Netgear Centria WNDR4700 All in One Router and NAS Review
Netgear recently introduced and released the newest product catagory called Centria which is an All in One Router and NAS. This product is a new category of products for Netgear combining a wireless router and high performance NAS in one single form factor. I was given the Centria about a month ago to try out and provide feedback to Netgear about it as well as writing this review and help introduce the product to potential users.
The Router is Built on the Excellent WNDR4500
The Centria WNDR4700 has the router internals of the very popular Netgear WNDR4500 router. For those not familiar with that router the 4500 is the Flagship N router Netgear offers today. The 4500 had a few unique attributes that made it stand out from other Netgear N routers such as the WNDR3700, WNDR3800 or the WNDR4300.
The Centria WNDR4700 like the WNDR4500 utilizes the latest in 3 radio technology. What I mean by 3 radio technology is this. The 802.11 N standard and technology allows a maximum bandwidth of up to 150mbs per radio. When you add 2 radios you get 300mbs and when you add 3 you get 450mbs. When you add dual bands 2.4ghz and 5ghz with multiple radios you get the combination of the 2.
This new 3 radio technology is the latest in pushing the wireless boundaries of bandwidth but also has another valuable asset. Because of a technology called Beam Forming the WNDR4700/4500 routers have better range and coverage then their standard 1 or 2 radio counter parts. In essence through a combination of Beam Forming and higher powered RF amplifiers built in to these routers they have the best range and coverage of any of the Netgear routers currently offered. In my real world tests I would say these routers provide about 15-20% better coverage then their standard N counterparts.
What sets the Centria WNDR4700 apart though is it's built in NAS. This is a whole different approach then what we have seen before. Netgear routers have included READYSHARE technology for file and media sharing by adding a usb based external drive. While this approach works well for light duty tasks it did not serve those looking for a fast network storage device. The Centria solves that.
The Centria NAS portion is built on technology Netgear has mastered from their NAS storage group. The speed of the Centria NAS is 4 times that of what one would see from a usb connected drive to a 4500 as example. With Read and Write speeds in the 45-60mbs range the Centria can perform well in a relatively high demand area such as HD media streaming an network based backup. The Centria uses a different network processor- a much more powerful power pc based 1GHz processor as against the 600MHz network processor used on the WNDR4500.
The Centria ships in 2 versions. One with a 2TB hard drive (WNDR4720)and a driveless version(WNDR4700).
The Form Factor
The form factor of the Centria is that of their latest routers such as the AC based R6300/R6200. This is a vertically standing form factor which I find highly functional and very attractive. The drive fits vertically in the router. It is very easy to add or remove drives from the unit. Quick snap enclosure. The thickness of it is a bit more then the R6300 but if you just looked at them side by side you wouldn't tell them apart at a quick glance.
Other features in the Centria are a built in SD card reader as well as 2 USB 3.0 ports. USB 3.0 is the latest and fastest of the USB standards. Having these ports allows for easy expansion of the storage capacity of the Centria with performance that should come close to that of the internal sata drive.New Software Features
Netgear products have been enhanced over the past year with a bundle of add on software and utilities. The Centria actually will become a cornerstone product of the Netgear movement toward supporting a 3rd party ecosystem of apps. But for today the Centria includes some compelling software features.
The Centria includes all of the software features we have seen in the WNDR4500 and WNDR3800. These include shared usb printing, network based TIVO storage, Apple Time Machine Support, Ready Share Cloud remote file access for mobile devices, Netgear Genie network tool and IOS Airport printing support. The Centria is the 1st product and currently only Netgear router that includes all of these features. And it includes one new feature we had not seen before. Readyshare Vault.
Readyshare Vault is perhaps my favorite aspect of this router. The Vault software monitors your system and provides real time backup of any file or folder you select to the built in NAS drive. What I like about this is that it is fast. Within seconds of a new download, created file or photo it is backed up. Plus Netgear did a very nice job on the Vault software. It runs seamlessly in the background. It is light weight so I notice no performance hit to my machine. And it does a nice job of identifying what files are backed up and those that are not. All files that are marked for backup with have a colored dot on the bottom left of their icons. When the dot is red it is not backed up. When green it is. Very simple and clear. And again it backs up within seconds when a new file is put on your system.
I have used many methods of backing up my system. I take regular images of my OS partition and backup data by copying it to multiple drives. But I have inevitably lost data on that system crash or hardware failure. The Vault greatly simplifies this. I really like Vault a lot. Though I want to pint out it is not setup for OS backup although you can use the drive to do an image backup from Windows but you will need to manually schedule that from the PC OS not Vault.NAS System Performance
The performance from the NAS and the DLNA server that are built in are very good. I have had several SD and HD streams going concurrently through a Plex server streaming to Plex on a Roku and an IOS client. No issues. Copy times are also excellent. I copied my 20gb of photos from my main pc top the Centria in a little over 5 minutes. About the same as it takes me to copy them to my main PC server with a RAID 5 array. In past the copy times to the attached drives on the prior Netgear routers could be painfully slow. No more. The Centria is plenty fast enough.Is the Centria for you?
So who is the customer for the Centria? Well clearly anyone in the market for a NAS and a router. Cost wise this will be their best bang for the buck as the Centria itself will cost about the same as a lot of the NAS devices available today. The Centria is also a good choice for anyone looking to update their router. The built in NAS is really handy. I always have used ReadyShare as the family based NAS. But as I stated it was limited due to speed. But no more. Add to that the host of software that comes with Centria and it is really bountiful. In particular as I said the Vault is just great. To me that is almost reason enough.
The downside? Well unlike most NAS devices this is not a redundant array. Meaning that if the drive fails you lose what is on it. But if it is used in a Vault mode it is a copy of what is on your PC so you still have the data. I just wouldn't put my only copy of anything on it. Just use it as a backup copy.
For media streaming the Centria finally has the speed many AVS users wanted in their router. For most homes the built in single drive should be enough as it can support the new 3tb drives but again you can expand on it if you need to with the USB 3.0 ports and external drive.. T he USB 3.0 ports are located on the with one on the back and one on the side. And on that same side is the SD card reader to immediately backup your photos too. Another nice touch.My Conclusion
I have spent much of this review on the NAS aspect. This clearly is what sets this router apart. But lets not forget it's primary role as the manager of your network and the carrier of your wireless signal. As I stated early on the Centria is basically a WNDR4500 which has been and still is one of the most successful products Netgear has introduced. With the enhanced range the 4500/4700 is probably the best N based router on the market. Plus the newly enhanced UI Netgear introduced with the 4500 is carried over intact and is in my experience one of the easiest and clearest UI's I have used on a router. So suffice it to say the router is top notch.
For more information on the WNDR4500 please see this thread I started http://www.avsforum.com/t/1360419/comparison-of-new-netgear-wndr3800-and-wndr4500
So in conclusion I will say this. I evaluate a number of routers. I usually wind up leaving the last one I tested in place. The Centria will probably change this. It performs great and with the Vault has become a very important part of my computing network and system. More then the router this devices overall utility will be the fallback device for sometime to come. I highly recommend it.
Netgear AV Consultant