One of the largest hard drive companies is trying its hand at something different, with Western Digital developing a new wireless router that not only knows when you’re watching movies or playing online games, but can improve the download speed to match.
Heading to stores in July, WD’s new “My Net” wireless router range aims to bring intelligent technology to network devices designed to work out when you’re using applications that require high speeds over the web.
This need rears its head when you’re streaming media from BigPond Movies or Foxtel on the Xbox 360, with each of these services determining what sort of video quality you should receive based on the connection speed.
If anyone else in your house is surfing the web or downloading files, this can have a huge impact, providing less than desirable video quality when you’re trying to watch videos on a Full HD TV.
The same sort of problem can occur with online gaming and video chats, with the former resulting in a game experience plagued with slow downs and lag, and the latter – online video conferencing – providing a low resolution video feed when you chat.
Western Digital’s solution to this is an in-house technology the company calls “FasTrack” which is designed to work out what type of media is being transmitted and received based on the type of network activity detected, and then prioritising the web traffic for that activity.
So you could be wanting to watch a movie streamed over BigPond or Apple TV, and your wireless (and web) connection would be given the priority over other wireless connections on the network.
“With so many people within the home simultaneously watching movies, playing games and browsing the Web, the network demands placed on today’s connected home has grown exponentially,” said Scott Vouri, Western Digital’s Vice President and General Manager for WD Connected Home Solutions.
While the technology seems like a good idea, we’re a little surprised that Western Digital has gone with wireless-N (802.11n) technology, especially given that the newer and faster 802.11ac tech is just now beginning to make its way out into stores.
WD’s Scott Vouri didn’t say when an 802.11ac model would be coming, citing that he couldn’t talk about future products.
“The reason why we came out with the FasTrack technology on N first is because our customers can take it home today and immediately see the benefits of it,” Mr. Vouri said.
Western Digital’s range of My Net routers come in four models, with the top tier My Net N900 Central (from $399.99) arriving with four Gigabit Ethernet connections, one USB port, and an internal drive supporting either 1 or 2 terabytes of storage.
Slightly beneath this, the regular My Net N900 ($349.99) offers up 7 Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB ports, with the internal storage ignored in this model.
Both models in the N900 series feature antennas designed for amplified range, DLNA support, dual-band wireless-N technology for 450Mbps on both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and Western Digital’s FasTrack Plus technology that can automatically work out what type of media you’re watching and prioritise accordingly.
Below the N900, you’ll find the N750 and N600 My Net routers, offering up similar technology, albeit without the automatic prioritisation technology. Without the “plus”, FasTrack works out which media type to throttle based on information supplied by the customer, allowing you to change how the router works based on what you access the most. Wireless speeds are also slightly dropped here, with the My Net N750 ($249.99) using both wireless bands for a combined 750Mbps, and the My Net N600 ($149.99) dropping it back to 600Mbps.