Editors' note: This review was updated on July 20, 2012, to add information about the router's support for Time Machine.
The My Net N900 Central is almost identical to the previously reviewed My Net N900 HD with two exceptions: the new router has only four LAN ports and one USB port (the HD has seven LAN ports and two USB ports) and comes with built-in storage (the HD has none). This means the two routers are basically the same in terms of networking, but the Central offers much more in terms of storage features, including the capability to stream media over the Internet to mobile devices.
As a wireless router, the My Net N900 Central is a true dual-band N900 router with a top 450Mbps speed of Wireless-N on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. It comes with a powerful QoS (Quality of Service) feature that automatically detects and prioritizes Internet bandwidth based on the type of traffic. In my testing, the My Net N900 Central offered fast Wi-Fi speeds, stable signals, and a long range. The router's network storage performance was also decent among similarly configured routers.
At a street price of $290 for the 2TB version or $230 for the 1TB version, the My Net N900 Central makes a great router for those who also want to have a mini personal online server. If you just want a great Wi-Fi router and don't have much interest in network storage, also check out the list of the current top five wireless routers.
Design and ease of use
The My Net N900 HD Central shares the design of the My Net N900 HD, with a relatively large footprint, about the size of a Netbook. It's slightly heavier than the previous router, due to the included 2.5-inch hard drive on the inside. This hard drive is not user-serviceable, so make sure you pick the right capacity. For most homes with casual data-sharing needs, 1TB is enough. If you have lots of content to share, however, you might want to consider the 2TB version.
On the back the router has four Gigabit LAN ports, for wired clients, and one Gigabit WAN port to connect to an Internet source, such as a broadband modem. There's also a USB port to host either a printer or another storage device.
On the front the router has four small LEDs that show the status of the router's power, wireless network, Internet connection, and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS), with its button also on the front. With WPS you can quickly connect a WPS-enabled client to the network simply by pressing the buttons on the router and on the device at the same time.
On the bottom the router has four large rubber feet to help it stay put on any surface, as well as a relatively large ventilation fan, which never seemed to kick in during my time with it. The router is also wall-mountable.
Like the My Net N900 HD, the My Net N900 Central is very easy to set up. You can run the setup software on the included CD, and it will guide you step by step. Or just hook the router to a computer and point its browser to http://wdrouter or http://192.168.1.1 (the default log-in credentials are admin and password), and there will be a similar Web-based wizard. It took me just a few minutes to get the router up and running.
Since the router has built-in storage, it also comes with a new section on the Web interface, called Remote Access. Here, you can turn on or off a service called WD 2go. The first time you turn it on, you'll have to provide your e-mail to sign up for a free account with WD 2go (you receive an e-mail to finish the sign-up process). After that you can connect to the router from anywhere, using the newly created WD 2go account from a Web browser or a mobile app.
The router's Web interface is organized, responsive, and friendly to mobile devices. When opened from a mobile browser, the interface looks like it's a native app. In fact, you can perform the entire initial setup process with a smartphone. To do this, you just need to connect the mobile device to the router's default and open wireless network, named "WesternDigital."
The first main feature, and also what differentiates the My Net N900 Central from previous routers, is its built-in storage and what you can do with that. For the local network, the My Net N900 Central offers an excellent data-sharing mechanism that allows you to either share everything with everyone or limit access (read/write, read-only, or no access) to certain folders based on user accounts that can be created by the admin log-in. You can also stream digital content to network media players and make the router support Time Machine backup for Macs natively by turning on the AFP server feature. I found it interesting that Time Machine support wasn't turned on by default and the setting to turn it on is buried rather deep in the router's interface. Once turned on it worked well, however, in my trials. This makes the My Net N900 Central a great alternative to Apple's Time Capsule.
But the storage features of the My Net N900 Central don't stop there; it has a lot more to offer with the Remote Access feature.