D-Link, Cisco/Linksys, Buffalo, Netgear, DrayTek, Billion, Solwise… the major players in the networking space have been the same for years. So why is a hard drive maker getting involved? The answer lies in looking beneath the surface…
Western Digital My Net N900 Central Features
The 'My Net N900 Central' is the flagship in Western Digital's first router range and its ace in the hole is a WD speciality: storage. Yes it suddenly all makes sense because the Central is part router, part NAS and it comes in two size options 1TB and 2TB. Sell a router and WD sells a hard drive at the same time.
This is no cheap sales grab though because, much like the original WDTV, Western Digital has thought carefully about this product before launching it. As such a number of expected boxes are checked: simultaneous dual band 2.4GHz and 5GHz 802.11n wireless connectivity (rated at up to 450Mbit each, hence the 'N900' name), four Ethernet ports and USB for connecting a printer or even more additional storage.
In addition the internal hard drive offers automatic backup for any computer connected to the network and an extra party trick is 'FasTrack' - WD's proprietary prioritising technology which aims to distribute bandwidth to entertainment needs such as streaming of audio, video or online gaming. Taking this a step further WD has created WD 2go, a 'personal Cloud', which gives Macs, PCs and smartphones (Android and iOS via WD 2go apps) access to the Central's HDD multimedia content from any location with an Internet connection.
It is worth noting this isn't a full blown rival to the Cloud Connect and mydlink platforms recently launched by Cisco and D-Link which also let you adjust your settings remotely, but on paper it should offer enough to keep media junkies happy. Less exciting, but just as important are the inclusion of IPv6 compatibility, WPS and WPA2 security, guest access and parental controls.
Western Digital My Net N900 Central Design
Given the HDD it is no surprise the Central is larger than your average router. It is relatively thin at 32mm, but the 244 x 170mm footprint is significant since it is only designed to sit flat meaning you'll need to find desk space roughly similar to an 11-inch laptop.
For all its bulk we must admit the Central could be better looking too. We've seen some fairly radical tubular and glass router designs in the last 12 months, but the Central is a large, plastic, curved rectangle that feels cheap in hand. Build quality is reasonable and it doesn't feel fragile, but we'd like to see more premium materials in successive generations.