We recently had the opportunity to take a meeting with Western Digital in San Francisco, California while a good chunk of the press were out in Taipei for Computex. It's difficult to get excited about new announcements from mechanical hard drive companies these days, especially with the way prices on the drives themselves haven't dipped much since the floods hit (with Western Digital being particularly guilty of maintaining those inflated prices), and with SSDs having become substantially cheaper over the past few months.

Which is what made our meeting with Western Digital so surprising. Western Digital is no stranger to networking and cloud-based products, but a full on line of routers? That's something else entirely. Western Digital is releasing four routers in their brand new My Net series, starting from the $79 My Net N600 all the way up to the exceedingly fancy $349 2TB My Net N900 Central, a combination router and NAS. Each router, top-to-bottom, is based on 802.11n and capable of running in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.

The My Net N600 is the entry level router, featuring four 10/100 ethernet ports alongside a WAN port, a single USB 2.0 port for networking printers or storage, 300Mbps throughput on either band (or a cumulative 600Mbps throughput on both), and standard antennae instead of high range ones. At $79 it looks like a decent enough value for a dual-band router, but the lack of gigabit networking hurts a little bit. That changes when you move up to and past the N750. $119 gets you four gigabit ethernet ports, increased range, a second USB 2.0 port, and up to 450Mbps access on the 5GHz band.

From there, we have two versions of the My Net N900 router: one with built-in network attached storage (the My Net N900 Central), and one without. Both feature full 450Mbps throughput on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands (or a cumulative 900Mbps on both), high-range antennae, gigabit connectivity, and DLNA certification. The standard N900 features a whopping seven gigabit ethernet ports in addition to the WAN (the N900 Central offers only four) along with two USB 2.0 ports (one on the Central), and retails for $179. If you want internal storage, the 1TB model runs for $299 while the 2TB model runs for $349.

Beyond the basic speeds and feeds, Western Digital is leveraging their experience with cloud storage by adding a cloud backup service to each model in the line, easily accessible from anywhere you have internet access. Cloud access can be managed through a browser, but also through applications for Windows, Mac OS X, Android, and iOS. Western Digital also includes software to allow for automated backups to the networked storage and to the cloud, but unfortunately the automation only goes one way.

There's also Western Digital's secret sauce, their FasTrack Streaming technology. FasTrack is essentially traffic prioritization technology implemented in the core SoC that can be customized by the end user to allow for simultaneous gaming, downloading, and video streaming over the network with minimal interruptions or hiccups. Standard FasTrack supports up to 21 open queues and comes with six services pre-identified, and allows the end user to add and configure more services as needed. More interesting is the FasTrack Plus technology, available exclusively on the N900 routers (standard FasTrack is available only on the N600 and N750), which uses a dedicated chip for the QoS implementation. It supports unlimited open queues and actually dynamically analyzes sessions to intelligently route data.

Ganesh actually has an N900 in house for review as I write this post. We believe the routers are based on Qualcomm Atheros chipsets, and will be confirming it in our review.

At the $179.99 price point, it is the same as that of the 802.11ac routers already in the market. However, WD touts the QoS implementation (FasTrack / FasTrack Plus) and three extra GbE ports on the router as
the differentiation points. Depending on how much of an early adopter the consumer is, it might make sense to go with WD's implementations as 802.11ac capable equipment is not widespread yet. Also worth noting is that the N900 is actively cooled. Note also that despite having a blue USB port, Western Digital's routers do not support USB 3.0.

All of these routers, along with a basic My Net Switch featuring eight gigabit ethernet connections for $69, should be available today from retailers and online at www.wdstore.com. Ganesh's exhaustive review of the My Net N900 is forthcoming.

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  • Etsp - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    "At $79 it looks like a decent enough value for a dual-band router, but the lack of gigabit networking hurts a little bit. " The wireless connection is faster than the wired! It's asinine. You want to put a fileserver on this network, you better buy a wireless card for it.

    Not to mention, gigabit LAN components are dirt cheap these days... I'm not sure why these companies are pulling this crap, but it's ridiculous.
  • FATCamaro - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    100 mbit ethernet > 300 mbit wireless at a distance of 5 feet or more.
  • FATCamaro - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    Or if more than 1 computer is transmitting or receiving since ethernet is switched.
  • Souka - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    100Mbps is plenty fast for 95% of home users.

    Most activity is just browsing webpages, watching video, or music.... all of which will be limited by wireless bandwidth far before 100Mbps.

    I suspect NAS performance will be in the 8-12 MB/s... again 100 Mbps is fine for that.

    Also, a 100Mbps WAN port is beyond what 99% people have at home for internet connectivity.

    I run Comcast Blast! at home... about 45/Mbps

    Until recently at home I ran a WRT-54GL router with a 4-port gigabit switch between a few of the systems so I could move files around at 500-800Mbps..... but the 100Mbps router ports were plenty fast for my 20Mbps throughput on the wi-fi.

    Now I have a ASUS N66U and am loving the speed boost, but it's not like 10x faster.
  • Bluestealth - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    Well 12 MB/s is maxing out a 100 Mbps link, it might be very annoying if they are browsing the internet at the same time, I just don't think FastEthernet it is fast enough these days for a LAN connection. It is also fairly weird seeing a Fast Ethernet switch these days since basic Gigabit switch ASICs are so cheap.

    You are very correct about the 100Mbps WAN port, although I wish you were not, getting over 50 Mbps anywhere is like asking for a miracle in the United States. My current router maxes out at ~38 Mbps, which is fast enough for my Time Warner connection but if I ever move somewhere better my Cisco 1841 is getting trashed, immediately.
  • heffeque - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    Wow... Spain in the middle of a huge crisis yet the main cable operator (Ono) offers up to 200 Mbps with no bandwidth caps.
    What's the matter with the North America!? Something has to be done.
  • Impulses - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    Lack of corporate oversight + huge geographical distances.
  • Souka - Thursday, June 14, 2012 - link

    Comcast (Xfinity) offer's "Extreme 50" and "Extreme 105" service to residental customers.

    Extreme 50 = 50Mbps down, 15 up
    EXtreme 105=105Mpbs down, 20 up

    So with Extreme 105... the 100Mbps WAN link would in inadequate... but if you're paying $200/mo for service, I'd hope you'd get a better than $60 router! :)

    Far as 12MB/s maxing a 100Mbps...yes that is correct but at $60 the NAS is likely to be well under 10MB/s.... depends on chipset.

    Point is... most people do just fine on 100Mbps LAN ports...and 2.4GHz 802.11n

    YOU (most daily tech readers do not fall under the classifaction of "most users") !
  • iwod - Friday, June 15, 2012 - link

    Yeah, we continue to see replies from Americans crying about no one needs a fast WAN port in the world.
    ( Americans Dictionary explains the World equals US )
    When there are plenty of places in Real World that offer 100Mbps + Internet Speed at affordable price.

    And we do need higher then 12MB/s if you have NAS. NAS are getting popular by day and even if you are transferring files between computer on the LAN you would want faster rate. 12MB/s is slow.

    Yes, this is 2012, we are well over a decade that we stuck with 100Mbps Ethernet. I agree Something NEEDS to be done.
  • Souka - Friday, June 15, 2012 - link

    MOST, not all, routers with NAS functionality have very poor performance to/from the HDD attached to the router.

    A dedicated NAS or a PC sharing files is another story.


    Yes Fast Ethernet needs to go away in the middle-class router market...and it slowly is.

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