Western Digital My Net N900 Central Setup
Despite the addition of the hard drive, we're happy to report setting up the Central is no more difficult than an ordinary router. The simplest way to get up and running is to use the CD Western Digital provides, though we do wish more companies would drop the CD in favour of USB keys. The Wizard takes care of connection, password and SSID settings and enables the Central's internal disk for use. The Central's storage then shows up as a network drive on all connected computers and content can be added and removed as you would a local drive.
Customising settings is straightforward too as WD has come up with the most intuitive and graphically rich router UI we've seen away from Cisco's Cloud Connect. Meanwhile the WD 2go Android app and iOS app are also well thought out, though Apple users are limited by the support of codecs with the app not converting incompatible file types on the fly and there is no gallery mode for pictures. That said content can be downloaded for offline viewing and a recent update enables WD 2go to be linked to Dropbox accounts to unify both NAS and true Cloud storage.
Western Digital My Net N900 Central Performance
So the Central is well featured and easy to setup and administer but no looker - how does it perform? The answer depends on what bands your equipment can support. If the majority of your laptops, tablets and phones are restricted to 2.4GHz Wi-Fi then we'd suggest you look elsewhere. At one metre, 10 metres, 10 metres with a wall in-between and 13 metres with two walls in-between we attained maximum speeds of just 7.03MB (56.2Mbit) per second, 5.74MB (45.9Mbit) per second, 4.78MB (38.24Mbit) per second and a measly 473KB (3.7Mbit) per second respectively.
On the flip side if you have newer 5GHz capable products the excitement should rise as we saw a near 30 per cent jump in all results and, most surprisingly given the distance problems usually associated with 5GHz, a big increase to 2.13MB (17.04Mbit) per second at the furthest distance. While the former figures leave it trailing the likes of the benchmark D-Link DIR-645 and Linksys EA4500, the 5GHz results are near enough a match.
Did FasTrack work? Largely yes. Obviously with a poor Wi-Fi signal at distance additional bandwidth cannot be grasped from thin air, but with a strong signal we were able to stream HD video smoothly while copying files across the network on the same band. FasTrack achieves this by actively monitoring the type of traffic on its network and when it detects media (including support for web services and websites like Skype, Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube and Xbox LIVE) it actively throttles any other activity to keep the bandwidth open. Of course should you have dual band supporting hardware you can simply connect to the Central on different bands, but this is a fine compromise for those who don't or live in a packed household.
Furthermore wired performance is strong. Copying to and from the Western Digital My Net N900 Central's hard drive from a wired desktop PC achieved peak transfer rates of 19.4MB (155.2Mbit) per second and 15.1MB (120.8Mbit) per second. These figures can't compete with dedicated NAS units which pack fast processors and RAM, but they are enough for backups to complete quickly (and an initial backup overnight) while it is no bottleneck to streaming even high bitrate 1080p content.