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Teardown of Apple's new AirPort Extreme finds enough empty space for a hard drive

post #1 of 68
Thread Starter 
Apple's new tower-shaped AirPort Extreme is simple to take apart, and utilizes the same design layout as the company's new Time Capsule, including space for a 3.5-inch hard drive.

Extreme


Upon removing the top cover of the new AirPort Extreme, iFixit found in its teardown that the device includes 3.5 inches of empty space. The solutions provider was able to fit a standard-sized 3.50inch SATA hard drive inside the device without issue.

However, there are no connectors included with the AirPort Extreme that would allow users to add a hard drive to the inside of the router. Apple is presumably just using the same design for its new AirPort Extreme as it is with the updated Time Capsule, which comes with internal storage options of two and three terabytes of data.

Extreme


The repairability of the new AirPort Extreme was praised, with the device being given a score of 8 out of 10 by iFixit. Along with the Apple TV and Mac mini, it is said to be one of the most repairable Apple devices in recent history.

Specifically, the new 802.11ac-capable router is held together by a minimal amount of glue and standard Torx screws. That will make getting inside the AirPort Extreme easier for enthusiasts and experts.

Extreme


The AirPort Extreme includes six antenna cables that run up the center device and attach to a plate at the top, which functions as the antenna. The new 802.11ac Wi-Fi promises speeds of up to 1.3 Gbps, which is triple the rate of the previous 802.11n models.

In another design change, the updated AirPort Extreme has moved the power supply ? a Delta Electronics 12V 5A unit ? to the inside of the device. That allows for the device's cable to eschew a bulky "power brick."

Extreme


iFixit also found the following chips included on the AirPort Extreme logic board:
  • Broadcom BCM53019 router SOC with gigabit switch
  • Broadcom BCM4360KLMG
  • Hynix H5TC4G63AFR 512 MB synchronous DRAM
  • Micron 25Q256A 32 MB serial flash
  • Skyworks 5003L1 WLAN power amplifier
  • Skyworks 2623L high power WLAN power amplifier
  • TDK TLA-7T201HF

The new AirPort Extreme and two new Time Capsule models, unveiled at this week's Worldwide Developers Conference keynote, are Apple's first 802.11ac routers. Currently, they are only compatible with the latest MacBook Airs in Apple's lineup, though it's expected that future devices will take advantage of the faster Wi-Fi connectivity.
post #2 of 68
"Teardown of Apple's new AirPort Extreme finds enough empty space for a hard drive"

Well duh ... 1biggrin.gif

This baby is going to capable of being a local data centre when SSD priced fall.

edit/ I am taking 'Hard Drive' not to mean conventional spinners here which would be silly.
Edited by digitalclips - 6/12/13 at 6:20am
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post #3 of 68
So their AirPort Extreme which is essentially a router has room for a 3.5 drive, but the new Mac Pro doesn't!?! 1wink.gif
post #4 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by azentropy View Post

So their AirPort Extreme which is essentially a router has room for a 3.5 drive, but the new Mac Pro doesn't!?! 1wink.gif

I see this as space for a load of SSD in the future. What's the term ...'future proofing'?
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post #5 of 68

"Add your own HDD" kits available on eBay in 3... 2... 1....

post #6 of 68
"Currently, they are only compatible with the latest MacBook Airs in Apple's lineup..."

Oh, so they ONLY support 802.11ac? No, they are compatible with all 802.11 devices but only the 2013 MBA takes advantage of the higher speed. Poor choice of wording, AI.
post #7 of 68
Nice comments about adding a hard drive to a device without a SATA controller or port. You guys must not have had your coffee yet.
post #8 of 68
It irritates me that sites like iFixit give out 'repairability' scores.
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post #9 of 68

I wonder...

If you had an 802.11ac capable machine and one of these routers modified with an SSD...

What kind of read/write speeds would the end user effectively see to the SSD?

Could this be faster than a conventional local HDD?

post #10 of 68
Upon removing the top cover of the new AirPort Extreme, iFixit found in its teardown that the device includes 3.5 inches of empty space. The solutions provider was able to fit a standard-sized 3.50inch SATA hard drive inside the device without issue.

That's amazing! I think during the keynote it was explained that they could fit a hard drive in there...

Was I the only one there who listened?
post #11 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by brutus009 View Post

I wonder...
If you had an 802.11ac capable machine and one of these routers modified with an SSD...

What kind of read/write speeds would the end user effectively see to the SSD?
Could this be faster than a conventional local HDD?

Well I'd say yes ... 1biggrin.gif

I replaced a 7200 rpm HDD with a SDD in my MBPro and it was like a tortoise v a hair. Not to mention Apple have a new breed of SSDs in the new MacBook Air that is even faster.

That space can probably take multiple SSDs if not in this release but future ones.
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post #12 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by brutus009 View Post

I wonder...

If you had an 802.11ac capable machine and one of these routers modified with an SSD...

What kind of read/write speeds would the end user effectively see to the SSD?

Could this be faster than a conventional local HDD?

 

Probably not and the reason why is likely to be the same reason that there's no USB 3.0 support - the Airport Extreme's CPU/memory simply can't handle high disk throughput. It's a common problem on a lot of NAS drives.

post #13 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


I see this as space for a load of SSD in the future. What's the term ...'future proofing'?

 

Um, no. This is nothing more than Apple not bothering to create a case specific to the Extreme. They are simply using the Time Capsule case.

Just as I stated in the previous threads, the Time Capsule has a 3.5" hard drive mounted vertically on the diagonal (it was the only way it was going to fit). However, this space is not used for the Extreme. And if the antenna are all in the plate at the top, that means that there is no excuse for the Extreme to be as big as it is. The space wasn't used to create some fancy 3D antenna layout. Apple simply couldn't be bothered to create a more efficient case design for the Extreme. Sad.
post #14 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

 

Probably not and the reason why is likely to be the same reason that there's no USB 3.0 support - the Airport Extreme's CPU/memory simply can't handle high disk throughput. It's a common problem on a lot of NAS drives.

 

Yep. Even via gigabit Ethernet the current Extremes can't full use of even a USB 2 drive. Unless Apple gave the new ones much faster processors, USB 3 and/or SSD would be pointless.
post #15 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by woodycurmudgeon View Post

Nice comments about adding a hard drive to a device without a SATA controller or port. You guys must not have had your coffee yet.

 

One has to wonder though...if the Extreme has the same power supply as the Time Capsule (ie, it can power a drive), and if you can tap into it, could you use a USB-to-SATA adapter kit to hack together an internal drive connection?
post #16 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

One has to wonder though...if the Extreme has the same power supply as the Time Capsule (ie, it can power a drive), and if you can tap into it, could you use a USB-to-SATA adapter kit to hack together an internal drive connection?
Speaking of power supplies, did anyone notice where it is in the new Mac Pro? Could it be an external brick?
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post #17 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by woodycurmudgeon View Post

Nice comments about adding a hard drive to a device without a SATA controller or port. You guys must not have had your coffee yet.

Hence I wrote ... "I see this as space for a load of SSD in the future. What's the term ...'future proofing'?"
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post #18 of 68
Of course it has room for a hard drive.. that was stated in the keynote. Seriously, did they even watch the keynote?
post #19 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

Um, no. This is nothing more than Apple not bothering to create a case specific to the Extreme. They are simply using the Time Capsule case.


Just as I stated in the previous threads, the Time Capsule has a 3.5" hard drive mounted vertically on the diagonal (it was the only way it was going to fit). However, this space is not used for the Extreme. And if the antenna are all in the plate at the top, that means that there is no excuse for the Extreme to be as big as it is. The space wasn't used to create some fancy 3D antenna layout. Apple simply couldn't be bothered to create a more efficient case design for the Extreme. Sad.

Sorry I'll stop my involvement with the guessing game here, I defer to your inside knowledge at Apple. 1wink.gif
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post #20 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

Um, no. This is nothing more than Apple not bothering to create a case specific to the Extreme. They are simply using the Time Capsule case.


Just as I stated in the previous threads, the Time Capsule has a 3.5" hard drive mounted vertically on the diagonal (it was the only way it was going to fit). However, this space is not used for the Extreme. And if the antenna are all in the plate at the top, that means that there is no excuse for the Extreme to be as big as it is. The space wasn't used to create some fancy 3D antenna layout. Apple simply couldn't be bothered to create a more efficient case design for the Extreme. Sad.

The vertical space is hardly wasted even in the airport. There is plenty of stuff crammed in on the sides of the drive bay.

As for not having different cases, why bother? Seems like it would be throwing away money designing and manufacturing two cases. 99.9% of apples customers won't care if there is a small amount of wasted space, and while some love and some hate the new vertical design, most simply don't care. It is, after all, a wifi base station; nobody is going to sit there and admire it for its beauty.
post #21 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vadania View Post

Upon removing the top cover of the new AirPort Extreme, iFixit found in its teardown that the device includes 3.5 inches of empty space. The solutions provider was able to fit a standard-sized 3.50inch SATA hard drive inside the device without issue.

That's amazing! I think during the keynote it was explained that they could fit a hard drive in there...

Was I the only one there who listened?

 


No, that's the first thing I thought of as well. You just beat me to it!

post #22 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

"Add your own HDD" kits available on eBay in 3... 2... 1....

So buy an AE for $199. An eBay aftermarket kit and likely cheaper components. And a hard drive. 1oyvey.gif

Or a 2 TB HD for $299. 1smoking.gif

No brainer

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Time Capsule 5, (3) AirPort Express 2, (2) Apple TV 3

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post #23 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

 

Um, no. This is nothing more than Apple not bothering to create a case specific to the Extreme. They are simply using the Time Capsule case.

Just as I stated in the previous threads, the Time Capsule has a 3.5" hard drive mounted vertically on the diagonal (it was the only way it was going to fit). However, this space is not used for the Extreme. And if the antenna are all in the plate at the top, that means that there is no excuse for the Extreme to be as big as it is. The space wasn't used to create some fancy 3D antenna layout. Apple simply couldn't be bothered to create a more efficient case design for the Extreme. Sad.

Not sad, just good design. According to the WDDC Keynote and Apple's Airport Extreme page: "Designed with performance in mind. With the antennas at the top of the elevated design, AirPort Extreme now has a higher platform for dispersing the signal." The height of both the Airport Extreme and Airport Time Capsule, combined with the positioning of the antennas at the top of the tower, mitigate against the type of signal obstructions that slow Wi-fi speeds. I suspect it also helps with their 'Beamforming' technology. Smart move and very much "thinking different" if you ask me.

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post #24 of 68

I would love to custom fit 2x 2.5" 2TB HDD inside with Raid 1 as an NAS.  In fact do time capsule offer this function? Or could it only be used as an backup server?

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post #25 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiggin View Post

 

Um, no. This is nothing more than Apple not bothering to create a case specific to the Extreme. They are simply using the Time Capsule case.
...

 

In all fairness, it's more like Apple reusing the entire same design from the Time Capsule, not just the case.  I find that kind of irritating because it turns out that the main reason for the "coffee can" shape is in fact the drive and not the antennas as they kind of implied at the WWDC event.

 

I would rather have the Extreme in the same format as the old Extreme along with the proviso to "put it up high," for better reception.  Now if a user wants a new router but doesn't need the drive, they have to buy this "heavier than it needs to be," "taller than it needs to be," and "larger than it needs to be" item with a giant empty space inside.  

 

Personally, I've been waiting to buy this, but the teardown gives me great pause.  When you think about the fact that the Time Capsule versions have giant spinning hard drives in them, it's shaping up to be almost a "fatty nano" type of product.  A one-off design that's possibly doomed to be replaced after a single version.  

 

Now that I've read this as well, I am almost certain that I won't be buying this product at all, even though I've been waiting for six months for it to be announced, and almost bought it yesterday sight unseen.  

post #26 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by RichL View Post

Probably not and the reason why is likely to be the same reason that there's no USB 3.0 support - the Airport Extreme's CPU/memory simply can't handle high disk throughput. It's a common problem on a lot of NAS drives.

 

OK, so the bottleneck is processing power.

Could a cheap ARM SOC get the job done?

As this becomes viable, local storage can get smaller, thus laptops like the MBA can get smaller too.

post #27 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTR View Post

It irritates me that sites like iFixit give out 'repairability' scores.
Why?

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post #28 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post


Why?

 

Not to speak for the other person, but to me, it's irritating because it's like giving a "repairability score" on a Toaster or a Video tape recorder.  It's "scoring" something that's entirely irrelevant to the device.  It's like giving a car bad marks in a review for having an automatic transmission because of some misguided old-fashioned idea that only manual transmissions are what people want.  

post #29 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andysol View Post


So buy an AE for $199. An eBay aftermarket kit and likely cheaper components. And a hard drive. 1oyvey.gif

Or a 2 TB HD for $299. 1smoking.gif

No brainer

 

In the UK, the prices are:

 

AE: £169

TC 2TB: £249

TC 3TB: £349

 

4TB drives can be had for £137. I'll let you do the sums on that. 1wink.gif

post #30 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by iaeen View Post


The vertical space is hardly wasted even in the airport. There is plenty of stuff crammed in on the sides of the drive bay.

As for not having different cases, why bother? Seems like it would be throwing away money designing and manufacturing two cases. 99.9% of apples customers won't care if there is a small amount of wasted space, and while some love and some hate the new vertical design, most simply don't care. It is, after all, a wifi base station; nobody is going to sit there and admire it for its beauty.

 

It's very un-Apple to have that much empty space. Apple prides itself on making things as small/thin as possible purely for asthetic reasons. And yes, Apple does want people to admire the looks of their products, even a wi-fi router.

As for comments about antenna performance...perhaps Apple is stinging still from antenna-gate. LOL The main performance gain is probably getting the antennas away from the power supply which they moved inside of the case. See, Apple does want you to admire it's base station! :-) I guess the design will also discourage people from stacking things on top of it, too. I used to stack my Extreme and older model mini together. So that will help performance. Still, I'd rather have a smaller unit (lighter, less plastic, etc).

Edit: Hm, I notice there are a few heat sinks in there, and a fan, too. Did the previous gen Extreme have a fan (mine is two gens old)? I wonder if the cooling is also a carry over from the Time Capsule, too, which may need it for the hard drive, or if the Extreme requires that much cooling. I know my Extreme runs pretty warm, but that's less of an issue than for Time Capsule with it's more senstive hard drive. I'm sure the internal power supply needs cooling, too.
Edited by Wiggin - 6/12/13 at 8:43am
post #31 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Robin Huber View Post


Speaking of power supplies, did anyone notice where it is in the new Mac Pro? Could it be an external brick?

 

I'm pretty sure it's internal.  

 

Once you slide the top case off, there are four screws that take off another piece that's shaped like a section of a cylinder that contains the ports, and what looks like the power supply.  It's so tiny on the images though that one can't be sure. 

post #32 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by woodycurmudgeon View Post

...only the 2013 MBA takes advantage of the higher speed.

To that point, what do you think are the chances that existing Apple devices (e.g., my new late-2012 27" iMac) can be upgraded to 802.11ac?

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post #33 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

 

Not to speak for the other person, but to me, it's irritating because it's like giving a "repairability score" on a Toaster or a Video tape recorder.  It's "scoring" something that's entirely irrelevant to the device.  It's like giving a car bad marks in a review for having an automatic transmission because of some misguided old-fashioned idea that only manual transmissions are what people want.  

I'd agree if it were a generalist review from a generalist tech site, but the site is called iFixit.  They cater to an audience that wants repairability.  Maybe the mainstream audience doesn't care, but iFixit's audience does.

 

Not sure why you're irritated by a specialist website catering for a specialist audience with a specialist angle.

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post #34 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

Not to speak for the other person, but to me, it's irritating because it's like giving a "repairability score" on a Toaster or a Video tape recorder.  It's "scoring" something that's entirely irrelevant to the device.  It's like giving a car bad marks in a review for having an automatic transmission because of some misguided old-fashioned idea that only manual transmissions are what people want.  

Bingo.

Gazoobee gets a gold star.
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post #35 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



I replaced a 7200 rpm HDD with a SDD in my MBPro and it was like a tortoise v a hair. 

Is that anything like the hair on my soap?

post #36 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by Crowley View Post

I'd agree if it were a generalist review from a generalist tech site, but the site is called iFixit.  They cater to an audience that wants repairability.  Maybe the mainstream audience doesn't care, but iFixit's audience does.

 

Not sure why you're irritated by a specialist website catering for a specialist audience with a specialist angle.

 

Mostly because they are always pushed forward by tech sites, tech bloggers, and self-appointed techie "masters" as being relevant and mainstream when they clearly aren't.  

 

Probably too many words have already been wasted on this minor point however, so this is me shutting up ...

post #37 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanaCameron View Post


To that point, what do you think are the chances that existing Apple devices (e.g., my new late-2012 27" iMac) can be upgraded to 802.11ac?


Just buy an 802.11ac USB adapter.  Not that difficult to solve.

 

As for upgrading the internals....Name one time in Apple's history that they have made that possible.  You'd have better luck ordering a beer in Baghdad.

post #38 of 68
Quote:
Originally Posted by woodycurmudgeon View Post

As for upgrading the internals....Name one time in Apple's history that they have made that possible.

The introduction of 802.11n...

Since the hardware was already in there and we didn't know.
post #39 of 68
I seriously doubt even with 802.11ac speeds, that you'll get data transferred noticeably faster with a SSD vs a HDD... Wifi is still pretty slow.
post #40 of 68
Even with 802.11ac speeds, you would not see a performance gain with an SSD vs a spinning drive. Other than reliability, there's no reason for an SSD, and since they are so much more expensive, a traditional HD would be a better choices for a wireless backup.
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