Seagate’s latest NAS in a box reminds me of an old-school modem in its physical design, but underneath the solid construction lies a fairly powerful if not always fully functional device.
Seagate Central: On the plus side
There’s only so much you can do with a hard drive to make it look attractive.
Wait, let me think about that for a second.
No, on second thoughts, there’s pretty much nothing you can do to make a hard drive look attractive. They’re hard drives — functional workhorses of the IT world, but never anything that anybody not already on a hard drive manufacturer payroll could ever describe as anything remotely approaching attractive. Seagate’s Central doesn’t try to hard to aesthetically please, with a simple and solid construction that rather reminds me of the very old-school 800 baud modems that used to be cutting edge. Yep, I’m that old. At a guess, Seagate might have been trying to replicate that kind of “connected world” motif that old school modems traded on.
Underneath its boxy exterior lurks some serious storage; the unit I’ve been testing for the past couple of weeks is packs 4TB of storage into its chassis. Connection is via ethernet, with a USB port for adding additional storage, because this isn’t just a straight storage device; it’s a network attached storage (or NAS) box instead. The idea is that you use the Central as a central repository for your backups, photos, videos and documents, and then use your network connection to access those files from just about anywhere on the planet where you’ve got a network connection.
NAS isn’t a new concept, and Seagate’s approach to it runs mostly along the same lines as its competitors. It’s a fairly consumer-friendly setup that just about anyone should be able to handle with a minimum of fuss; it took me only a few minutes to plug it into my router and have it appear as an external drive for a variety of external devices. I was able to spot it as an external drive from Macs, PCs, PS3 and a variety of Android devices running UPnP client apps; Seagate reckons it’s also compatible with a variety of Samsung Smart TVs.
Copy speeds are going to vary depending on the nature of your network, but adding it to a network that already encompasses a ReadyNAS NV+ device and a Western Digital MyBook Live saw the Central copy files at much the same rate as other drives. Nothing better, nothing worse, but if you’ve got thousands of photos to back up, give it a fair whack of time to complete.
Seagate provides a web portal and applications for remote access with the Seagate Central, and while these are relatively basic in terms of their interfaces, they’re perfectly functional if you just want to check files or photos while away from your home network.
Seagate Central: On the minus side
The Central comes in a variety of storage capacities (2, 3 or 4TB), but no matter which Central device you pick, you’re actually only looking at a single, non-replaceable drive under the hood. That’s something of an eggs-in-one basket approach to this kind of storage, and while Seagate does offer online backup, the realities of upload speeds in Australia tied into people’s general reluctance to backup in the first place make that a somewhat risky proposition.
I now pause this review to remind you: BACK UP YOUR FILES!
Ahem. I’m OK now, really, I am.
The associated apps worked for me most of the time, although I did hit issues early on when trying to remotely access the drive from the iPad app. It resolutely refused to recognise the username or password, and even heading to Seagate’s web portal and changing them over made no difference on the day. The next day, it was happy to give me access — genuinely odd.
There are also limitations on remotely streaming files, especially video. Music and photos streamed across with only minor delays, but I could never find an actual video file that would in fact stream; instead the Seagate App always insisted that it had to download the entire file before it could begin playing, although local streaming worked flawlessly. That’s less than optimal, so if you had visions of using a Seagate Central as a on-the-go remote entertainment hub, you may want to scale back those ambitions.
Seagate Central: Pricing
The Seagate Central sells for $199 with 2TB of storage, $269 with 3TB of storage or $369 with 4TB of storage, although even a small bit of online searching suggests you can trim a little off those prices with just a bit of effort. Storage is a pretty fierce market, so that’s no surprise at all.
Seagate Central: Alex’s verdict
NAS devices aren’t exciting in the physical sense, just like backup is one of those topics that nobody ever really wants to talk about. I can’t say the Central is an exciting gadget in that context, but it’s certainly a mostly functional one as long as you’re happy with its single-drive approach.