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White & Black MacBook Q&A - Revised December 14, 2007

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What is AirPort? What is AirPort Extreme?

AirPort (802.11) provides a maximum wireless data rate of 11 megabits per second, and AirPort Extreme (802.11g) provides a maximum wireless data rate of 54 megabits per second, which is five times faster. AirPort Extreme is backwards-compatible with AirPort, and works in much the same way. However, it is worth noting that at 54 megabits per second, the "Base Station range" is only 50 feet, whereas the range is 150 feet at 11 megabits per second.

All MacBook systems have AirPort Extreme pre-installed.

Does the MacBook support 802.11a?

Apple's technical specifications for the MacBook simply state that it provides "built-in 54-Mbps AirPort Extreme wireless networking (based on 802.11g standard)".

However, like other Intel-based Macs that don't specifically mention compatibility, page 130 of the original MacBook User's Guide states that it has a "802.11a/b/g Mini-PCIe card" and although no more "official" information is available, several readers have confirmed that MacBook models work with an 802.11a network.

What is the difference between 802.11a and 802.11g (AirPort Extreme)? notes that 802.11a "operate[s] at radio frequencies between 5.725 GHz and 5.850 GHz. . . [and] data speeds as high as 54 Mbps are possible. There is less interference with 802.11a than with 802.11b, because 802.11a provides more available channels, and because the frequency spectrum employed by 802.11b (2.400 GHz to 2.4835 GHz) is shared with various household appliances and medical devices."

It is also worth noting that 802.11g (AirPort Extreme) also offers data speeds as high as 54 Mbps and is backwards compatible with 802.11b (AirPort). However, data speeds on 802.11g (AirPort Extreme) networks are reduced by the same interference that plagues 802.11b (AirPort) networks as well as the presence of devices using the older 802.11b standard. As a result, deploying 802.11a may make sense in environments where speed is more important than backwards compatibility.

Does the MacBook support 802.11n?

The original MacBook "Core Duo" models -- the MacBook "Core Duo" 1.83 13-Inch, MacBook "Core Duo" 2.0 13-Inch (White), and MacBook "Core Duo" 2.0 13-Inch (Black) -- do not support 802.11n.

All subsequent MacBook models support 802.11n, but the "Late 2006" models required a firmware update before it was available for use. For the wireless capabilities of all "recent" -- G3 and later -- Macs, please refer to the AirPort Capability listing.

Also see: What is 802.11n? How is it different from 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11a?

Does the MacBook come with a modem?

No. None of the Intel-based Macs, including the MacBook, come with a modem. Apple offers the compact external "Apple USB Modem" for US$49 for those who need a modem either for daily use or for a backup option while travelling.

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