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:
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.]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.