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Western Digital adds hard drive to first broadband router

Optimised for live streaming

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Hard drive vendor Western Digital has made its first venture into broadband routers, announcing the My Net family it claims will offer the sort of quality of service to boost video and voice streaming compared to traditional designs.

Beyond the arrival of yet another name in the home router market, the My Net is best seen as another example of the way that these gateways are morphing from networking devices into all-purpose digital appliances.

The first interesting feature is that the top-of the-line N900 Central comes with an internal hard drive in 1TB or 2TB sizes, a capacity on par with many home NAS devices. The purpose is backup, which the box will do automatically over the dual-channel 802.11n (no word of 802.11ac yet) Wi-Fi from PCs around the home.

In addition to either 4 or 7 Gigabit Ethernet ports (the latter good for small office use perhaps), it comes with the obligatory USB port to connect to a printer, and FasTrack Plus technology the company said offered “smart, real-time prioritisation of Internet movies, shows, games and video chat for the smoothest possible HD entertainment streaming.”

What does this actually mean? The cheaper My Net N600 and N750 models offer a lesser version of this which can prioritise a clutch of common services out of the box, including YouTube, Skype and Netflix or equivalents.

The N900 takes this a stage further and automagically sees all forms of live traffic – including HD - delivering them for a “smooth streaming experience, just like watching a DVD.” Manual QoS is also available.

Other interesting if smaller upgrades include support for IPv6 (which very few services currently use), and parental controls that helpfully allow time limits for to be set for Internet access.       

Western Digital isn’t the first router vendor to put a hard drive in a router at this level – D-Link did that some time ago – but the new N900 does appear to be one of the most integrated offerings currently out there.

With online backup services now taking over basic backup functions, paying extra for a drive inside a router might not be necessary for everyone, however.

As to pricing, buying the 2TB N900 model will set consumers back a hefty $350 (£230), with the driveless model costing $180. The routers will appear in the UK later this year.



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