Western Digital is not a name you'd normally associate with network routers but it is now making a big push into the blossoming market to be your home hub. The WD My Net 900 Central is the flagship of the new router line and it includes various features that may have its new-found competitors worried. Read more Wi-Fi and networking reviews.
At first glance the WD My Net N900 Central is not visually striking in its styling. Its plain black enclosure displays a series of functional status indicator lights on the front. However, this router is all about function and flipping it over will reveal a discrete fan for cooling, hinting at the rather special hardware inside.
The rear of the device has four gigabit ethernet ports, a single WAN port for connecting to a separate modem, and a USB 2.0 port for printers and external hard drives.
The WD My Net N900 Central is built for the 802.11n standard and incorporates a 3x3:3 MIMO antenna array. This means that there are multiple antennae in the router which increase its range and throughput for file transfers and HD video.
As a flagship product, the WD My Net N900 Central is of course a dual-band router offering 2.4GHz for range and widespread compatibility, and the more media-friendly, if short-range, 5GHz band for higher throughput.
However, the big standout feature of this router is the built-in 1TB or 2TB hard disk, giving this product the essence of a NAS drive. This hard disk can be used to store films, music or any other data you wish to have centrally available.
Even better, WD offers a service called WD2Go which allows you to access your router's internal disk (and USB connected disks) from the web anywhere in the world. If you have Macs in the house you can also enable the WD My Net N900 Central's AFP server which allows it to be used as an iTunes server and for Time Machine backups, like Apple's Time Capsule, which is a great additional feature.
WD My Net N900 Central: Operation
Despite all the complex features of this router the setup procedure is extremely simple. Out of the box the router sets up an unsecured wireless network – simply join the network, type ‘wdrouter’ into your browser and follow the on-screen instructions.
The elegance and simplicity of the setup and menu system are to be applauded. However, it is essential to upgrade to the latest firmware as our review model had a few teething troubles accessing the menu with its older installed software.
WD My Net N900 Central: Performance
To test the wireless performance of the router we used iPerf with an ethernet connected server and a wirelessly connected laptop client.
At a range of 1m, the 2.4GHz channel averaged 110Mbps while the 5GHz averaged 170Mbps. Increasing this to 7 metre (with no obstacles) the performance dropped to 75Mbps for the 2.4GHz and 125Mbps for the 5GHz band.
These are good performance figures and roughly what you would expect from an 11n 3x3:3 MIMO setup.
A vaunted FasTrack Plus feature automatically is designed to prioritise streaming media. We found it to work as advertised. When transferring raw data across the network and simultaneously running HD video, the data bandwidth dropped by between 20 and 35Mbps, exactly the difference required for the 1080p video to run unimpeded.
As soon as the video was closed the overall data-transfer bandwidth returned to normal.