A router with a built-in hard drive? Match made in heaven or something you should avoid at all costs? We take a closer look at the Apple Time Capsule.
Lets start by saying that I am a very big fan of Apple's Time Machine software backup offering on the Mac. Having been a beneficiary of the software when I had my laptop stolen before Christmas (it was just 2 weeks after I had installed the software) I am a big believer that backup, when simple, works and works well.
Apple's Time Capsule promises to do my backup without me having to think about it and that sounds great. So what do you get in the box?
Well get Apple's 802.11n Airport Extreme Base Station router in its entirety, including the 3 Ethernet LAN ports, USB socket to attach an external drive or printer and all bundled in a slimline casing that is virtually identical to the Airport Extreme Base Station released last year.
Adding to that mix is a 500GB or 1TB hard drive encased inside and this allows you to either backup your information via Apple's backup software or use it as a network storage without the need for connecting wires.
Setup, for those even with very little knowledge of how networks run is incredibly easy although Apple do recommend that if you are backing up your entire hard drive using Time Machine that you do it via a wired connection and overnight (it takes a while).
Once installed it's backup made incredibly easy, i.e., you don't have to remember to connect a hard drive to back up you files.
For those not familiar with Time Machine, the software, which runs in the background of Apple's latest Operating System Mac OSX10.5, scans your hard drive every hour for files that have changed. If it has, then it gets updated, allowing you to access previous versions of the file at points in its life, just like a time machine (geddit?).
Get past the initial setup and running speeds in our tests where good. It's obviously not as fast as a wired connection, but good enough for copying across files, especially if the computer is connecting via 802.11n rather than 802.11g.
Once you've found the file you need, you click on it and it's brought back to the future for you to use. It's as easy as that.
So what's the catch? Well there are some, but nothing that's a massive deal breaker.
While the device allows you to add more storage via the USB socket on the back, be it a USB stick or a full blown hard drive that can then be accessed by anyone on the network, you won't however be able to mirror your drive to treat it as a media server to share you iTunes collection around the house.
You also won't be able to use the drive to expand the included hard drive if you run out of space, but then this is unlikely to happen any time soon.
Another gripe is that while you can connect a USB printer so it can be used on the network, this isn't a print sharing device so if you print to it and someone else is using it, then you'll get an error rather than it sitting in the queue, but then for what this is likely to be used for this is no real biggy.
Finally the hard drive isn't replaceable. A trait from Apple at the moment where the components are sealed out of sight, it's not something you should overtly worry about, but it could become an issue if it goes wrong.
Finally if you're a Windows user you might be scratching your head as to why you would want to bother, as you won't get the benefit of the Time Machine software.
Remembering to backup is always a pain and Time Machine, for us, helped made it easy.
However, you still have to remember to connect your hard drive to your computer for it to do the backup.
Time Capsule takes away that need to remember so as long as you are connected to the network you'll be backing up without know it.
Add that to the fact that with more of us sharing photos and other data around the house, offering a networked drive of some size from the start makes life easier all around.