Published on June 29th, 2013 | by Greg0
Seagate Central: Fast, Simple, Network Storage
Imagine that you’ve got a home media player connected to your television, and a lot of downloaded files that you want access to even when your computer isn’t on and running. We use a Macbook Air and BitTorrent to occasionally find things to watch, and it’s easy to quickly fill up a hard drive, which is why external storage devices are great. But for just a bit more than a regular desktop or portable USB hard drive, you can get a network-attached storage device that offers many advantages.
The Seagate Central is the latest model in this category, though we’ve seen many others throughout the years. For the most part, the insides are fairly similar- this one comes in three flavors, either 2, 3, or 4 terabytes of storage. Ours was the smallest of these options, and 2TB is still a challenge to fill, even with several complete seasons of television and dozens of movies in high definition. Unlike directly-attached hard drives, network-attached storage (or NAS devices) work better in a multi-computer environment, since you can all share files, or backup several different computers onto one single device.
This NAS device does have one downside- it comes with only a single drive, and isn’t setup for RAID. For many people, RAID is overkill, but it’s a system that automatically saves all data to multiple hard disks so that if one of them has a problem, then your data is still safe. In other words, don’t use this as the only storage location for files that you really care about. They do offer a set of “cloud” options which allow you to securely share large files with family and friends via private email invitation- it’s nifty and free, but isn’t as fully-featured as, say, Dropbox.
In most other respects, the Seagate Central is the perfect solution for the average home user. It’s one of the simplest we’ve seen- simply plug it into power and into a network connection and you’re pretty much ready to go. There are a bunch of free apps and utilities (iOS, Android) and support for many different systems, from Apple Airplay (relatively rare) to Time Machine and DLNA (the most common protocol). Seagate even offers a special connection with newer Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players for direct playback from the Central without the need for a media player. Plus, there’s a utility to backup your Facebook account (untested, but interesting). We’ve tried several other Seagate NAS devices, like their BlackArmor and GoFlex series, and always found them to strike a good balance between cost, user-friendliness, and features.
If you need extra functionality- a built-in Torrent client or web server or the ability to remove/replace/add drives- you might want to look elsewhere. But for basic media sharing, this is an extremely fast and effective way to get a lot of extra storage at a low price. Transfer speeds were quite fast- among the fastest we’ve seen in single-drive NAS models (20-40MB/s, though your mileage will depend on your router). There’s even a USB 2.0 port for additional storage or transferring files from your other drives (it would’ve been nice but likely overkill to see USB 3.0 support). The Seagate Central even looks nice, a welcome change from the boring glossy black boxes. Available now and a definite bargain, online and in stores for around $160.