Other than file-sharing, the Time Capsule offers none of the more popular NAS features. You can't use the device as an iTunes or media server to stream digital content from the device to computers, set-top boxes or game consoles -- ironic, given that most other NAS servers we've tested feature a server for Apple's own iTunes software. Also, the Time Capsule can't download files by itself or work as an FTP or an HTTP server -- both features normally found in NAS servers.
The Time Capsule lets Mac users access the shared folder remotely via the Internet using a MobileMe account. In our tests, everything worked just as it would if the computer were connected to the device directly via its wireless or wired connection. The shared folder appeared the same as when we accessed it via the local network, but it took a little longer to access because of the Internet connection. We could also access the Time Capsule's settings this way using AirPort Utility. Sadly, remote access is not available for Windows users, even if you use a MobileMe account.
It's important to note, however, that remote access might not work at all if you access the Internet via a corporate network, where, according to Apple, certain services of the Base Station could be blocked for security reasons. Although it's true that corporations tend to have tight control over their networks, other NAS servers' remote-access features, such as those of the Western Digital My Book World Edition, worked well with our corporate network. The Time Capsule and Base Station didn't.
How the Time Capsule shares files with remote users is disappointing. While other NAS servers, like Synology Disk Station DS107+ or My Book World Edition, allow users to share files with multiple users or share photo albums, Time Capsule only works with one MobileMe account at a time.
Note that, unlike the Time Capsule, most other routers support dynamic DNS, which lets you set up remote access without having to pay anything at all. You do, however, need some networking know-how to make that work.
If you have Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard) installed, the Time Capsule works very well with Time Machine, Apple's fancy backup software. All you need to do is run the Time Machine utility and choose the Time Capsule as the backup destination. The actual time taken to do a backup job, however, could be very long, depending on the amount of data you have on the computer's hard drive. Generally, you will want to connect the computer to the Time Capsule via one of its three wired connections for the first backup job. If you have a large hard drive with plenty of data, be prepared to leave it running overnight for the initial backup.
For Windows users that want to use Time Capsule as a robust backup solution, you'll need to invest in a backup software application such as Acronis. Although the built-in backup utilities of both Windows XP and Windows Vista work with Time Capsule (as they would with any external storage device), they -- especially that of Windows XP -- are far from comprehensive. Most network-storage devices we've reviewed come bundled with backup software and don't require additional utilities to work comprehensively in Windows.
The Time Capsule doesn't incorporate a way to automatically back up the content of its internal hard drive onto an external drive, so, to preserve your important files and data, you'll have to do it manually.
Just like the Base Station, the Time Capsule features a built-in firewall and supports WPA, WPA2 and 128-bit WEP for wireless encryption. It also supports Radius access control, so you can manage wireless clients from a centralised location.
Time Capsule doesn't allow parents to filter specific Web sites, but it will let them set time limits for kids' access, provided they follow the steps to get the MAC address for their kids' computers.
We tested the Time Capsule's throughput speeds in the same way we tested the Base Station's: by copying data from one computer to another using its wireless connection. This means the scores -- while much lower than the theoretical throughout speed of the wireless-n specification -- are the actual sustained data rates, after all the software and hardware overheads and interference.
We tested both the new Time Capsule and the previous version on the same day, within an hour of each other. In our 5GHz throughput test, the new Time Capsule edged out the old, scoring 60.4Mbps and 57.8Mbps, respectively. We saw a similar difference in the 2.4GHz band, with the old and new versions of the Time Capsule scoring 24.9Mbps and 29.7Mbps, respectively.
In our range test, where the client was 30m away, the new Time Capsule scored 33.8Mbps at 2.4GHz -- faster than the 20.3Mbps of the older Time Capsule. At 5GHz, the new Time Capsule scored 51.5Mbps. The older Time Capsule couldn't hold a 5GHz connection at that range long enough to complete the test.
In our mixed-mode test, where the Time Capsule was set to work with both wireless-n and wireless-g clients simultaneously, it scored 31.8Mbps, compared to the 20Mbps of the older Time Capsule. That's slightly above average for routers we've tested this year. In our testing facility -- an office building not optimised for wireless range -- we were able to hold a steady connection to the new Time Capsule from about 61m in the 2.4GHz band and about 72m in the 5GHz band. The older Time Capsule's range was about 3m less in each band.
Our NAS test consists of copying data between the router and a computer using a Gigabit wired connection. We used a 7GB file and timed how long it took for the system to write the file to the Time Capsule's hard drive and read it back. This is where we saw the most improvement over the previous version of the Time Capsule. While the previous version had some of the lowest scores we've seen this year, achieving only 81.2Mbps for the write test and 114.2Mbps for the read test, the new Time Capsule achieved some of the fastest scores we've ever seen, achieving 200.4Mbps in the write test and 204.7Mbps in the read test.