Time Capsule vs. Apple + G-Tech devices, in photos [updated x2]

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We typically don’t cover things like hard drives on iLounge, but for Apple’s new Time Capsule, we’re making a small exception. While we’re not going to do a full review or even a standard preview of the $299/500GB, $499/1TB wireless hard drive, since Apple’s marketing it as a backup device for computers rather than an iTunes- or Apple TV-ready wired or wireless storage device, some comparison photos seemed like they might be of interest to some readers. Here they are:

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Physically, the Time Capsule (center) looks like the biggest device of this bunch, larger than a Mac mini, AirPort Extreme, AirPort Express, and even a G-Technology G-Drive. In reality, it is, and it isn’t. Click on the headline for the rest of the shots; we have 15 in total to walk you through.

[Updated: Friends don’t let friends attempt wireless 100GB backups with Time Capsule. After slogging through a meager 7GB over 4 hours of backup time, with 97GB left to go, we switched to an Ethernet cable (not included) to do the initial backup. Result: 4GB backed up in roughly 45 minutes. Clearly, Time Capsule is not designed for wireless backups of high-capacity drives with substantial daily content changes (such as video editing). But smaller incremental backups, sure.]

[Update 2, Mar. 1: After using both wireless and non-wireless connections to try and integrate Time Capsule into our work and iTunes environment, we’ve given up and decided to return it. Used as a wireless device, speeds for video streaming and data transfer aren’t quite where they need to be for our needs, though it’s up in the air as to whether this is a software or hardware issue.]

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If you’re familiar with the Mac mini, AirPort Extreme, or Apple TV, there’s nothing special about the packaging or the bottom of the Time Capsule: it ships with a power cable, an installation CD, and some booklets—that’s it. The CD contains an up-to-date version of the AirPort Utility that’s capable of recognizing Capsule and integrating it into your existing home network, or using it as a brand new starting point for an 802.11n network if you don’t have one already. Four wired Ethernet ports on the back are joined by a USB port and power port; unlike AirPort Express, there’s no line-out or optical audio-out to be found.


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Here’s the Time Capsule with Apple TV. They look pretty similar in size, right? Believe it or not, they stack. Perfectly. Apple TV is shorter than the Time Capsule, but their footprints are basically identical. Whether you’ll actually want to stack them is another subject, though, because of their wireless cards and heating concerns.


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Time Capsule is shown here next to AirPort Extreme 802.11n. The chrome Apple on Time Capsule’s top, as well as its larger physical size, are the only major stylistic differences between the two otherwise extremely similar designs. This sort of makes sense, as Capsule is essentially an alternative or replacement for AirPort Extreme, plus a hard drive; Apple tried to make the bigger, more expensive product look a little more deluxe.


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Mac mini with Time Capsule. The mini has a much smaller footprint, but it’s also taller. The metal case design differentiates the two similar shapes, as does the plain plastic Apple logo on Mac mini’s top.


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AirPort Express versus Time Capsule. These devices couldn’t be much more different in terms of size and features at this point; Express has long been due an 802.11n update, but otherwise offers incoming audio streaming features missing from Time Capsule, and the ability to fit in your pocket for considerable portability.


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And here’s G-Technology’s G-Drive. Featured in Apple’s Time Machine videos last year when Leopard launched, G-Drives are superb hard disks with Mac Pro-matching, all-aluminum industrial designs, great, reliable drive mechanisms, and your choice of different interfaces (FireWire 400/800, USB, Serial ATA). The dimensions of these products are a lot different, but they’re similar in terms of capacity and pricing—Apple actually went more aggressive than G-Tech on price despite the fact that only the Time Capsule includes a full 802.11n router. The trade-off? Wire ports. A 1TB G-Drive Q for $50 more includes all sorts of wired connectivity, and Time Capsule only works through a wired Ethernet connection. Its lone USB 2.0 port is there so you can connect a network printer.


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If there’s anything interesting iPod- or iTunes-related about Time Capsule, we’ll mention it in a new column here—otherwise, we’ll add comments to this article in response to your questions, if you have them.

  1. It’s a shame there’s no audio output. It’d be nice to just replace my Airport Express with a Time Capsule, but as it is I’d have to keep the Express around just for streaming.

    Also it seems silly that Apple wouldn’t design all four products (Time Capsule, Airport Extreme, Mac mini, tv) to have the same footprint, be readily stackable, and blend aesthetically. But oh well…

  2. Hmm, the last update on March 1 is very discouraging…I’m definitely gonna wait and think twice before buying a Time Capsule. At first, I was fired up to buy it but now I’m hesitant.

    Jeremy, can you give us some more insight on the issues you had with the TC and why you returned it?


  3. Sure.

    So I was really enthusiastic about Time Capsule. I had this vision of a single wireless drive with a ton of capacity that would sit in a central location, serving as both a backup drive for several Mac computers and a wireless iTunes storage device for a media library that has outgrown the drives in my notebook computers. In a sub-ideal world, this iTunes library would be accessible only to my Macs, and couldn’t be played on, say, one of the Apple TVs here. But in an ideal world, the library would be accessible to all of the Apple devices here, and perhaps some server (like Elgato’s EyeTV 3) could even spool content off of it to iPhones, iPod touches, etc.

    That latter part would have been amazing, and frankly, I did not expect Time Capsule to be able to pull that off. However, I thought it was fair to assume that an 802.11n-based hard drive would be able to spit out video to a connected computer without lags, stuttering, etc. I spent many hours sending the media library over to Time Capsule, starting first with a wireless connection that was going so incredibly slow that I couldn’t believe it. My network is/was an 802.11n running off of an Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station, which incidentally I have had nothing but success with. Great device. But Time Capsule was a slug. Seven GB in 4 hours meant that I was going to have to keep my MacBook Pro (also 802.11n) on for an entire weekend just acting as a conduit for the attached FW800 drive to finish the transfer.

    So I shut the wireless off, attached TC to the MBP with an Ethernet cable, and started the transfer again. This time, the wired 100GB transfer took all night to finish, but did finish by the morning. That left a simple test to do: when I connected wirelessly to the TC over 802.11n with a computer, could TC send video without pausing?

    I don’t know why the answer was “no,” but TC was really not running smoothly. Video took a long time to start, and then halted in mid-playback — something that I had not experienced even when sending video of a comparable bitrate from the MacBook Pro to an Apple TV. My guess was that it was software rather than hardware, but I suppose that anything is possible.

    In recent months I have found that software fixes that I’ve expected Apple to release in days have come much later, and sometimes not at all, and other times, not remedying the Mac OS or iPod problems I (and/or readers) experience. So the idea of hanging on to Time Capsule waiting for the software to get fixed was really not appealing. I have had really great experiences with the G-Tech drives and needed additional storage capacity right away. For about the same price as the Time Capsule, the G-Drive 1TB lacked the wireless functionality but was otherwise a lot faster and used…

  4. My new TC wouldn’t stream music nicely with an Airport Express either. The solution was to connect my old Airport Extreme to it with ethernet and set up a dual range network. (TC on 5GHz, Airport Extreme and Express on 2.4GHz.)

    Disappointing that a TC can’t be used on its own.

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