With more people collecting more videos, photos and music every day, it’s no wonder that we’re almost constantly looking for somewhere to dump everything. Be it in the ever-ethereal cloud, or on countless external hard drives, we need to store our data somewhere. So it’s only sensible to invest in a sort of home-storage solution that works out of the box, has minimal setup, and can provide entertainment to everyone in your household. Which is exactly why the Seagate Central is the perfect addition to any home.
Build quality & design
There’s not much you can do with a hard drive to make it look pretty. They’re pretty much designed to sit there and store your data, so Seagate have done their best in designing the Central to be as minimalistic as possible. The single internal hard drive is encased in a matte black box, which has a metal grille on top for improved ventilation. A subtle LED sits under the bottom right of the grille to let you know when the device is on, but apart from that there’s nothing else to see here. Around the back are three ports for power, gigabit Ethernet, and a USB port to plug in extra storage – though I would have liked the USB port to be placed a little bit further away, as some of my test USB sticks weren’t able to fit through.
At first glance the Central looks almost like a satellite cable box or old modem, but its simple looks means that it can blend into almost any home environment. Other network storage units tend to have a plethora of blinking lights which make them distracting in a darkened living room. The matte black design is a perfect fit for the Central, which makes hardly any noise when it’s powered up.
Features & Performance
The Central has to be one of the easiest storage devices I’ve ever had to setup. I literally connected it to my router, powered it up, and within a few minutes it had appeared as a public share on my network. Of course, there’s an extra step where you have to log onto a web interface to finish setting up the device, but once that’s done it’s ready for use. The web interface itself is a bit basic, with often just having options to turn a feature off or on, rather than actually going in and tweaking certain settings. To some this might be fine, but to advanced users who want a bit more control, this will cause a few issues.
Rather than just using the Central as an offloading point for all your data, it does provide a variety of different features that are different from other storage devices. Using the downloadable Dashboard software, you can set the Central for three different modes: Protect will let you setup backup plans for both Windows and Mac, Share will automatically upload photos and videos to Facebook, and Save will automatically download photos and videos that you are tagged in on Facebook.
As a network storage space, the Central simply has one ‘Public’ folder in which you can copy over all your data. There are three folders by default – Video, Photos, and Music, in which you can copy various files and then stream them around your network. One immediate downside I noticed here is that by default the device scans the entire drive for multimedia content – there doesn’t seem to be a way to specify a particular folder to scan, or to exclude other folders from the search.
While things like DLNA and iTunes streaming will work with almost any compatible device, Seagate does offer its own app for connecting to the Central, and also for remote access. When on the same network as the Central accessing it was flawless, with zero delay in streaming music or video. But when I tried accessing the Central from a remote location, it was often choppy and resulted in the app defaulting to downloading the file rather than streaming it. When using the web interface instead of the app it was easier to access files, but again streaming was a no-go. So if you’re thinking that the Central can be your new buddy for streaming hours of entertainment wherever you are, you might want to think again.
While the Central is a very capable media streaming server and storage solution, I can’t help but worry about the single hard drive that it holds. With no way for users to replace this drive, you need to be very careful about what you put on the Central, in the unfortunate event that the hard drive fails. It would have been great if Seagate squeezed in an extra internal drive so that users could take advantage of a RAID setup for protection, but sadly this is not the case.
The Seagate Central is a blissfully easy to setup and use, and provides more than enough storage in a sleek little device. But it’s iffy remote access might irritate some users who want to access or stream their files remotely. However for everyone else who’s looking to enjoy media around their home, the Seagate Central is a surefire choice to have.