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Review: Western Digital My Net N900 Router

By Victor B. On Sep 27, 2012 0
4 out of 5 Rating

Recently Western Digital – a company known for hard drives and storage, announced and released wireless routers to an unsuspecting market.  But with other established wireless routers out on the market, what can Western Digital do to separate themselves from the competition?  Here’s our review of the Western Digital My Net N900.

There may be a little confusion about the higher priced My Net N900 Central, because even though they have a similar name bringing the assumption that the features are going to be the same with an added internal hard drive, the N900 Central only has 4 Gigabit ethernet ports and 1 USB 2.0 port.  When asked at their media event as to why there are not as many ports on the N900 Central, the response was because there was not enough room on the case when adding a hard drive internally.

First look at the My Net N900 out of the box, it has four LEDs in the front, for power, wireless signal, internet, and WPS setup.  There is also a WPS setup button for easy connection to a WPS compatible device.  The back is where this router starts to impress.  Right next to the yellow port to connect the modem are 7 gigabit ethernet ports.  Also for  an external hard drive and/or a printer, 2 usb 2.0 ports.  A bonus that you do not see on many other routers as well, a power button.  On the bottom of the router you will find a small fan and the reset to factory settings button.

EASE OF USE

One of the key points in the Western Digital media event introducing these routers was the amount of effort it would take to set up.  Right when you open the box the first thing you see is a “Start Here” folder containing the instructions printed on it and the setup disc.  The instructions give you color diagrams clearly showing that you first take the included yellow ethernet cable and plug it into your modem.  Then it gives you an IP address to navigate to on your browser (for Mac) or it tells you to use the setup disc for Windows.  That leads to the next part of the setup:

SOFTWARE

This is usually the hard part of setting up a router to work with your internet modem and to be secure.  When first connecting to the router through the browser, a first time setup dialogue comes up and very clearly outlines the steps that are needed to get started.  The first step is getting connected to the internet, and all that is needed is pressing a big blue button on the browser, and the router does the rest.  Then you are taken to the wireless tab, where you can set the Wireless ID and password for both the 2.4ghz and 5 ghz bands.  The other tabs presented in the interface are for setting up storage, for plugging  in a usb hard drive to the router, there are options for the type of sharing you want to do with the drive.  There are four checkboxes: Share, DLNA, iTunes, and FTP.  You can check any combination, none or all of them at any time for flexibility.  There is also the ability to lock down that storage volume by requiring a username and password.  There is also WPS setup for if you want to do the one button setup for easily connecting a device.

The Interface is very easy to follow and the advanced settings are there if you want to be more selective with your devices and network settings.  Having set up a network before, I was actually looking for an on/off toggle switch for the firewall, and did not find one, but rest assured that there is a firewall on the N900. The router interface is also accessible by a tablet just by accessing through the browser, handy if one does not want to always have to wait for their computer to boot up.

It is very apparent that Western Digital thought out their ease of use approach to setting this router up that the paperwork included was very minimal, the user manual was put in on the disc.  One downside to that, as a Mac user, if the manual is needed, the first place I went to was the web because I assumed the disc was only for Windows users, but the pdf manual is included in the disc.

Connecting to the usb 2.0 drive connected to the router is also not readily apparent, which is where I needed to look for the manual.  There are two ways to connect to the hard drive, using the WD Quick View software, or connecting as a network device.  The device name of the router can also be changed in the setup interface.

RELIABILITY

The device itself is solid, it feels lighter than it looks, but the cables fit in snug and tight even the power cable, so if you only have a tight space to put the router, there are no real worries of the power cable or the ethernet cables getting loose or disconnected.  The wifi connection is very consistent, there was a moment I thought the wifi was dropping but it was only one particular device that was dropping the connection once in a while.

 

FEATURES

The N900 Router is one of the flagship models of the Western Digital wireless router line, here are some of the key features:

  • dual-band N wi-fi speeds of up to N450+N450
  • 7 Gigabit Ethernet Ports
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • FasTrack Plus Streaming
  • Multi WiFi HD Streams
  • DLNA certified
  • WPS one button setup
  • Multiple antenna amplifiers built in.

Most recent wireless routers I have seen and used only had 4 ethernet ports on them, and while enough for some networks, new houses today are being built with the networking going to each room so having 7 gigabit ethernet ports is  great way to have one router feeding internet to all the rooms of a house from a networking closet.

FasTrack Plus Streaming prioritizes certain types of traffic so it knows what is streaming video and makes sure that video is smooth.  Combined with multiple WiFi streams up to 450 mbps, households can have multiple users using a lot of bandwidth equally.  I was able to use Skype or Google Hangouts for our  podcasts while someone else would be on Netflix at the same time, and if you want to check out some of our video podcasts such as this one, my feed (the one on the far left) still comes through clear considering it was a four person Hangout.

The wifi range is actually quite good, my previous midrange router which touted up to 300mbps speeds had exponentially slow connection when on the next floor of my multi story house.  With the N900, the wifi signal even though it gets weaker as you get further away from the router as you would expect, compared to the other router I had the signal in the same place was stronger, likewise with the download speeds, even two floors away, so with this router I actually feel like the whole house gets a good wifi signal.

With a 500gb Western Digital Passport drive connected, transferring to the drive works best with files under 1gb, so large files over the network may not be as consistent.  I had some files that were about 1.7 gb that would seem to be transferring, but after getting to about 80% would fail.  If you want some numbers, a 985.7mb file took about a minute and 11 seconds using a wired connection.

Accessing files on the external connected drive have a short lag, after the initial connection there is a little wait to see the files in your folders on the drive.  Once cached, however, photo and video files open in the finder preview right away.

CONCLUSION

The Western Digital N900 Wireless Router is a great device with a well thought out interface that is sure to please people new to the process of setting up a home network.  Even if you are an experienced in networking, you will still find the settings to further lock down your network should you feel the need to.  It is also a nice touch that they make it clear that a mobile device such as a tablet can manage the network, adding convenience.  My one gripe would be that trying to find a connected hard drive is not as easy if the WD Quick View software is not installed, so that may throw someone off if they are looking to connect to a network drive.

As one of the flagship products on the new line of Western Digital wireless routers, it is packed with features found on high end consumer routers.  The strength of the router is the the way it manages wifi traffic and being able to serve consistent and quality bandwidth to multiple users at the same time.  A definite recommendation for any home network looking for great speeds and a very easy setup.

Special thanks to Western Digital for providing the N900 router for review.

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