Netgear Centria WNDR4700 review: Much more than a Time Capsule killer

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.

Netgear Genie, be it the mobile or desktop app, is easy and fun to use. The software lets you manage the router the way you would using the Web interface, and the mobile app enables you to stream digital content stored on the router. It also has Network Map, which shows an illustration of connected clients and their information, and Traffic Meter, which allows you to control the router's Internet connection. For example, you can set the router to disconnect from the Internet if a certain amount of data has been downloaded (or uploaded, or both) over a certain period of time. This is useful when you have a limited quota and don't want to go over. Unfortunately, Traffic Meter doesn't offer bandwidth control for specific computers, so you can't use it to restrict one individual from downloading too much.

The Netgear Genie app, unfortunately, works only when you're within the local network. This means that you can't use it when you're away from home. It would be much better if it could work over the Internet, the way Cisco Connect Cloud does.

Netgear Centria's network storage feature is much more powerful than the R6300's. For one, it supports Time Machine right out of the box, allowing Macs to back up to the router's internal drive. For Windows computers, ReadyShare Vault Backup also works well. The router supports Mac and Windows network protocols; shared content on its storage is available to both platforms automatically. You can use Windows Explorer to browser the router's hard drive (or connected USB drives), and on a Mac, these shares appear automatically in Finder. By default, all content is available to everybody with full read and write access. The default admin user can enable sharing restriction by accounts, making certain share folders available to certain users and so on. Most importantly, this feature offered very fast preference changes in my testing. More below.

For local networks, the Netgear Centria can also stream digital content stored on the hard drive to DNLA-compliant network media players, such as the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3. This feature automatically scans the router's storage for digital content, and makes it available to devices within the network, including when new files are added. You can't designate folders for this feature, meaning the router always scans the entire drive for streamable content.

If you want to add more storage to the network via the router's USB port, the Netgear Centria can host two external hard drives at a time and work with drives formatted in NTFS or FAT32. Its USB ports provide enough juice to power bus-powered drives.

Apart from hosting data for the local network, the Netgear Centria can also host data for remote users via its ReadyShare Cloud feature. To use this feature, you'll need a free account at Netgear's ReadyShare Cloud Web site, then to associate that account with the Netgear Centria, using the Netgear Genie app or the Web interface. Unfortunately, no matter how I tried, I couldn't register any account with the reviewed unit. I created a few accounts, and with all of them I ran into the "username or password incorrect" error, even though I could log in at Netgear's site. Hopefully this bug will be worked out in the next version of the firmware.

Netgear Genie makes it easy for home users to manage and control their home network.
Netgear Genie makes it easy for home users to manage and control their home network. Dong Ngo/CNET

In addition to all that, the Centria offers other basic features found in most modern wireless routers, such as port forwarding, IPv6, VPN pass-through, guest networking, and so on. For security, the router supports all variations of WPA and WPA2 encryption methods.

Performance
The Netgear Centria performed very well in my testing. It's the first router that offers network storage speeds close to those of a dedicated NAS server. Via a Gigabit Ethernet wired connection, the router tested at 35MBps for writing and 59MBps for reading, which is by far the fastest among routers that also offer network storage features. This type of performance is comparable to that of some dedicated NAS servers.

As a Wi-Fi router, the Netgear Centria also excelled on the 5GHz band, scoring 218Mbps in close (15-foot) range, being the second fastest among the N900 routers on our chart. When I increased the range to 100 feet, it was even more impressive at 178Mbps, topping the chart.

The router did not perform as well on the 2.4GHz band, however, with just 45Mbps in close range and 34Mbps for long range, about average among its peers. To make up for this, the Netgear Centria offered very long range, up to about 290 feet, on both bands, and it passed the 48-hour stress test without disconnecting once.

On the downside, the router is rather noisy. I could hear its internal fan humming all the time, even when it wasn't hosting a hard drive. This fan indeed keeps the router cool, however.

CNET Labs 5GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Netgear Centria
178.4 
218 
Linksys EA4500
176.8 
186.8 
D-Link DIR-857
172.4 
214.6 
Asus RT-AC66U
166.6 
208.2 
Netgear R6300
144.8 
178.8 
Belkin N900 DB
138.2 
189.6 
Cisco Linksys E4200v2
122.2 
185.6 
D-Link DIR-865L
121.6 
147.6 
AirStation WZR-D1800H
120 
172 
Trendnet TEW-692GR
105.8 
116.1 
Netgear WNDR4500
92.7 
152.8 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
79 
116.1 
WD My Net N900 HD
74 
195 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
41.3 
275.5 

CNET Labs 2.4GHz Wireless-N performance (in Mbps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Asus RT-N66U
45.5 
55 
Linksys EA4500
41.6 
62.4 
Netgear R6300
41.6 
51.2 
Cisco Linksys E4200v2
35.8 
148.5 
Cisco Linksys EA6500
33.6 
48.8 
Netgear Centria
33.6 
45.4 
Trendnet TEW-692GR
31.3 
77.8 
Netgear WNDR4500
31.1 
45.3 
D-Link DIR-857
29.6 
47.8 
Belkin N750 DB
26.6 
50 
Netgear WNDR4000
23.9 
67.8 
D-Link DIR-865L
22.1 
36 
WD My Net N900 HD
16 
58.1 
Asus RT-AC66U
15.2 
36.8 
Belkin AC 1200 DB
9.6 
33.5 

CNET Labs NAS performance (in MBps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Netgear Centria
59 
35.1 
Cisco Linksys E4200 v.2
25.4 
21.4 
WD My Net N900 HD
19.9 
14.3 
My Net N900 Central
19.6 
15 
Asus RT-AC66U
16.7 
9.6 
ASUS RT-N66U
16.5 
11 
D-Link DIR-857
15.8 
8.7 
D-Link DIR-827
15.8 
8.5 
Apple Time Capsule
14.3 
10.2 
Netgear R6300
10.3 
9 
Netgear WNDR4500
8.2 
7.9 
Netgear WNDR4000
7.2 
6.5 
Netgear WNDR3700
5 
2.2 

Conclusion
Despite its bulky, impractical design, somewhat flimsy drive bay, and sluggish and rather buggy firmware, the Netgear Centria is a good buy for those looking for an all-in-one networking and storage option for their home.

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  • Data Transfer Rate 900 Mbps
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About The Author

CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews networking and storage products, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.