Remote access is also available, so that you can access all of your content when you're outside of your home network, via either WiFi or a cellular network. The Seagate Central's remote access is available via any web browser or directly through the Seagate Media app. This requires a couple of extra steps during setup to create a user name and password, and you must enable the function within the iOS/Android app before you can use it. Once I enabled it, I had no trouble accessing my library through both my phone and tablet when I was away from the house.
• The Seagate Central is very easy to set up, and the Seagate website's Support area has a lot of helpful tutorials.
• The server is Mac- and Windows-friendly.
• This is a DLNA-compliant server, so you can stream content to any playback device on your home network that has DLNA support.
• Seagate offers its own media app for Android and iOS. The iOS app has built-in AirPlay support. Samsung has also added the app directly to its smart TV platform, so you can access the server via your Samsung smart TV or Blu-ray player.
• In addition to the Public shared folder, you can create individual private folders that requite a name and password to access ... for all those, ahem, personal videos that you may not want everyone to be able to see.
• You can set it up to automatically archive your Facebook photos and videos; any time you upload a photo or video directly to Facebook, it will get archived.
• The device's form factor and quiet operation are very home theater-friendly.
• The Seagate Central is enabled by default to work with iTunes, allowing you to view the server's content through the iTunes interface on your computer. Just make sure that you have enabled "Shared Libraries" on the general iTunes preferences page.
• When using Remote Access through both WiFi and my cellular network, I could not stream videos; I had to download them to the device to play them back. I was able to stream music and photos, though.
• The Seagate Media app's interface gets the job done, but its design is pretty vanilla. Some of the icons within both the iOS and Android app are a bit too small and cryptic.
• This is a basic single-drive NAS device without RAID to provide advanced data protection.
Comparison and Competition
I normally use a two-piece solution that includes an Apple Time Capsule for computer backups (which runs $299 for 2TB and $399 for 3TB) and an old Mac laptop running iTunes for media management. The one-box Seagate approach is cleaner, less expensive, and compatible with a wider array of systems. There are certainly a ton of NAS drives out there from which to choose; in my research for this piece, I came across this article in PC World that compares the Seagate Central with several other media-centric NAS drives: the Buffalo Technology LinkStation Live, the LaCie CloudBox, and the Western Digital MyBook Live.
A seemingly endless number of permutations and combinations can lead you to a DIY media server solution. The question is: how advanced do you need the system to be? The Seagate Central's small form, quiet operation, integrated DLNA support, and (especially) easy setup and use make it a very good choice for the home entertainment fan who just wants a simple way to store files and play them back on a wide variety of devices. It's well-suited to both the Mac and PC user, and to both iOS and Android devices. I still can't get over how inexpensive it is to get an external hard drive these days; for $220, you can pick up a 4TB Seagate Central that offers plenty of storage for your huge library of high-definition movies and music ... plus an easy interface to manage it all.