the hard drive the same way when you are on the go, via the Internet. You just need to register the router to your MobileMe account and it works similarly to the 'back to my Mac' feature. You can also change the router's settings this way, using AirPort Utility. It's important to note that the remote-access feature might not work at all if you access the Internet via a corporate network, where certain Base Station services are blocked for security reasons. Unfortunately, the remote-access feature is not available for Windows users, even if they have a MobileMe account.
You can only share the hard drive as one shared folder -- you can't make multiple folders and share them separately with different access privileges. You can use AirPort Utility to create user accounts so each user has a private folder of their own, though. For example, if you log in as 'user 1', you will see the default share folder and a folder called 'user 1', but you won't see the folders of users 2 and 3. These features make for a simple network storage solution that works well in an environment where you don't need a sophisticated way of sharing resources.
The router is also able to power the external hard drive via its USB port, which is important, as many new pocket-sized external hard drives don't come with separate power cords.
The Base Station features a built-in firewall and supports WPA, WPA2 and 128-bit WEP for wireless encryption. It also supports Radius access control, with which you can manage wireless clients from a centralised location.
Although parents aren't able to filter Web sites, they can restrict their kids' access based on time, provided they know how to get the MAC address off the kids' computers.
We tested the Base Station's throughput speeds by copying data from one computer to another using its wireless connection. This means the scores -- while much lower than the theoretical throughput speed of the wireless-n specification -- are the actual sustained data rates, after all the software and hardware overheads and interference. For comparison, we tested a few other true dual-band wireless routers in the same way.
The Base Station performed well in the 5GHz band, reaching 66Mbps in our throughput test, with the client just 4.5m away from the router. This means it would take about a minute to transmit 500MB of data. This wasn't the highest score, as the D-Link DIR-825 hit 80Mbps. In our range test, however, with the client 30m away, the DIR-825's speed declined significantly to 36Mbps, while the Base Station's remained high, at 59Mbps.