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NAS Reviews

{mospagebreak toctitle=Introduction}

Introduction

Netgear ReadyNAS NVX

At a Glance
Product Netgear ReadyNAS NVX (RNDX4410)
Summary Fast, fully-featured, expensive four-drive NAS
Pros • High performance
• Dual gigabit Ethernet
• Many backup options
• Root shell access
• User-expandable RAM up to 4 GB
Cons • Expensive
• No eSATA ports

NETGEAR's ReadyNAS NV+ has had a long run, dating back to when Infrant was just a gleam in NETGEAR's acquisition eye. But its custom Infrant SPARC-based processor hasn't been able to match the performance of more recently designed products, so NETGEAR had to do something.

That something is the Intel-based NVX, NETGEAR's new four-bay ReadyNAS that will eventually replace the NV+. The NVX is, for all intents and purposes, a faster (and much more expensive) NV+. So since the ReadyNAS is no stranger to these pages, this review will focus on its performance after a brief feature summary and look at the innards.

The NVX has two versions currently in distribution, the top-of-line RNDX4410 (4 x 1 TB - the review unit) and RNDX4210 (2 x 1 TB). An entry-level RNDX4250 (2 x 500 GB) is listed on NETGEAR's website, but doesn't appear to be shipping yet.

The NVX is exactly the same size as the NV+, measuring a compact 7.9" H x 5.2" W x 8.7 D". But its all-black styling makes it look like a smaller version of NETGEAR's six-drive Pro. Figure 1 calls out the front panel indicators and controls, which are a copy of those found on the NV+.

ReadyNAS NVX front

Figure 1: ReadyNAS NVX front

A metal-mesh door swings open to reveal the four drive bays, which hold redesigned trays that substitute a slide switch for the paper-clip lock release (Figure 2).

New drive tray lock

Figure 2: New drive tray lock

Figure 3 shows the NVX's rear panel, with a single variable-speed case fan. Noise level is about on par with the NV+, which is not whisper quiet. It was louder than my desktop PC and became somewhat louder when under load during testing.

NVX rear

Figure 3: NVX rear

The other two of three total USB 2.0 ports support additional storage, USB printers and USB-enabled UPSes (such as APC). Two 10/100/1000 Ethernet LAN ports support jumbo frames (auto-adjustable up to 9K) and can be configured in a variety of teaming / failover options explained here.

Like the ReadyNAS PRO, the NVX has the serious omission of an eSATA port to support fast backups or storage expansion. But iSCSI target support has been added to the NVX and all ReadyNASes with the most recent RAIDiator 4.2.5 release.


Internal Details

The NVX isn't designed for easy servicing. You have to remove the two side covers to drop the rear panel to replace the fan. And accessing the upgradeable 1 GB DDR2 800 SODIMM requires removing the top cover (after removing the two sides - Figure 4). To get at the power supply you need to break the warranty-voiding sticker and remove four more screws to free the plate that it is mounted on.

NVX inside top view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: NVX inside top view

And forget about getting at the board. As near as I can tell, you need to remove everything that I have described so far, then free the drive backplane and unplug it from the main board before you can finally slide out the board (after disconnecting a flat cable to the LCD panel), which is mounted on a plate. I decided that it wasn't worth it and instead took a few partial shots of the board.

Figure 5 shows the area that extends beyond the backplane, where you can see two Marvell 88E116R PCIe Gigabit Ethernet PHYs. That's an NEC720114 4 port USB 2.0 hub controller to the right of the USB connector stack and a Winbond W83303AG Advanced ACPI Controller to the left.

Partial NVX board view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: Partial NVX board view

Figure 6 shows the Intel 80579 "Tolapai" System on a Chip clocked at 1.06 GHz under a good-sized heatsink. Given the limited visibility, I couldn't make out anything else.

Inside card bay view

Figure 6: Inside card bay view

Power consumption measured 67 W with the four Seagate ST31000340NS ES.2 1 TB drives spun up and 37 W when they spun down after a programmable idle period.

Feature Summary

Like some of its competition, NETGEAR has taken the approach of using the same user interface and common feature set across the ReadyNAS product line. So if you have used the NV+, Duo or other ReadyNASes, you know the extensive feature set that the RAIDiator OS provides.

Doug Reid did a good job of detailing many of RAIDiator's features in his ReadyNAS Duo review and there is also a slideshow of many of the key admin screens. The Pro review fleshes out the backup features and also explains the X-RAID2 storage system that the NVX comes set to use by default instead of standard RAID.

Here is a feature summary for quick reference:

  • X-RAID2 automatic online expansion for single volumes
  • Multiple volume support for RAID 0, 1, 5
  • Hot-swappable drives
  • Network file sharing via SMB/CIFS, NFS, AFP
  • FTP and secure FTP
  • Joins NT Domain / Active Directories
  • Immediate or scheduled backup to / from attached drives, CIFS, NFS, FTP or HTTPS shares, rsync & secure rsync servers
  • 3 licenses for Memeo Backup Premium Windows and Mac OS client backup
  • ReadyNAS Vault "cloud" backup of NAS storage (partnered w/ Elephant Drive)
  • Secure remote file access via web browser or direct, secure share access (requires running secure client software)
  • iSCSI target support
  • User quotas
  • Email alerts
  • Logging
  • USB UPS shutdown synchronization
  • USB print server
  • Root access via SSH and Telnet
  • UPnP AV / DLNA, iTunes, Logitech Squeezecenter media servers

I didn't bother running a drive fail test on the NVX, since that was done in the Duo review. Suffice it to say that the process goes smoothly and if you have email alerts enabled, you will be kept informed throughout the process.


Performance

The NVX was tested with our standard test process. I upgraded to the latest 4.2.5 firmware and used the Seagate ES.22 ST31000340NS 1 TB drives installed by NETGEAR. Tests were run with four drives configured in RAID 0 and X-RAID2 with 1000 Mbps and 1000 Mbps with 4k jumbo LAN connections.

Note that the X-RAID2 results are published under the RAID 5 results in the NAS Charts.

Backup

I first checked backup performance to an Iomega UltraMax Pro Desktop Hard Drive configured in RAID 0 attached via USB 2.0. The test copies a 4.35 GB ripped DVD test folder that I use in the NAS Chart Vista SP1 file copy tests from the NAS to the attached drive.

The results summarized in Table 1 show best performance of almost 29 MB/s was obtained doing a network backup to a Vista SP1 share located on my peppy NAS Testbed machine. The attached backup speeds are typical for what I have seen among the better NASes and are limited by the speed of the USB 2.0 connection.

Note that the NVX supports writing to an NTFS-formatted drive, but doesn't include NFTS along with its built-in FAT and EXT3 external drive formatting options. The 14 MB/s NTFS backup speed actually isn't too bad, second only to the QNAP TS-509 Pro's 21 MB/s.

Product NETGEAR ReadyNAS NVX
Backup Throughput (MBytes/s)
USB - FAT32 23.25
USB - EXT3 20.86
USB - NTFS 14.26
NAS to Vista SP1 Share 28.99
Table 1: Backup throughput test summary

I think it is silly of NETGEAR—and any other manufacturer—to design high-performance NASes like the NVX and ReadyNAS Pro and not include eSATA ports. As usual, QNAP, Synology and Thecus are setting the pace and have eSATA ports on all their new NASes. Even HP has recognized the value of eSATA and included them on their new EX485/487 and LX195 MediaSmarts. Buffalo is also a notable offender, with no eSATA ports across their entire TeraStation and LinkStation lines.

Benchmarks

Figure 7 presents a summary of the benchmark tests run for the NVX with RAID 0 and 5 (X-RAID2) write and read plotted. The write tests show the high cache throughput characteristic I saw with the Pro, which falls off until the 512 MB file size. XRAID-2 write performance is about 20 MB/s lower than RAID 0 once you hit the higher file sizes. Read speed for RAID 0 and XRAID-2 is about the same in the 60 - 70 MB/s range.

Performance benchmark summary

Figure 7: Performance benchmark summary

RAID 0 Performance with a 1000 Mbps LAN connection averaged over the 32 MB to 4 GB file sizes and with cached results above 125 MB/s removed from the average comes in at 68.1 MB/s for writes and 73.4 MB/s for reads. XRAID-2 results were 54 MB/s for writes and 76.3 MB/s for reads. All results except for RAID 0 write ranked the NVX among the top 5 in each chart.


Performance - Competitive

It's too bad that I didn't test the Atom-based QNAP TS-439 Pro first so that I could compare the NVX to it. But that will have to wait until the TS-439 Pro review. In the meantime, I compared the NVX against other four-drive recently-tested NASes: the Seagate BlackArmor 440, Buffalo TeraStation III and Cisco NSS3000. I also threw in the NV+ results for good measure.

Figure 8 shows RAID 5 write results. The NVX's high cache values at lower file sizes compress the plots, making it hard to see the rankings below the NVX. You'll have to consult the chart below the plots to see that the Buffalo and Seagate are next behind the NVX with mid-to-low 20 MB/s write speed. Note the NV+'s write speed is about one-fourth that of the NVX.

Competitive RAID 5 write comparison

Figure 8: Competitive RAID 5 write comparison

RAID 5 read performance is compared in Figure 9, where it's much easier to determine the ranking. The shocker here is that the Cisco NSS3000, which was just released this January, is slower than the NV+, which debuted in 2007!

Competitive RAID 5 read comparison

Figure 9: Competitive RAID 5 read comparison

Performance - File Copy

Vista SP1 1000 Mbps RAID 5 file copy write results in Figure 10 show the NVX at the top of the chart just shy of 52 MB/s, which is filtered for only four-drive NASes.

1000 Mbps LAN Vista SP1 File Copy Write

Figure 10: 1000 Mbps LAN Vista SP1 File Copy Write

Figure 11 shows the 1000 Mbps RAID 5 File Copy read. The NVX's read speed approaches 100 MB/s, which clearly outperforms the other products in the comparison.

1000 Mbps LAN Vista SP1 File Copy read

Figure 11: 1000 Mbps LAN Vista SP1 File Copy Read

Use the NAS Charts to further explore performance.

iSCSI

Like the QNAP TS-639 Pro and other recently-tested NASes that support iSCSI, the NVX lets you create an iSCSI target (up to 8, actually) by allocating storage from the general XRAID-2 volume (Figure 12).

iSCSI volume creation

Figure 12: iSCSI volume creation

If you decide you need to expand the target or change to using CHAP authentication, you can do that too via the Expand and Modify buttons in Figure 13.

iSCSI volume created

Figure 13: iSCSI volume created

To test iSCSI performance, I allocated 10 GB of the NVX's XRAID-2 volume. I then configured the Windows iSCSI initiator on the NAS Testbed machine to connect to the NVX and ran my standard Vista SP1 filecopy test. Both machines connected via Gigabit Ethernet with no jumbo frames used. I measured 29.3 MB/s for write and 53.9 MB/s for read.

HD Tune Pro write benchmark plot in Figure 14 shows speed in MBytes per second, plotted across all sectors of the array. The average speed of 10 MB/s is significantly slower than the Vista SP1 filecopy test result.

HD Tune Pro Benchmark Write Test

Figure 14: HD Tune Pro Benchmark Write Test

The HDTune Pro Benchmark read results are shown in Figure 15. The average this time is 46 MB/s, still below the Vista SP1 filecopy results.

HD Tune Pro Benchmark Read Test

Figure 15: HD Tune Pro Benchmark Read Test

The HDTune File Benchmark test in Figure 16 writes and reads a test file of selectable size (I used the maximum 512 MB) using block sizes ranging from 0.5 KB to 8192 KB (x-axis). If we concentrate on the typically-used 64 KB block size, we can eyeball around 15 MB/s for write and 49 MB/s for read.

HD Tune Pro Benchmark Read Test

Figure 16: HD Tune Pro File Benchmark Read Write Test

Closing Thoughts

The NVX is an able successor to the NV+ in all ways except price. Even at the lowest online price of $1689, the 4TB RNDX4410 NVX is sure to cause sticker shock for many potential upgraders. The lowest price of entry into the NVX world as I write this is $1215 for the 2 TB RNDX4210. Considering that you can buy an RND4210 2 TB NV+ for a little more than half that, I guess you really will have to need the NVX's higher performance to justify that much of a jump!

Although ReadyNAS owners (and wannabes) would like NETGEAR to create a BYOD version of the NVX, as they did with the ReadyNAS Pro Pioneer, NETGEAR has told me that it's not in the cards—at least not anytime soon. But you will be able to continue to buy the NV+ for the time being, since NETGEAR is not discontinuing it yet.

But NETGEAR is going to find some sharp elbows from the competition, at least from a performance standpoint. If the test results from my QNAP TS-639 Pro are any indication, the BYOD four-bay TS-439 Pro may be a more compelling deal at only $800.

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