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Western Digital My Net N900 HD Router Review

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Western Digital

FasTrack, Conclusion and Final Thoughts

FasTrack:

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.

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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.

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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.

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • No watchdog / automated reboot (i.e. must be manually reset if it ever freezes)

Final Thoughts:

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.

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As far as routers go, this is my new favorite.

June 14, 2012 | 02:59 PM - Posted by PCskillet

Besides carrying over the horribly insecure WPS "feature," looks great! Can't wait to play with one.

June 14, 2012 | 07:51 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Good call there. I've requested an answer from their team. I'd imagine there is some simple brute force prevention I place, but it never hurts to ask.

For those unaware of this potential vulnerability:

tools.cisco.com/security/center/content/CiscoSecurityResponse/cisco-sr-20120111-wps

June 15, 2012 | 12:37 AM - Posted by Mangix

or they could simply disable external registrar functionality thereby making the whole vulnerability non-existent. case in point, i have WPS enabled on my 2Wire and it is not vulnerable to reaver style attacks(I tried for 30 minutes with the correct pin)

June 15, 2012 | 03:06 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

For those curious, WPS *can* be disabled from within the firmware.

June 17, 2012 | 05:00 AM - Posted by Tasos (not verified)

It's a shame that with all those ports they didn't think to add 802.3ad (link aggregation). If it had this, it would really be really hard to beat.

April 12, 2013 | 02:05 AM - Posted by honey (not verified)

For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.
realforexbroker.com

June 17, 2012 | 06:40 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Are these routers using Broadcom chips?
I hope they do. Then I could use Tomato firmware on them.

June 18, 2012 | 11:39 PM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

It's Atheros throughout. Check the pics on page two for the gory details.

June 18, 2012 | 02:14 PM - Posted by TheBradyReport

Any chance you have some screen shots or details on the Parental Controls or Access Restrictions? One of the main reasons I use Tomato today on my NetGear is the ability to limit access to my kids computers by date/time etc. Also web usage logs is another big one. And last, real time network graphing?

I'd just about given up on an off the shelf router being useful but I may have to take a look at this one.

I just wish I could afford to buy a copy of ixia Chariot for testing :-)

June 18, 2012 | 11:19 PM - Posted by Tim Verry

I'll see if I can get some for you :)

June 19, 2012 | 12:30 AM - Posted by Allyn Malventano

Ask and ye shall receive:

http://www.pcper.com/reviews/General-Tech/Western-Digital-My-Net-N900-HD-Router-Review/Wired-and-Wireless-Performance-Par (scroll down)

The Parental Controls are pretty darn sweet, now that I've took some additional time and dug into them. Thanks for the question there. Access restrictions are covered there, and MAC filtering should be able to cover any unregistered devices.

Haven't found any network graphing as of yet...

June 20, 2012 | 11:05 PM - Posted by TheBradyReport

Thanks Allyn. Good stuff. I'll have to review one of these. I used to work for USRobotics and 3Com so I've been looking for a better router for 10 years. After 30-40 of them I'm still looking :-)

The QOS looks great but I'd like to see how much control I can have over it. I want to be able to manage the QOS by protocol, IP, maybe even time. I can do it in Tomato today pretty well.

The network graphing is a standard feature now on most open source router firmware, it would be nice to see them add it in or even better, create an API so you could make an app for your mobile/tablet/desktop gadget to see the traffic.

Parental Control looks decent. I'll have to check it out.

June 23, 2012 | 11:48 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wish this had ac. It's a bit late in the game to buy an n router.

June 25, 2012 | 08:58 PM - Posted by Senzar (not verified)

Two aspects concerns me.

Potential breakdown of the cooling fan in the long run in dusty environment. Fans do fail in time being mechanical.

When you lay the router on a flat surface, air circulation at the bottom may not be sufficient in unclean industrial environment. WD could have provided optional 1/2 in legs with self adhesive tape to provide better clearance at the bottom. I have used a mod with 1/2 in plastic end caps (4) on pancake type routers from Linksys.

June 26, 2012 | 05:09 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The fan should only come on during extreme heat situations. It's not configured to run constantly.

August 17, 2012 | 11:01 AM - Posted by Senzar (not verified)

I have it on my desk with good ventilation and the still fan comes on probably to keep innards cool. We will have to wait till users find the failing fans. Still I feel the designers could have avoided the cooling fan.

June 28, 2012 | 11:23 PM - Posted by Someone (not verified)

Besides remote management (which can be done without a middle man server) why are the Parental Controls configured outside of the router? From the images in the article it doesn't appear to be doing anything that exciting. To me allowing a remote server push a configuration to my router is a security liability, especially if the router is hosting storage devices. The Cisco Connect Cloud which just started rolling out is this way. You configure that router on their site and can't connect directly (without disconnecting the internet connection and then it is limited what you can do) which seems like a terrible idea since all you need is your account hacked for someone to get full access to your storage devices. I'm hoping the Cisco Connect Cloud idea doesn't catch on.

July 4, 2012 | 11:53 AM - Posted by Mum (not verified)

I am researching routers as our current one seems to be getting tired and we are having to re-set it all the time. I have alos been looking to buy a back up storage device. We have 3 computers and 2 laptops in our household. We watch movies via netflix and take hundreds of photos a month. Would this device be the answer to both my needs?
One last question: our current place for router is in basement - I have heard it should be up top in attic?
thanks for your answers, "Mother learning technical stuff"

August 10, 2012 | 05:58 PM - Posted by Curtis (not verified)

Mum - Dont put it in the attic, this introduces a lot of extra heat that can break the device down prematurely. I suggest somewhere in the middle. With the multi directional antennas nowadays, dead center of the house should provide the best coverage.

Hope this helps.

Allyn,

Thank you for an awesome write up. Helped me decide to keep my new WD MyNet N900 2tb Central :).

November 19, 2012 | 05:44 AM - Posted by Darrell (not verified)

hope this helps I have a 50mbps line which goes into a real cisco 3000 series router. From there I go into a gb layer 3 procurve switch. I have 254 static ip's one of wich goes to the n900 for my lan internet. The rest used by servers in my server farm in my basement. The gb wan port is a must have in my network configuration as I transfer large files from my desktop to various web server in my farm. One thing the wan port default is at 512kbps which is horrible so I manually set it to 20000 which is about 20mbps. I have no issues with streaming from any service. I have tried the netgear 900 and its horrible at transferring large files across the wan port to my servers. Hope this helps.

October 3, 2013 | 06:12 AM - Posted by felvin (not verified)

I never knew that Western Digital had entered into the networking segment. This was completely unexpected! I can't wait to get my hands on one to set up in my home combined with the 2TB that I already have. http://www.windowsonlinesupportnow.com

April 3, 2014 | 02:50 PM - Posted by Wallet passbee Media (not verified)

I ended up being locating some other stuff although suddenly when i see this fabulous website Wallet passbee Media when when i understand one series in addition to i will be satisfied.

May 7, 2014 | 08:13 PM - Posted by Scott (not verified)

The 1tb built-in HDD model I have absolutely destroys my Linksys EA4500 that I used before this. And I mean that!

May 23, 2014 | 08:29 AM - Posted by jaceki

I've one quick question.... Is it possible to disablee WPS from within the firmware...???

May 30, 2014 | 12:23 AM - Posted by Bunny

Je pense que le routeur est fantastique, reçoit un signal très fort.Toujours à utiliser. http://www.repliquemontresfr.eu

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