Western Digital, one of the biggest hard-drive makers, officially entered the realm of networking today with a family of five wireless routers, with the My Net N900 HD being the top tier. This totally new router offers something its peers have never done before: seven Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports.
As a wireless router, the new My Net N900 offers a dual 450Mbps Wireless-N data rate -- on both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. It doesn't come with 802.11ac, however. To make up for that, it comes with powerful QoS (Quality of Service) features that automatically detect and prioritize the Internet bandwidth based on the type of traffic. The router also offers two USB 2.0 ports to host external hard drives. What I liked the most about the router, though, is its very responsive and well-organized Web interface that is very mobile-browser-friendly.
In my testing, the My Net N900 offered fast speed and long range on the 5Ghz band. Its 2.4Ghz band, however, it could use a big improvement both in terms of data rates and stability. At a suggested price of $180, the My Net N900 is still worth the investment. Future firmware releases will make it an even better networking device.
Design and ease of use
The My Net N900 HD has a relatively large footprint. However, thanks to its internal antenna design, it's actually much less bulky than you'd expect; it's just about the size of a Netbook, but much lighter.
You do get a lot on the back of the larger size. On the back it has seven Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports and one Gigabit WAN port. All other wireless routers I've seen only have four LAN ports at most. The number of ports actually comes in handy for homes or offices that have multiple devices that require fast wired connections, such as better servers and workstations.
Near the network ports are two USB 2.0 ports. One of the ports is painted blue, but it's not USB 3.0, unfortunately; the color only means the port has more direct access to the router's processor and is faster than the other one. You should use the blue port for a device that benefits more from speed, such as an external hard drive. The other port is more suitable for a printer.
Other than these ports, there's also an on/off button and the power connector to be connected to a compact power adapter.
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), the button for which is also on the front. WPS lets you quickly connect a WPS-enabled client to the network simply by pressing the button 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. This fan only works when the router is hot; during the entire time I tested it, the router never got hot enough to turn the fan on. The router is also wall-mountable.
It's very easy to set up the router. 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 about 5 minutes to get the router up and running.
The router's Web interface is very organized and super-responsive. In fact it's the most responsive Web-based user interface I've seen. On top of that it's also very friendly to mobile devices. When opened from a mobile browser, the interface looks like it's a native app. This allows users to actually use a phone or tablet to do the setup, negating the need for a computer. To do this, you just need to connect the mobile device to the router's default and open wireless network.
The My Net N900 HD router is a true dual-band router that offers 450Mbps on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands. This is the top configuration of the Wireless-N, or 802.11n, standard, similar to the Asus RT-N66U or the Cisco Linksys E4200 v2. The My Net N900, unfortunately, doesn't support the latest 802.11ac standard. However, there's not much to be missed here since there's currently almost no 802.11ac-enabled client hardware on the market anyway.
The top feature of the My Net N900 is the FastTrack Plus QoS, which prioritizes the Internet bandwidth for different devices on the network. While most routers offer QoS, you generally have to set these features manually based on the device; for example, you want computer A to have higher priority than computer B and so on. In the case of FastTrack Plus, the priority is set based on the type of traffic with audio, video, voice over IP gaming being prioritized, regardless of clients. This means that you can stream video from any computer or mobile device on the same network and still have the same smooth streaming experience.
FastTrack Plus is turned on by default, requires no user interaction, and worked as intended in my testing. I downloaded multiple large files on a computer, and when I started to stream from other devices, the download speed got noticeably slower, but the streaming was never interrupted. Obviously, FastTrack Plus doesn't help if you have a slow Internet connection and many devices trying to stream at the same time. In this case, you are better off turning it off and using the manual QoS settings instead.