The Netgear Centria (model WNDR4700 or WNDR4720) was first announced during CES 2012. Almost a year later, it's now available, and for the most part it lives up to the status of being one of the finalists in CNET's Best of CES contenders.
Supporting the latest 450Mbps data speeds on 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands at the same time, the all-in-one router offers fast Wi-Fi speeds and even faster network storage performance when hosting an internal hard drive. It also has a lot of features.
It's far from perfect, however. The slightly buggy and sluggish Web interface and the flimsy drive bay as well as the rather inconvenient placement of ports and buttons will likely make it frustrating for novice users to set up and use. The router doesn't support the latest 802.11ac standard, or hard drives larger than 2TB, and at the current price of $230 diskless or $350 with a 2TB drive, the Netgear Centria is one of the most expensive routers on the market.
That said, like the recently reviewed My Net N900 Central, the new Netgear Centria will still make a great replacement for your Time Capsule. Networking storage buffs might find some of these routers better deals, however. And if you're just looking for a great N900 router, also check out those on this top five list.
Design and setup
The Netgear Centria shares the same design as the Netgear R6300 and resembles a very shallow CRT monitor. In fact, apart from being slightly thicker, it looks exactly the same. The reason for the extra thickness is that the Centria comes with a drive bay to host a 3.5-inch standard hard drive as its internal storage. You can buy the Netgear Centria with a hard drive already installed (WNRD4720) or you can get the version with an empty bay (WNDR4700) and install your own hard drive. In the latter case, you can actually use an NTFS-formatted (Windows) hard drive with existing data with the router and immediately share information stored on it. If you choose to use the router to format the drive, or if you buy the router with a drive included, however, the drive will be formatted in a non-Windows or -Mac-friendly file system, presumably Linux. Also note that though the router does work with hard drives larger than 2TB, it will only recognize about 2.1TB at most, so you probably won't want to use a hard drive larger than 2TB with it.
While this hard-drive support is acceptable, the router's drive bay could use some improvement. While you can easily remove or install a hard drive, it's not easy to know if the drive is properly inserted, or if the drive bay lock is in its proper place. The only way to find out is to turn the router on and wait to see if the hard-drive status light is on. The router takes about a minute to fully boot up, and in my trials, I had to do this about three times before it finally recognized the hard drive. It was hard to pinpoint the exact problem, but the drive bay is rather flimsy and things seem too easily pushed into a slightly wrong position. The good thing is you won't need to install a hard drive very often.
The router comes with a detachable base. From a placement point of view, there's no reason why you'd want to take this base off; it doesn't make sense to place the router any other way and you can't mount it on a wall, either. In fact, you might also wish that the base wasn't there at all, because together with the bulky part of the hard-drive bay it makes the router's ports and button on its back very hard to reach. In fact, you can't plug in the power cable or network cable without lifting the router up or tilting it to the side, and even then, those with big hands will have trouble with this simple task.
On the back, the router has four LAN ports and one WAN port, and all of them are Gigabit Ethernet. This is a good thing; it means you're guaranteed to have a fast wired network. It also has a USB 3.0 port, a power button, and a reset button that brings the router back to factory default settings. There's a second USB 3.0 port on the side of the router, where you'll also find its SD card slot. This is the first router from Netgear that comes with an SD card slot and USB 3.0. There is only one other router I know on the market also offering an SD card slot and USB 3.0, which is the D-Link DIR-857. You can use the router's USB ports and this SD card slot to host storage for the network. The Centria's USB ports can also be used to host printers.
The front of the router has a flat surface with a white LED Netgear logo and four blue LED indicators for power, Internet, Wi-Fi, USB devices, and the internal hard drive.
The Netgear Centria is easy to set up. The router doesn't come with a CD of software, but it comes with instructions on how to hook it up to the network and computers using network cables. On its front is a label that shows its default Wi-Fi network and its password. With this information you can connect any wireless device to the network. After that, from a connected device, you just launch a browser and you'll be greeted by the router's Web interface, which will walk you through the setup process via a few steps.
After these steps, the Centria will also prompt you to download and install the Netgear Genie and Netgear ReadyShare Vault Backup applications. The former lets you manage the router from the desktop, and the latter allows you to back up a Windows computer to the router's internal storage.
Netgear Genie offers detailed instructions and deeper access to the router's settings and encompasses all platforms, with a desktop application, a Web interface, and a mobile app for Android and iOS devices. Regardless of which platform you use, you gain similar access to the router's settings and functions. There are also functions offered only for the particular platform. For example, the Netgear Genie app for mobile devices comes with a feature that supports streaming digital content from any DLNA server in the network or router's storage.
For those who are used to the Web interface, it can be accessed anytime by pointing a connected computer's browser to the router's IP address, which by default is 192.168.1.1; the default username and password to log in are admin and password. The interface is very organized and easy to use, though it's a little sluggish when you move from one item to another.
Despite the physical similarity, unlike the R6300, the Netgear Centria doesn't support the new 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard. It supports only the Wireless-N standard, offering up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band at the same time. The Centria is also capable of housing an internal hard drive, while the R6300 doesn't.
In features, these two routers are very similar. Both of them come with a few features available in previous Netgear routers, including OpenDNS-based Parental Controls, Netgear Genie, and network storage. The Netgear Centria provides more comprehensive network storage options, however.
The Parental Controls feature was first introduced with the WNR2000. To use this, you first need to have a free online account with OpenDNS; you can make an account in Netgear Genie or just go to OpenDNS' site. After that, you can use Netgear Genie (from any platform) to sign in with OpenDNS and choose from among five overall Web-filtering levels, high, moderate, low, minimum, and none, where high means most traffic will be blocked and none means that nothing will be blocked.