Ask Max: New 802.11n on my MacBook Pro?
I purchased a 17" MacBook Pro from you folks (core duo processor) a while back and was wondering if there is a new Airport card that will bring it up to the new 802.11n speeds for wireless Ethernet. I haven't seen any info on this so I don't know if it's possible. I'm thinking of getting the new Airport Extreme and of course would like to be able to get the maximum speed out of the thing.
I currently have a Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL wired router with 8 ports, and the network currently consists of a PowerMac G5 (dual 2GHz), a Mac mini G4 and my Intel 17" MacBook Pro (2.16 GHz, core duo).
I'm not concerned so much about file transfers between the laptop and the rest of the computers, but mainly want the speed for the laptop for Internet browsing.
According to Apple the only computers that support 802.11n connections are Core 2 Duo and Xeon based Macs, which of course is true for those Macs with Airport already installed from Apple. However, there is an unsanctioned upgrade option using Apple parts. We have performed some tests in the PowerMax lab and verified that you can replace the wireless card on older Intel Macs with the Apple 802.11n card. We used the Mac Pro wireless upgrade kit to replace the older 802.11b/g cards in MacBooks and Macbook Pros. It's not easy work to open your MacBook Pro and exchange the wireless cards but it is a clean upgrade without the need for bulky cards hanging out of the computer.
The larger question is whether the 802.11n functionality is necessary for what you do. The 802.11n Airport Extreme Base Station is definitely worth the money even for non-802.11n Mac owners. It has printer/drive sharing and other cool features, but the best benefit is even without 802.11n clients on the network it offers extended range. The truth is that your cable or DSL modem is serving up an internet connection slower than even 802.11b speeds, so you really will not get any internet browsing speed bump with 802.11n connectivity. Also, when you have 802.11g and 802.11n clients on the same network, everyone's connection speed decreases. All your computers would have to be 802.11n-enabled to get the expanded network speeds. I do recommend the new base station for all Mac users, but not primarily for its network speed.