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Wireless Reviews

Storage Performance

Since storage is key to the CENTRIA's pitch, I prioritized running storage tests over wireless. NETGEAR doesn't have an approved drive list in its CENTRIA FAQ, so I inserted a 3 TB WD Red drive (WD30EFRX). I had the router format the drive, which it does using EXT4 according to the FAQ. If I had inserted a pre-formatted drive, it could have been formatted NTFS, FAT16, FAT32, EXT2, EXT3, Ext4, HFS+, and HFS+ Journal.

I noticed that the Advanced Storage settings showed only 2 TB of the drive's 3 TB was available (screenshot below). This drive had previously been used for our Thecus N5550 review, so had been formatted EXT4 in a RAID 5 array. The CENTRIA FAQ mention that its formatter supports only one partition, so maybe that's what was going on.

Initial 3 TB drive format results

Initial 3 TB drive format results

So I attached the drive to a Win 7 system and tried formatting it there. Initially, the Windows Disk Management utility would create only a 2 TB partition. But after some research, I used the Convert to GPT disk option that let Win 7 format the entire drive in NTFS. When I reinserted that drive into the CENTRIA and then ran the internal formatter, I got the result shown below. The screenshot also shows the USB drive I had attached for testing.

Advanced Storage Settings

Advanced Storage Settings

Given the internal drive and (relatively) beefy CPU, I decided to run the full NAS test suite on the CENTRIA. Note that this was done with no wireless traffic running and only occasional web browsing and email downloading while the test was running.

NETGEAR CENTRIA NAS Benchmark summary

NETGEAR CENTRIA NAS Benchmark summary

The most notable result in the benchmark summary above is the difference between read and write performance. This pattern was consistent with both the Windows File Copy and Intel NASPT File Copy methods, but the actual values measured were different. With Windows Filecopy, the 16 MB/s write speed was about half the 34 MB/s read. But the difference with NASPT was much greater yielding 9 MB/s write vs. 31 MB/s read.

Filtering the NAS Charts to show single-drive products only, ranked the CENTRIA third from bottom. The good news is that is outperformed a couple of actual NASes!

File copy write - single drive products

File copy write - single drive products

The CENTRIA lands in the same spot for read, but with slightly different ranking.

File copy read - single drive products

File copy read - single drive products

Since some users will want to load up on storage, I also tested performance using our new standard USB 3.0 and eSATA test drive, a Startech USB 3.0 eSATA to SATA Hard Drive Docking Station (SATDOCKU3SEF) containing a WD Velociraptor WD3000HLFS 300 GB drive.

This time, I ran Windows File Copy test only with the drive formatted both in FAT32 and NTFS, with very surprising results!

Format NETGEAR
CENTRIA
WD
MyNet N900
Linksys
E4200V2 /
EA4500
D-Link
DIR-857
(USB 3.0)
FAT32 Write (MBytes/s) 17.4 12.9 9.8 13.9
FAT32 Read (MBytes/s) 32.9 21.72 21.6 30.9
NTFS Write (MBytes/s) 31.6 20.78 20.1 7.7
NTFS Read (MBytes/s) 61.3 21.34 22.2 16.1
Table 3: File copy throughput

Using an NTFS-formatted USB 3.0 connected drive, the CENTRIA did even better than with the internal EXT4-formatted SATA drive! Write speed still tended to be about half of read, but I measured a best case throughput of 61 MB/s for read!

This got me thinking, so I once again pulled the drive from the CENTRIA, formatted it NTFS on my Win 7 system, moved it back to the CENTRIA and reran the NAS Benchmarks. The results are shown in Table 4 along with the original results with the native EXT4-formatted drive.

Format Native format
(EXT4)
NTFS
File Copy Write 15.9 33.4
File Copy Read 34.2 68.4
[NASPT] File Copy Write 9.2 32.1
[NASPT] File Copy Read 31.4 70.5
[NASPT] Directory Copy To 7.7 8.7
[NASPT] Directory Copy From 13.2 18.7
[NASPT] Content Creation 1.3 3.6
[NASPT] Office Productivity 28.8 36.7
[NASPT] HD Playback & Record 22.9 43.8
[NASPT] 4X HD Playback 37.1 67.6
Table 4: NAS Benchmarks - EXT4 vs. NTFS format (MB/s)

If you compare these new results to the single-drive NAS rankings shown above, the CENTRIA now outranks even more older NASes and even the relatively-new Iomega Home Media Network Hard Drive, Cloud Edition. Based on these results, NETGEAR should rethink its decision to format the internal drive EXT4!

Closing Thoughts

There will be those who will be disappointed that the CENTRIA doesn't appear at the top of the router throughput charts. But with 500+ Mbps of up and downlink performance there aren't that many connections that would disqualify it. And its ability to handle more than 4K simultaneous sessions will remove that black mark from download and gaming fans' checklists.

The CENTRIA's pitch is to be "the center of your digital home" by providing file storage, media serving and "high-performance" wireless routing. If you format your drives NTFS, the CENTRIA looks like it's a decent alternative to buying a low-end single-drive NAS and it certainly has enough routing horsepower to handle most Internet connections. Come back for Part 2, where we'll see if the CENTRIA can hit a trifecta by providing competitive wireless performance.

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