Saturday, January 18, 2014

Seagate Central 2TB Network Attached Storage Review

I purchased the Seagate Central 2TB NAS a few months ago to use as a media storage/streaming hub for my home network as my main media PC was being difficult sharing over DLNA. It is doing well in that role, and I thought it was time for a review.

My household has a large number of devices on all platforms (PCs, iPad, Android, Windows RT, Windows Phone, Xbox, PS3) and, once it was set up, the devices all detected and were able to access the NAS. I did have a small issue when I first added it to the network - the first PC didn't connect until I went to the Seagate website and grabbed a piece of software (which is recommended in the setup instructions). Once I connected and set up the NAS, I applied a firmware update and subsequent PCs were able to connect without the software. None of the DLNA devices I used had an issue connecting.

By default, the NAS has a public folder with subfolders for music, photos, and videos that is accessible to all users that connect to the device. Users can create additional folders and add subfolders to the existing ones as well. These folders are accessed as a shared drive from a PC, and are also viewable on any DLNA device.

The Seagate Central works well as a media streaming device. We have had multiple devices streaming various media simultaneously without issues, although trying to stream multiple 1080p HD movies wirelessly sometimes does cause buffering issues, but I think that is due to the wireless router more than the NAS itself. One small point is that when I add new media, oftentimes it doesn't show up in the "by folder" view over DLNA until the unit rescans and updates its database (something that it does nightly). Those items will show up in the "by date" view.

The web interface is simple and allows for the creation of multiple users, so family members can have private folders for their items in addition to having access to the public folder. Other actions include forcing a rescan of the database, updating firmware, and turning on and off services (for example, I don't use iTunes so I was able to turn off that service. The interface also shows a log of recent admin activity, which helps with troubleshooting if there are multiple admins and someone changes a setting.

Seagate Dashboard 2.0 software works with the device and can allow PC users to automatically back up files and folders. I tried this out and didn't like the way the Seagate Dashboard software handled backups, so I do not use it, but it may work for others. It will also work with pretty much any other backup software that can write to network drives. In any event, I would not really recommend using this as a backup device because of the lack of RAID redundancy.

Transfer speed for uploading files varies depending on several factors. Generally, over wireless connections I can upload at about 2.5 - 3.5 MB/s, and I get closer to 12 MB/s when connected through my router's 100 mbps Ethernet connection. In general, a movie file of around 2 GB takes about 15 minutes to transfer. If you have large numbers of files to move (like when you first set up the device), I would recommend using Gigabit Ethernet. I have not been able to do this myself, but I have read other sources that say you get closer to 45 MB/s transfer rates that way. When I did my initial setup, I transferred my files overnight, which worked pretty well for my collection of about 800 GB of movies, pictures, and music files.

In conclusion, the Seagate Central 2TB NAS is a decent storage device for home use, and it does a very good job serving media to a variety of devices. I would not recommend it for business use as it does not have multiple drives in a RAID setup, and it is also a good idea to have a backup of the files kept on the NAS somewhere else in the event of a device failure.