As with all popular hardware, this Apple product has changed since its introduction. The first version of AirPort Express arrived in 2004. The original shipped with an 802.11g networking chip and weighed less than 7 ounces, marking the company's entry into the ultra-portable router market. Official specs listed its range at around 150 feet.
In 2008, Apple kicked the Express up a notch, throwing in an 802.11n chip that doubled its wireless range to around 300 feet. That frequency also meant data transfer speeds that were nearly five times faster than before [source: Apple]. But beyond the change-up in networking chips, the product was pretty much the same.
The Express isn't the only AirPort in town. For power users, Apple also unleashed the Airport Extreme, which takes the Express's concepts and beefs them up significantly.
The company unveiled the first Extreme in 2003, and as with the Express, it used an 802.11g chip. It featured all of the same capabilities of the Express, but instead of maxing out at 10 users, it supported up to 50. With that increase in capacity, the Extreme was suited for small- and medium-sized organizations of all types.
Apple released an update to the Extreme in 2007. The current unit substitutes an 802.11n chip for the older 802.11g, meaning it's roughly five times faster. Those increased speeds, of course, make it a lot easier to send the image- and sound-laden multimedia files that have become staples of both personal and business correspondence.
The Extreme has other features that make it valuable to power users, including not one but three LAN (local area networking) ports. It also has multiple antennas, meaning it can send and receive data simultaneously for faster transfer.
As such, the Extreme is a bit larger than the Express. It measures 6.5 inches (16.5 centimeters) square and 1.3 inches (3.3 centimeters) thick.
Yet both the Express and the Extreme are rather tiny by traditional router standards. Their portability means just about anyone can set up a wireless base station anywhere they need it. And on the next page, you'll read more about what it takes to get data flying at your own Apple AirPort.