Western Digital My Net N900 HD Router Review
FasTrack, Conclusion and Final Thoughts
Until this point the My Net N900 router has appeared to be a nice high-end home router with a great feature set, but still very similar to the competition. Here's where we get to the true break-out feature of the My Net series - FasTrack. This technology was developed in-house by Western Digital and is a form of very advanced QoS. This tech prioritizes streaming services such as Skype, Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, and Xbox LIVE over any other traffic. The My Net router makes itself aware of the upstream and downstream caps present on the connected modem and ensures those streaming services always have full bandwidth by actively stepping in and limiting bandwidth allocated to everything else. Western Digital did a side-by-side demo of this for me last month, and I took a couple of pics of the tools they were using to add 'extra' bandwidth to a system attempting to stream an episode of The Office in HD via Netflix.
The tool they used adds 8 simultaneous streams worth of load to the My Net's network. With FasTrack disabled, we see the tool is able to get full bandwidth. What you don't see is that the Netflix stream promptly dropped down to SD resolution, and after a few seconds longer, playback completely aborted.
Here's the same tool run on an identical My Net router, this time with FasTrack enabled. You can see the technology actively steps in, throttling back streams as necessary to ensure the Netflix stream had enough leftover bandwidth to continue streaming in HD - which it did flawlessly.
This tech also works over Skype. I replaced my usual router with the My Net N900 for last night's recording of the PC Perspective Podcast. For a typical podcast night I go around the house shutting down WiFi devices and kill any apps that may start background downloads, etc. If I don't do this, I run the risk of my video feed dropping down from 1080P HD, reverting to 4x3 SD. As you might imagine, this is disruptive to a podcast recording. Last night was a different story. I left everything in the house running, as well as spending any idle time during the podcast starting large download and upload sessions, speed test runs, etc. I was saturating my connection at the full 50 Mbit down / 5 Mbit up nearly the entire time, and during that time, my Skype session did not so much as hiccup. I can't think of any level of standard QoS tweaking that could have this good of an effect. The fact that the My Net pulled this off with no additional tweaking or configuration is pretty awesome to say the least.
- Class leading chipset and specifications
- Simple configuration and rich set of features
- Game changing FasTrack traffic shaping
- Integrated firmware updates (from *within* the firmware)
- *Edit* Very slick Parental Controls
- No watchdog / automated reboot (i.e. must be manually reset if it ever freezes)
I was pleasantly surprised by Western Digital's entry into the high end router sector. It's not often that I can't wait until a product's release date to start telling people how great the technology is. Last month's demo had me sold, and having spent some time with one in-hand I can say that all of the other router manufacturers certainly have a bit of catching up to do.
As far as routers go, this is my new favorite.