Apple Time Capsule (500GB) NAS Server - Review

Apple Time Capsule (500GB) NAS Server - Review

Apple Time Capsule (500GB) Network Storage Server - ReviewWith Time Capsule, Apple blends high-bandwidth wireless networking and automated system backup in one tidy-looking package.

Specifications: Compatibility: PC, Mac.

Price: 500GB: $279.50 - $299.99; 1TB: $466.55 - $499.99

Apple's Time Capsule, announced today at the Macworld press conference, promises Mac and PC data backup over a wireless network. Time Capsule is essentially an Airport Extreme Base Station with a 500GB or 1TB hard drive built in. The 500GB version goes for $299, and the 1TB version for $499. Both are currently for sale via pre-order, with an unspecified February ship date.


When Time Capsule does ship, it appears that it will be the only device out there that combines an 802.11n wireless access point and basic network attached storage. Apple's old Airport Extreme access point comes close, in that it has 802.11n and can accept an external hard drive via a USB port. Time Capsule looks like a more complete, self-contained solution.

We love the idea of seamless data backup, and in Time Capsule we think Apple is on the right track. As much as we like HP's MediaSmart Server, its name is intimidating, and the features it provides are a bit complex for the average home customer. But with an apparently user-friendly product that's akin in appearance and function to the Wi-Fi access point you might purchase anyway, Apple appears to be almost sneaking backup capability into your home. While Time Capsule will require some software setup, the hardware installation looks to require only that you plug it into your network as you would any wireless router.

Compare to $180 for the standalone Airport Extreme, you'll naturally have to pay more for Time Capsule, due to its included hard drive: $299 for the 500GB Time Capsule, and $499 for the 1TB model. But those prices are fair compared to the cost of an 802.11n router and standalone network attached storage drives of similar size. Time Capsule will work with Time Machine, the backup utility included with Apple's Leopard Mac operating system update. And yes, Windows users, Time Capsule will also work with both Windows XP and Vista systems as well.


Unlike many of the pricier networked attached storage devices out there, Time Capsule appears to be a single drive product, which means no expanding the storage capacity with another drive. Fair enough, given the price, but we're unclear as to whether you'll be able to replace the single hard drive yourself, easily or otherwise. The Time Capsule product page on Apple's Web site doesn't suggest that it's possible. We imagine many people would find that inability a major shortcoming, because if the drive fails and you need to take it to an Apple Store for repair, you not only lose backup capability, but your wireless network goes down as well.


We have a feeling that data backup will remain a remote concern for most people, at least until drive failure happens to them. Professionals who take it seriously likely have a more robust backup capability available to them, as will the hard-core enthusiasts, who may also be turned off by the lack of user upgradeability. That leaves the savvy mainstream customer as the person most likely to purchase a Time Capsule. For those of you in that category, we suspect you'll appreciate Time Capsule's seamless integration of wireless access and data protection.