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Seagate Central review: Network backup and entertainment made easy

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The Good The Seagate Central is fast, easy to use, and comes with many options for media streaming, both locally and via the Internet.

The Bad As a single-volume server, the Central offers no data protection should its internal hard drive fail; its remote feature is very sluggish and limited when accessed via a browser.

The Bottom Line The affordable Seagate Central delivers as a fast and easy-to-use network storage device for home backup and entertainment purposes.

7.9 Overall
  • Setup 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8
  • Support 7

The Seagate Central is a single-volume storage device and hence doesn't provide data protection against hard-drive failure, but that's about its only major shortcoming.

The new NAS server is easy to use, offers lots of storage space, and, most importantly, is affordable, currently costing just $230 for 4TB (or $160 and $180 for 2TB and 3TB, respectively). It also comes with mobile apps for media sharing, including one that works with Samsung Smart TVs. In my testing, the device's performance was very good for a device of its type.

If you're looking for a quick way to stream media to multiple devices or to back up data, the Seagate Central will deliver. It's not a device designed to host your important data, however. For that, you should check out those on this list.

Straight forward design, easy setup
The Seagate Central comes in a one-part single-form design that's just about twice the size of a 3.5-inch internal hard drive. The device measures 5.7 x 8.5 x 1.7 inches and weighs just 2.2 lbs. On the back it has one Gigabit Ethernet port and one USB port. The USB port is the only way to extend the storage space of the Central, since it comes with just one hard drive on the inside that can't be replaced by users.

The Seagate Central is just about twice the size of a regular 3.5-inch hard drive.
The Seagate Central is just about twice the size of a regular 3.5-inch hard drive. Dong Ngo/CNET

This is not really a big deal, however, since with a top capacity of 4TB, the Central comes with plenty of storage space for its purpose, which is to be the shared storage space and digital media hub for the entire home. Nonetheless, this means the device should be used only to host backups or replaceable media contents for entertainment purpose. You should not use it to keep a single copy of important information, due to the risk of losing everything if its internal drive fails. (Read more about RAID and data protection.)

The Central supports Time Machine natively for Mac; for Windows, you can use the downloadable Seagate Dashboard software to do the same job. You can use this software to quickly manage the NAS server via three functions: Protect (backup), Share, and Save. The Share function allows for quickly uploading digital content to social sites; the Save function does the opposite: backing up digital content that's currently on social sites. These functions actually work very well and smartly. For example, once set up to back up a Facebook profile, the drive also automatically backs up photos that the account owner was tagged in, in addition to those he or she uploaded.

For data sharing and backup purposes, there's basically nothing to setting up the device. All you have to do is plug in the power, connect its network port to the router (or switch) via the included network cable, and you're done. The Central comes with a default public share folder (called Public) that can be access immediately by any Macs or Windows computer on the same network.

The Seagate Dashboard software help quickly backup data and share data both locally and between the Seagate Central and social media sites.
The Seagate Dashboard software helps quickly back up and share data, both locally and between the Seagate Central and social media sites. Screenshot by Dong Ngo/CNET

On a Mac, the server appears automatically on Finder, while on a Windows machine, it will be shown as an icon in the network part of Explorer. From there, you can map a network drive to the Public share folder and access the server's storage as though it were an external hard drive.

Inside the Public share folder, there are three subfolders called Video, Music, and Photo. You can copy the respective contents to these folder and the server automatically streams them to any network media player. These subfolders are there just for organizational purpose; you can create more subfolders or store data arbitrarily in any folder you want and the digital contents will still be accounted for. This is because the server automatically scan all subfolders in the main Public share folder for digital contents and makes it available for streaming. In fact, there are no options to to change this other than turning the streaming function off completely.

Speaking of options, the server offers more than just media streaming via the default share folder. But to change its settings as well as other features, you'll need to access its Web interface.

Simple and effective Web interface
To access the Central's Web interface for the first time from a computer within the same local network, just point a browser to, then follow the instructions to detect the NAS server and create an user account which is to be used to log in the server's Web interface. After that, you can always return to this interface via the server's IP address.

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