The dramatic rise in popularity of digital media files and the dramatic fall of hard-drive costs have inspired many AV fans to assemble their own media servers, using a combination of a network attached storage (NAS) drive and some form of media management application that runs on their computers, handheld devices, and/or networkable AV gear - be it iTunes, PLEX, XBMC, and so on and so forth. Some hard drive manufacturers have wisely asked the question: do we really need the middleman? Why not design an external NAS drive with integrated media management to appeal to the home entertainment crowd?
That's exactly what Seagate has done with the new Seagate Central external hard drive. The drive itself is a single-bay design in configurations of 2TB ($149.99), 3TB ($179.99), or 4TB ($219.99). Seagate sent me the 4TB version (official model number STCG4000100) for review. The Seagate Central has a home-theater-friendly form that resembles a small source component. Measuring roughly 8.5 inches long by 5.5 deep by 1.75 high, it's a little bigger than the average streaming media player and a little smaller than the average Blu-ray player. The plastic front face has a brushed charcoal finish and sports nothing but a Seagate logo, while the back panel offers three ports: power, Ethernet (10/1000), and USB (2.0).
Physical setup involves nothing more than connecting the Seagate drive via Ethernet to your router or switch and powering up the device. It takes about two minutes for the drive's top-panel LED to glow solid green, indicating that initial startup is complete. From there, the rest of the setup process takes place on your computer. The Seagate Central is compatible with both Mac (Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later) and Windows (Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, or Windows XP) operating systems, and the setup page (http://seagate.com/central/setup ) provides clear instructions for each path.