iPhones

AirPort Express Elevation

As someone who’s been reviewing software and hardware for a while now, I like to think that I have a fairly reliable gut reaction to new products. But I admit to being wrong about Griffin Technology’s $25 AirBase (   ), a stand for Apple’s AirPort Express Base Station. When I first saw it, my immediate reaction was akin to “$25 for a glorified power cable?” But after using an AirBase for a month, I’ve come to the conclusion that my initial impression was dead wrong—the AirBase is actually quite useful.

The bottom of the AirBase is a weighted metal piece (the entire unit weighs a hefty 9 ounces) with a 3.25" x 2.75" rubber “foot” to keep the unit from sliding around a desk or shelf. The top of the AirBase is made of white plastic and provides an AC connector that takes the place of the AirPort Express’ removable plug—you slide your AirPort Express onto the connector and to seat it snugly and securely in the AirBase. You then connect the AirBase to an AC outlet using the included cable.

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But what does the AirBase actually do that makes it worth a $25 price premium over the AC plug that comes with the AirPort Express? Four things: First, and most simply, by letting you place your AirPort Express on a desk or shelf—where it’s less likely to be obstructed by furniture and other solid objects—the AirBase helps improve reception. This isn’t just marketing speak—when I moved my Express (which provides network access to an older Mac and a printer) from a wall plug behind a desk to an AirBase on top of the desk, reception improved significantly. Second, by placing the AirBase in an accessible location, it’s much easier to quickly connect/disconnect Ethernet, USB, and audio cables—or to quickly grab the Express itself. (I do the latter whenever I go on a business trip.) Third, having the Express’ indicator light in a visible location is useful for diagnosing connection problems—I’ve appreciated this visibility more than I expected. Finally, the rear of the AirBase has a metal “cable management” loop that does exactly what it says: By threading Ethernet/USB/audio cables through the loop before plugging them in, your cable clutter is reduced. Oh, and did I mention that the AirBase also looks great? It’s definitely a conversation piece—everyone who sees it asks about it.

So I freely concede that my initial reaction to the AirBase was way off, um, base, as I clearly misjudged its usefulness. Or maybe the AirBase is just one of those products you have to use to appreciate. Whichever the case may be, I plan on buying one.

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