Selasa, 12 Maret 2013

#6: Apple AirPort Express Base Station (MC414LL/A)

The Airport Express, much like most Apple devices, is amazingly simple to set up and is up and running in no time. I have this connected to extend the wi-fi network off the Time Capsule that is essentially the main router for the network. Quick set up procedure and review:

FORM FACTOR - the device looks sleek and is probably exactly the same size as Apple TV. Doesn't take up much space. It comes with a power cord that needs to be attached, unlike the previous generation AE which had the power outlet prongs built in. The addition of the power cord somewhat reduces options in terms of where the device can be placed in the house. If you don't mind the cable showing, you can place it anywhere in the house. But if you want to install this say in the living room where cables would look unpleasant, you're better off installing it somewhere else in the house (or behind furniture where it can't be seen). Not a major issue but one worth mentioning.

SET UP - I had this device up and running in probably less than 5 minutes, it is that simple.

1. After plugging in the device to a power outlet, wait for the device's light to turn from amber to solid green, indicating that it is ready for use. There is no need to connect this to the router with an ethernet cable.

2. Open Airport Utility on the Mac (Applications -> Utilities -> Airport Utility). If you are using a PC, the Airport Utility for Windows will need to be downloaded first.

3. Inside Airport Utility, the AE Base Station will appear for configuration. This, I think, is a rather important step depending on what you're looking to use this device for. If you are looking to boost Wi-Fi signal in the house, select the "Extend Existing Wireless Network" when setting up this device. This will essentially connect the AE to your main wireless router to boost signal. If however, you don't care about boosting Wi-Fi signal and care more about setting up a network for guests to access, you can select the "Create New Wireless Network" for this device. Under both options, you can still use the device for Air Play from your Apple devices.

4. You can then proceed to name the Airport Express device and set up a password in the Airport Utility set up. If you are setting up multiple devices in the house it is useful to name each one individually so that you know which device to connect to later when using Air Play (e.g. AE Living Room, or AE Basement, etc). Now the device should be up and running and you will notice a significant improvement in Wi-Fi signal around the house.

5. Once the initial set up is complete, you can also download the Airport Utility App to your iPhone/iPad/iPod to manage the configuration of the AE station straight from the handheld device, if required.

AIR PLAY - The AE device comes with a built-in 3.5mm audio out jack. You can use any 3.5mm to RCA cable to connect the device to the input of your stereo. Once this is done, play a track on your handheld, it will initially stream on the handheld itself. Now, go into the "Now Playing" part of the iPod and next to the track forward button, you will see a small icon. Clicking on that icon will give you the option of changing the sound output device from the handheld to the Airport Express. Select the AE device at this point and music will stream from the stereo (moment of truth!). You can change tracks and control volume right from the iPod!

COMPARISON TO APPLE TV - If you are looking for a device only for Air Play, Apple TV may perhaps be a better option because it has the ability of streaming audio and video from the iPod, connects to iTunes or Netflix for online streaming services, and allows online gaming. It has an HDMI out and also comes with a remote that allows you to manage the device and what is being streamed on it. However, note that the Apple TV does NOT come with a standard 3.5mm audio jack, it comes with an Optical Audio jack, which might not connect to all stereos. Check for cables that would be able to connect your stereo to the HDMI or optical audio jack. If that doesn't work, Airport Express is the better alternative because it has a 3.5mm audio jack and almost all stereos connect easily to this through a 3.5m-Dual RCA cable. In addition, Airport Express serves as a Wi-Fi repeater that Apple TV doesn't.


UPDATE - 12/28 - Recently discovered a neat feature. If you have more than 1 Airport Express, or if you can have AE and an Apple TV, you can stream music from iTunes to all devices at the same time using your PC/Mac. This is a great way to play the same music in different rooms if you have the devices connected to independent speakers. Can't do this from a iPhone/iPod/iPad (they let you stream only to one source at a time), but this feature is supported on PCs and Macs. Thought it was really cool!

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