Seagate Central network hard drive (4TB)
Seagate's 4TB network hard drive is perfect for storing and sharing media between devices on your home network
- 4TB capacity in a small enclosure
- Remote access worked well
- App is easy to use
- Hard drive is not user replaceable
- Somewhat noisy during seek operations
- Network cable can be hard to disconnect
Seagate's Central network drive has a large capacity and is perfect as a repository for media files in a home network. It performed swiftly in our tests, was easy to set up, and its app worked as expected. Remote access to files was also a positive experience. However, the drive isn't easily replaceable, and it can be a little noisy during operation.
Price$ 299.00 (AUD)
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The Seagate Central is a network attached storage device (or simply NAS) that doesn’t really look like a typical NAS. It has a compact size, not many flashing lights, and there is nothing much to it except a couple of ports on the back, and a hard drive inside the case.
The Central we’re looking at here is the 4TB version, but you can also find this NAS with a 2TB capacity. The drive can be used either to store backups from your PC (it comes with software for this), or it can be used with Time Machine if you have a Mac. The main thing about this drive, though, is that it can be used as a central repository for all your media files, and its aim is to make sharing as easy as possible.
Physical features and design
Physically, the Central is a neat, single-drive unit that rests flat rather than upright. In this respect it’s not like other NAS devices on the market, which tend to be tall and have one or more accessible drive bays. The drive in the Central is not accessible, which means if anything goes wrong with the drive, you’ll have to send it back to Seagate for a replacement (assuming it’s within the two-year warranty period).
A vented top ensures that the drive stays cool while it operates (you can feel the heat rising through it after the drive has been running for a few hours), and the drive basically spins up and powers down according to network activity. It makes some distinctive clicking noises when it’s seeking and writing data, which can be noticeable during quiet nights. The rear has a Gigabit Ethernet port, a power port, and a USB 2.0 port (for plugging in external drives), all of which are in an alcove. This alcove can make it hard work to remove some types of Ethernet cables because there is very little room to get a finger above the cable to release it.
Ease of set-up and use
To set up the Seagate Central, all you have to do is plug it in to a functioning wireless network router using the supplied Ethernet cable. Your wireless router will handle all the heavy lifting (that is, giving it the IP and gateway addresses that it needs to communicate with the network) and you’ll be able to see the Seagate Central on your network if it all goes successfully.
Using a laptop or PC that’s on the same network as the Seagate Central, you will be able to copy videos, music, and photos to the drive’s ‘public’ folders, which are unsecured folders that will be easily accessible on other computers, phones, tablets, and even TVs. You can log in to the drive’s Web interface by right-clicking on its icon in the network devices listing (in Windows), and from there you can add users and folders so that only authorised users can access content within those folders. You should do this if you plan to use the remote access features of the drive, which will allow you to access your data from anywhere over the Internet.
You have to create a Seagate Global Access account in order to get the remote access feature up and running. You'll then be able to log in to the Seagate site to access the folders and files on the drive, and the neat thing is that you can move the drive between locations and Seagate's servers will still be able to find it (at least, it was found when we moved it from home to the office). In addition to viewing and downloading files, you can also move them around and organise them.
For use with a smartphone or tablet, you will have to download the Seagate Media app that’s appropriate for your device (Android or iOS). This app is one that we also experienced when we tested the Seagate Wireless Plus 1TB USB drive. It provides a neat interface for accessing all the files that you’ve stored on the Central, and it sorts them all automatically according to the media type (though you also have the option of browsing folders). As long as your phone is on the same network as the Storage Central, you’ll easily be able to see all the media that’s available on it. Videos and music will be playable within the app, though your device will need to have support for the types of files that you want to play (we had no problem playing MP4 files on our Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone). A third-party player will be needed for any files that don’t play, such as those bearing the MKV extension.
DLNA is supported by the drive, which means that on TVs and some Blu-ray players that support DLNA you will be able to see the Storage Central as a network device that you can connect to and browse its content. This aspect of the drive worked perfectly in our tests with a Samsung TV (model 55UF8000). We simply hit the ‘source’ button on the TV and saw the drive come up as one of the selectable options. Videos and music played back without any problems. Browsing was quick, and video files loaded within a few seconds on our 300Mbps, 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network.
If you have a more recent Smart TV or Blu-ray player from Samsung, then you will be able to download the Seagate Media through the Samsung Hub. Afterwards, you'll be able to access the Seagate Central through the Samsung Hub using this app, and it will replicate the interface of the mobile app to some extent. It’s not necessary to use this app if DLNA is available. Furthermore, you need to have a specific Samsung TV or Blu-ray player for it to work (see the compatibility list on Seagate’s Web site: Does Seagate Central work with my Samsung Smart TV or Blu-Ray player? ). The advantage it gives you is a similar interface across all of the devices that access the drive via an app.
The performance of the drive was as good as we expected in our tests. We hooked it up to a TP-Link N600 wireless router, which has Gigabit Ethernet ports and 300Mbps Wi-Fi, and transferred files from a laptop that was also connected to the router via Gigabit. (The laptop also had a solid state drive in it). We received transfer rates over 40 megabytes per second (MBps) when writing data from the laptop to the Seagate Central, and over 80MBps when reading data from the Seagate Central to the laptop. Over the wireless network, the transfers were as fast as our network would support, getting over 18MBps from the laptop (which had an 802.11ac adapter in it) to the Seagate Central using the 5GHz band over a distance of 3m.
Overall, the Seagate Central is a good drive that we didn’t have to fuss over on our home network. We plugged it in, transferred some files to it, and everything was rosy. We like the fact that you can get such a high capacity (4TB) in such a small and relatively good looking package, but the sealed nature of the drive means it can’t be removed for replacement should it ever fail. The remote access feature worked very well during our tests, allowing us to access our files anywhere very easily.
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