I wrote about the Airport Express from Apple when it was first announced; you can find those posts here and here. James Duncan Davidson has a great post on his first day with the Airport Express and makes some comments and observations that I had wondered about, not having had the time to get around to purchasing an Airport Express for myself yet. From his post:
Within minutes of picking up the box, I had the device out of its packaging and into the shelving around my home stereo. And a few minutes after that (after installing a new Airport Admin Utility and a Airport Express Setup Assistant) it was set up and running.
Of course the next thing I did was stream audio to it from iTunes. And it worked. Nicely. In fact, every minute I've been home this weekend, there's been music streaming to my stereo from my laptop. It's pretty seamless. The only hint that there's not a wire between the laptop and the big speakers is the bit of lag when playback is started or stopped. Oh, and the fact that there isn't a freaking cable between the laptop and the stereo.
So the Airport Express seems to be as easy to configure as the Airport Extreme base station, which is nice, and it seems to provide the AirTunes function quickly and efficiently out of the box.
Beyond its role as a audio sink for iTunes, the Airport Express is first and foremost a wireless base station. And it's an awesome one. You know from the specs it's going to be small, but when you hold it in your hand and realize that in the box is a power supply, wireless base station, print server, and a audio output... well, let's just say it's surprising.
Outside of getting a few of these for my house, I really want one to travel with and use in the hotel room -- a wireless access point the size of the Apple power supply is a pretty cool thing. Additionally, for many users that have a cable modem in a small apartment, the Express may be the cheapest solution for a small wireless access point.
The Airport Express doesn't come with an AC power extender cable in the box . . . I'm using one of my laptop extender cables to carry power to the Airport Extreme rather than using the simple plug. This lets me put the base station up on the shelf rather than plugged directly into a plug so that I can see the nice green light from the couch.
You can buy the extender cables at the Apple Store. Hopefully future versions of the Express will come with the extender. This is a primary concern for many home stereo system users that may want to plug the Express directly into a wall outlet -- the shape of the Express is not going to allow you to push any solid-walled furniture back up against it.
The feature pictured above is the Express profile manager. Why is this cool? Well, if you travel with your Express, you can save the configuration for your home network and save various configurations for different hotels or office buildings.
One thing that Davidson notes and I had wondered about is the support for laptop power. How cool would it be if there was another port on the Express that allowed you power your laptop while it was performing all the rest of its functions. Maybe the G5 Powerbooks and iBooks will simply have an Express/charger combo device.