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Western Digital Gets Into the Home Networking Game

Best known for its hard drives, Western Digital today launches a line of Wi-Fi routers designed with streaming media in mind

Western Digital is getting into the highly competitive home networking market with a line of Wi-Fi routers that promise to improve streaming media performance, including a couple that come with integrated, remotely accessible storage.

All of WD's My Net routers support concurrent dual band (2.4- and 5GHz) 802.11n networks, although top speeds vary based on the number of antennas in the product. All use WD's proprietary FasTrack Plus technology, which the company says can identify and prioritize video, music, gaming and other performance-sensitive content. WD's My Net Dashboard software also provides easy access to settings for parental controls, Internet security, guest network access, network name and password, printer and scanner settings, and mapping storage drives.

Available immediately are three models that don't have network storage. The entry-level My Net N600 ($80) promises rated speeds of 300 megabits per second on each band, plus a five-port 10/100 ethernet switch and one USB 2.0 port for sharing a printer or storage device on the network. The midrange My Net N750 ($120) adds faster 5GHz network performance (up to 450 mbps), gigabit ethernet instead of 10/100 ethernet, and an additional USB 2.0 port.

The high-end My Net N900 ($180) promises rated speeds of up to 450 mpbs on each band, a seven-port gigabit ethernet switch, and two USB 2.0 ports.

Also available is the My Net Switch, an eight-port gigabit ethernet switch priced at $80. An ethernet switch can be useful for hooking up multiple networked devices in a home entertainment center, but the My Net Switch does not support Wi-Fi, so you'd need a wired network or a Wi-Fi ethernet bridge to use it.

My Net N900 Central, the router with built-in network storage for both media server and backup applications, is slated to ship by fall in one- and two-terabyte configurations, priced respectively at $300 and $350. Like the N900 without storage, the N900 Central's rated top speeds are 450 megabits per second on each band, but it's a bit skimpier on ports: It has a fourport gigabit ethernet switch port and only one USB 2.0 port.

Western Digital's entry into the home networking fray isn't entirely surprising, given its success in recent yearswith an array of streaming media products such as the WD TV Live Hub. And while WD isn't the first company to integrate storage with a router--both Asus and D-Link tried it a few years ago--no major vendor appears to be currently offering direct competition.

But the company's timing in introducing a new line of 802.11n routers seems a bit off as some vendors are already shipping next-gen 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers that deliver much faster wireless speeds. But the Western Digital officials we spoke with say they wanted to meet immediate customer needs; they also point out that it will be a while before consumer electronics devices such as Smart TVs and A/V receivers support 802.11ac.


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