The NV's enclosure is not only nice to look at, but has functional improvements that are sure to please. The biggest difference is that the Infrant OS now handles hot-swappable drives, and the new physical design provides the other important piece of this capability.
The drives are now mounted on trays that align the drives' SATA data and power connectors so that they blind-mate nicely with the connectors in the NV's enclosure without intervening cabling. Figure 2 shows a beauty shot with the front door swung open and one of the drive trays pulled out.
Figure 2: Front view with hot-swappable drive removed
Figure 3 is a detail view of the tray with drive ready to be mounted via four screws that Infrant supplies if you purchase a naked (drive-less) NV.
Figure 3: Drive tray and unmounted drive
I was pressed for time, so didn't disassemble the NV to take a shot of its main board. Infrant's product comparison matrix says that the IT3107 Storage Processor used in the NV is now also used in the ReadyNAS 600 and X6, replacing the IT1004 processor used when I reviewed those products.
Update 13 March 2006: Infrant says that it runs the IT3107 processors in the NV at 280 MHz, vs. 240 MHz in the ReadyNAS 600 and X6.
The IT3104 and 1004 look pretty similar with the main differences being a higher 280MHz clock speed (vs. 240) and 64 bit DDR-SDRAM interface instead of the 72 bit with ECC used by the 1004. All three products come with a stick of 256 MB DDR memory and 64MB of onboard flash. This would lead me to think that performance would be pretty much the same for all three products, but the product comparison matrix says the NV has "Enhanced Cache Optimization", which is spec'd as boosting read performance about 25% and write about 30% vs. the X6.
While the NV's 3.5 inch fan is variable speed and tries to keep a low noise profile while cooling the chassis and 180W power supply, I still wouldn't try to park the NV in a living room or even a quiet home office. The fan and motor noise from the four hard drives combine to create enough of a drone to make the NV more suited for being located in a closet or someplace where the noise won't annoy.