Netgear's offering into this all-in-one world is their Centria WNDR4700. This provides a dual band router, backup and DLNA certified media server in a simple one-box solution. The difference with this unit over the ones mentioned above is that rather than attaching a hard drive via USB, you can actually fit a hard drive into the device itself; although if you get the WNDR4720 model it comes with a 2TB hard drive already fitted. All-in-one devices are inherently a great idea, but sometimes fall down in particular areas when compared to individual devices that perform their own separate tasks very well. Based on previous Netgear reviews here at AVForums, we have high hopes that the Netgear Centria will deliver everything it promises - let's find out if it does.
Design and Connections
To the front of the Centria we have an illuminated Netgear logo in the centre with a row of LEDs to the bottom. The 5 LEDs show the relevant status indicators for power, internet, wireless, USB connected device and HDD. To the left side we have the bay for the HDD; if you have the WNDR4720 it will have a 2TB HDD already installed but if you buy the WNDR4700 version, you'll have to fit your own HDD.
On the right side we have the buttons for the WPS, WiFi on/off, Backup, USB 3.0 port and an SD card reader. Finally, to the rear we have 4 10/100/1000 ethernet ports, 1 10/100/1000 WAN internet port, another USB 3.0 port and the reset button along with the power connection and the main on/off switch. The power adaptor with this unit is a small brick type so can be easily hidden away and overall this is a very well specified device.
Setup and functions
Router The router in the Centria is the Netgear D900 as previously reviewed by Steve Withers. As with the D900, this device is not a modem, so you simply connect it to your modem via the supplied ethernet cable. Installation was extremely simple, which was a pleasant surprise because as we are running BT Infinity we had expected several hurdles before the connection was up and running, but this was not the case at all. We simply removed our BT HomeHub3, connected the Centria and turned it on. Once the computer was on we were automatically taken to the router login screen where our internet connection type was automatically detected leaving our only task to enter the BT username and password. That was all we needed to do to get our internet working on the Centria.
In keeping with Netgear's ease of use philosophy the Genie software is a simple dashboard format allowing monitoring and easy changes to the Internet connection, Wi-Fi connection, Router settings, Network map, parental controls and access to the ReadyShare settings for the internal hard drive or a USB connected storage device. Another feature is the AirPrint which lets you convert any connected printer to be an AirPrint capable printer, meaning you can print to it from any Apple iOS device that you have connected to the network. If you're more technically adept, you can also easily access the advanced router settings, although it is worth noting that confusingly you only get the advanced settings option via the Genie software accessed from the router itself via the routerlogin.net address and not from the Genie software downloaded from Netgear's website.
An app for the Genie software is available for Android, iPad and iPhone and follows a similar graphical dashboard design, offering the same basic functions as you get in the desktop app with the addition of the My Media section which takes you to the media stored on the internal HDD or a USB attached device, which we will come to later.
Backup Should you get the non-harddrive version (WNDR4700), installing the hard drive is extremely easy - you just open the bay door, slide the hard drive in, click it in place and job done. Then you just go to the Genie software, format the drive and once this is done you download the Netgear ReadyShare Vault software and install. It's a very easy to use software that presents you with a series of options for backup and restore, just one click on backup and it will start to backup your system. The default setting appears to backup your My Documents folder, Email, Desktop, iTunes and Office files. Should you require additional folders or files to be included, go to the Backup settings and tick whichever folder (or whole drive) that you require. After the initial backup, it will automatically keep all the files in the selected folders backed up. It's as simple as that!
You also have the option of choosing the drive to backup to, if for example you add a USB storage device and want to use that instead of the internal drive. As mentioned in the connections section above, on the right side of the device is a button called Backup. Very simply, once you have inserted an SD card into the reader, you hold this Backup button for 2 seconds and it will copy everything onto the internal hard drive.
Along with the ReadyShare backup you also have settings for ReadyShare Printer, which lets you connect a USB printer to the Centria's USB port and instantly you then have a wireless printer. Together with ReadyShare Cloud which once setup will allow you remote access over the Internet to files on the internal HDD or an attached USB storage device. You can assign permissions and a user's access to each file stored. Useful if you want to give a friend remote access to some files, but restrict them just to one folder. It's almost like your own personal online file sharing! The ReadyShare Cloud is easy to setup, just follow the links in the setup page in the router settings to a Netgear webpage, register with Netgear with a username and password, then put those details into your router settings. Once all saved, you can now log on from anywhere to get access to the internal HDD or USB attached storage.
The final part of the Centria is a DLNA certified media server. After the initial backup the Centria will have scanned your main drive for all media files and added them to the internal hard drive. You can then access these from any DLNA certified device such as a TV, Xbox 360 (providing the files are compatible with those devices) and even your iPad or iPhone. Via the Genie app on your iPad for example, you click on MyMedia and it takes you to a list of folders for Music, Pictures and Video, you then just find a media file to open and it will instantly start.
Another great feature is that via the MyMedia you can choose which compatible device you have on your network that you want to be the 'player' and via another mobile device send files to it. So for example if you have your iPhone in a speaker dock you can, via the Genie app on your iPad, choose which music it will play from the files stored on the Centria's hard drive! Likewise you can use the Genie app on the iPhone to make another DLNA device play a music or video file or display pictures. During testing it worked flawlessly when using our iPad to make our iPhone play a song, video file or display a picture.
It however did not work like that with our ageing Samsung LED TV or Xbox 360. We could manually access files on the TV such as the music, but presumably because of its age, none were compatible. The Xbox 360 we did have better success and could play all the music stored on the Centria, but sadly none of the video files would play. But surprisingly it worked perfectly with an old Denon S-52 wireless Hi-Fi system currently used by this reviewer as an alarm clock, playing all the music files we tested!
One minor negative is that it isn't as easy to add files to the hard drive as you would expect, given the very easy setup and operation of the rest of the functions of the Centria. We were hoping for a simple drag and drop operation, but that is not the case, although it is still a relatively easy process to get your head round. It's fine if you have a single hard drive as during the initial setup and backup it will have scanned that drive for all media files. However if you have more than one hard drive you can either alter the backup settings to include those media files on the other drive(s) or just copy the files to the ReadyShare internal disk. The easiest method we found during testing was to create a shortcut on the desktop to the root of the ReadyShare drive and copy everything missed during the initial scan to there - so to be fair it's still quite easy!
Streaming media to various devices was done without stuttering and all but the largest video file started playing immediately with no noticeable buffering. The excellent speeds received above are more than enough to stream HD media to your devices and should you be in a busy Wi-Fi demanding household, the dual band capability will certainly ease your Wi-Fi overload issues. Testing the file transfer speeds to and from the internal hard drive with single large files and a multiple of smaller files gave an average of 10 MB/s.
- Very easy to setup
- Flawless DLNA server
- Remote access to files on hard drive
- Great wireless performance
- Automatic backup of files
- File management could be more user friendly
- Noisy fan
Netgear Centria All-in-One Storage Router Review
Despite the three devices being squeezed into one box, Netgear have still managed to retain the ease of use and operation that we have found commonplace in their recent products we have reviewed. The initial setup of the device is as easy as it possibly could be; you simply disconnect your old router, plug the new one in, it auto-detects your connection type and once you've input your username and password you're ready to go. The automatic backup is also a piece of cake to set up, offering easy options to alter where the backup is stored (if you have more than one device attached to it), what files are backed up and how often.
Netgear market this as 'The center of your digital home'. With the final device being a well perfoming media server, that statement certainly rings true. Via the mobile Genie app, streaming media to your various DLNA certified devices is effortless and works without issue. For example, with a fully compatible device such as a wireless enabled Home Cinema Receiver you can use your iPhone to control exactly what media is sent to it from another room. One gripe we do have is that the file management in the media server could be a little better organised. Although once you've got it setup correctly and organised a few shortcuts, it can be managed fairly well so it's not a major issue.
Another minor gripe is that to get it all running correctly you have to download three or four programs from Netgear's website. Whilst the links are provided in the instructions and the files are small and easy to install, you can't really do without them so during the initial install the Centria should just install them at the same time. Depending on where you locate the Centria, our next issue is either very minor or a deal breaker. The unit has a fan which is reasonably loud, so if the Centria is located in a room away from your lounge or bedroom for example then this is no problem at all, but if isn't then the fan noise could be an issue for you.
Whilst there are plenty of routers offering DLNA media servers and backup via a connected USB storage device, including several by Netgear themselves, they do seem to suffer in the ease of use department and don't offer as many features. As far as the Centria is concerned, the diskless version (WNDR4700) is currently £199.99 if you shop around and the version with the pre-installed 2TB hard drive (WNDR4720) is currently upwards of £260. With current HDD prices, it's borderline whether the diskless version is the better option but if you have a spare HDD laying about then it becomes very attractive.
Netgear do have competition in this market from the likes of Western Digital with their My Net N900 Central, which offers 2TB of (non upgradeable) integrated storage, and there are more coming into this market each day. If you can look past the fact that the Centria doesn't offer 802.11ac compatibility, just the usual 802.11 a/b/g/n, then for an all-in-one device it is certainly worth a Recommended badge. The Centria includes a high performing and easy to use router, backup facilities and a media server and it's only the few minor issues we encountered that stop it from getting a Highly Recommended badge.
Our Review Ethos
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