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Western Digital My Net N900 HD dual-band router review: Western Digital My Net N900 HD dual-band router

Western Digital is now no longer just a storage vendor. The WD My Net N900 HD proves that the company can also be a contender in the realm of networking.

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Dong Ngo
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Dong Ngo

SF Labs Manager, Editor / Reviews

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 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.

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7 min read

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.

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7.6

Western Digital My Net N900 HD dual-band router

The Good

The <b>Western Digital My Net N900 HD</b> dual-band router offers a fresh approach to wireless routers with seven Gigabit LAN ports and an effective FastTrack Plus QoS feature. The router's 5Ghz band and its storage feature also performed very well.

The Bad

The My Net N900's 2.4Ghz band could use improvement. The router doesn't support 802.11ac, nor does it have an easy way for users to access its connected USB external drive over the Internet.

The Bottom Line

The Western Digital My Net N900 HD is a whole new kind of Wireless-N router. At release, the router is a decent investment for home users but will need better firmware to work at its full potential.

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.

Features
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.

The router offers excellent support for external hard drives and worked with all portable drives I tried, including those not made by WD. You can easily use any hard drive that already contains data, plug it into one of the USB ports, and have that shared across the network. By default, the content of the drive is shared with full access to everybody, but you can restrict the access via user account. Other than sharing data, you can also use the router to stream digital content to DLNA-enabled network media players, such as the WD TV Live Hub. There's no easy way to connect to the router's shared storage via the Internet, however, other than the FTP feature, which is generally not easy enough for home users to use. WD said that the cloud-based storage features will be available with the My Net N900 Central that comes with built-in storage.

Other than that, the My Net N900 HD also supports IPv6 and has a good set of other common features, such as port forwarding, parental control, firewall, and so on. For security, the router supports all existing wireless encryption standards and also offers MAC filtering.

Performance
The My Net N900 HD offered mixed performance in my testing. Note that I tested the router prior to the date it's available to the market, meaning it might come with on-release firmware. Generally, routers get better with firmware updates.

At close distance, about 15 feet away, the My Net N900 HD offered stellar performance on the 5Ghz band, averaging 195Mbps. This speed topped the chart of N900 routers on this band at this range. When I increased the distance to 100 feet, however, the router's data rate was lowered to just 74Mbps; still fast, but slowest among N900 routers.

On the 2.4Ghz, the router's performance was about average at both 15-foot and 100-foot ranges, registering 58.1Mbps and 16Mbps, respectively.

I noticed that the 2.4Ghz band didn't do very well with range, either; the signal got hard to reach starting at about 200 feet away. The 5Ghz band, however, did much better with the stable range as far as 270 feet way. Note that the router was tested at CNET HQ, where there are many other Wi-Fi access points and clients, which interfere with the router's signal.

In stress tests, the router's 5Ghz band passed my 48-hour trial easily without disconnecting once. The 2.4ghz band, however, disconnected once after a few hours.

The My Net N900 HD did well as a network storage server when coupled with an external hard drive. In tests via Gigabit Ethernet, it scored about 15MBps (or 115Mbps) for writing and around 20MBps (or 160Mbps) for reading. This was fast enough for casual sharing of data and media streaming and comparable to the performance of the Asus RT-66U or the Linksys E4200 v2.

Overall, I wish the My Net N900 HD's performance were better, though it's already very decent. Hopefully the router will get more stable and offer better performance with updated firmware.

NAS performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Read  
Write  
Asus RT-N66U
88 
131.9 
WD My Net N900
158.9 
114.6 
Apple Time Capsule
114.2 
81.2 
Netgear WNDR4500
65.6 
63.2 
Netgear WNDR4000
57.6 
51.8 
Netgear WNDR3700
40 
17.8 

2.4Ghz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
Trendnet TEW-692GR
31.3 
77.8 
Netgear WNDR4000
23.9 
67.8 
WD My Net N900 HD
16 
58.1 
Asus RT-N66U
45.5 
55 
Belkin N750 DB
26.6 
50 
Netgear WNDR4500
31.1 
45.3 

5Ghz Wireless-N performance (in megabits per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Range  
Throughput  
WD My Net N900 HD
74 
195 
Belkin N900 DB
138.2 
189.6 
Cisco Linksys E4200 v.2
122.2 
185.6 
Asus RT-N66U
155.3 
181.8 
Netgear WNDR4500
92.7 
152.8 
Trendnet TEW-692GR
105.8 
116.1 

Conclusion
With decent performance, nice design, and novel features, the one-of-a-kind My Net N900 HD makes an exciting router for home users. You might want to wait for a firmware update to get the router at its full potential, though.

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7.6

Western Digital My Net N900 HD dual-band router

Score Breakdown

Setup 8Features 8Performance 7Support 7
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