Part network storage drive and part Wi-Fi dual-band router, the Western Digital My Net N900 Central combines two devices in one sleek package. While the N900 is not as advanced as some NAS devices and lacks cutting-edge storage features, it's a sound option for those looking to eliminate some clutter.
Inside the all-black My Net N900 is an internal 2.5-inch, 2TB drive for storing files. At 9.6 x 6.7 x 1.2 inches, the device cuts a slim profile. The top of the all-plastic N900 is black with a number of holes cut out for venting. The sides are silver, with status lights and a power button in front, and there are four Ethernet ports and one USB port in the back.
Setup and Installation
After you plug in the N900, it works as router that provides Wi-Fi in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Anyone can connect to the router and then immediately access the 2TB of storage without too much fuss. The N900 comes with an optional CD installer, which is mostly for adding the WD SmartWare configuration and backup software. The basic backup utility does not provide some of the high-end features of Seagate BlackArmor Backup (e.g. backing up only application settings or shredding files), but is easy to configure and use.
The MyNet Dashboard is a colorful, useful Web-based viewer for all settings on the N900. The slick gray interface makes it easy to spot the features you want to change.
Western Digital offers two mobile apps (Android and iOS) used to access the My Net N900. WD 2Go is an all-purpose tool for all media, including files, photos and videos. The WD Photos app is only for photo viewing, which is handy because you can focus just on that media for slideshows and downloading.
Configuring both apps on our iPad was easy. After downloading WD 2Go and WD Photos, we visited the setup page for the N900. You click an option to use the apps and then see an activation code. Type this code into the app, and you're done. To use the WD Photos mobile app, you also type in a simple activation code.
There is also a super-simple way to access the drive remotely from the Web. After enabling Web Access cloud storage, type in your email and username. You then get the email on your laptop and follow a link and type in a password. Once connected, you click on any public share drive and can then add that drive to your local PC as though it is a mapped drive.
While the setup process on the My Net N900 was exceptionally easy, performance was mixed. We copied a 15GB folder full of videos, photos and documents from an HP ENVY 17 laptop in 26 minutes and 10 seconds, which is about 10 minutes longer than both the Iomega StorCenter ix2-dl and the Seagate BlackArmor NAS 220.
Copying 2GB of videos and photos took 70 seconds, faster than the Seagate drive (75 seconds), but slower than the Iomega ix2 (45 seconds). Surprisingly, a 100MB video file transferred in only 8 seconds, the result of a cache on the NAS drive that speeds up copying. To copy a 100MB video file from the NAS drive to a thumbdrive inserted into the USB port took 93 seconds.
It took only 20 seconds to start streaming a video on an iPad using the WD 2Go app (on a par with the Iomega StorCenter), but then we found a "gotcha" with the app. Even on a relatively stable 5 Mbps Internet connection, the video kept pausing. When we clicked pause manually and waited about 10 minutes, we were able to stream the entire movie without more pausing.
Unfortunately, photos did not load at all with the WD 2go app. We had to use the WD Photos app instead; here, an 8MB image popped up on our screen instantly. We even used a slideshow feature that, after just a few seconds, showed the first images and let us flip through the rest.
Wireless Router Performance
The main "extra" with the N900 is its built-in dual-band wireless router. Over a 2.4-GHz 802.11n connection, we copied the same 15GB folder in 45 minutes. However, the My Net N900's range topped out at about 150 feet, which is about half of what we get from dedicated routers, such as the Cisco Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router EA4500 (N900).
The WD N900 also lets you set up a hotspot for guests who can only surf the Web -- and not access your files -- while filtering inappropriate content.
A feature called FastTrack divides up the bandwidth for multiple connections, and prioritizes audio and video streams to ensure they run smoothly. We found streaming worked smoothly all around a typical suburban home, but for the fastest browsing and downloads on one laptop, it was best to leave FastTrack disabled.
Western Digital sells two configurations of the My Net N900 Central. A 1TB version can be found for as low as $199, and a 2TB version is available for $239. Unlike the Iomega StorCenter ix2-dl and other dedicated NAS devices, though, the hard drive in the N900 Central is not made to be replaced.
Overall, the Western Digital My Net N900 is a good buy for those intimidated by the term "Network Attached Storage," "Router," or both. Setting up the N900 was smoother than the Seagate or the Iomega, and we had no problems configuring the router, cloud access and apps. While those looking for a more robust solution would do better with the Iomega StorCenter ix2-dl, the N900 is ideal for those seeking a simple backup solution with a router, to boot.