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Internal Details

The Ultra 4's innards are very similar to the NVX's, so you can peep the pictures over in its review. You still have to remove the two side covers to drop the rear panel to replace the fan. And accessing the upgradeable 1 GB DDR2 667 SoDIMM requires removing the top cover. Board access also still requires almost complete dissassembly, so I again just took a few partial shots of the board.

Figure 3 shows the area that extends beyond the backplane, where you can see two Marvell 88E8057 Yukon Ultra II Gigabit Ethernet controllers. I couldn't see much else other than a Silicon Motion SM321 flash controller and SST25VF016B flash.

Partial Ultra 4 board view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 3: Partial Ultra 4 board view

Figure 4 shows the view peering up through the empty drive cage, where I could see an Intel 82801IB (ICH9) I/O Controller not tucked under the D410's heatsink beside it.

Another partial Ultra 4 board view
Click to enlarge image

Figure 4: Another partial Ultra 4 board view

Power consumption measured 42 W with the four Seagate ST31000524NS Constellation ES 1 TB drives spun up and 22 W when they spun down after a programmable idle period. As noted earlier, fan noise was very similar to the NVX'—medium— and was the loudest thing in my quiet office.

Feature Summary

The RAIDiator OS supports basically the same feature set across NETGEAR's Intel-based ReadyNAS line (Ultra, Pro, NVX, 2100, 3100, 3200, 4200). But NETGEAR has removed some features in its less expensive "Pioneer" versions of the NVX and Pro in order to protect the higher margins of the full-featured versions.

Figure 5 presents a feature-by-feature comparison of the NVX Pioneer and Ultra 4. For the NVX, just convert the Optionals to checkmarks.

ReadyNAS Ultra 4 , NVX Pioneer Feature comparison
Click to enlarge image

Figure 5: ReadyNAS Ultra 4 , NVX Pioneer Feature comparison

Oddly, however, street pricing at this point for the diskless NVX and NVX Pioneer are about equal. As noted earlier, either NVX can be had for only about $50 more than the diskless Ultra 4. The NVX pricing equality could be because NETGEAR appears to have given up on its Pioneer "upgrade" plan. When I asked my NETGEAR contact what the Optional meant in the comparison charts above, he said, "we’ve chosen to make these add-ons available to the NVX and Pro customers customers, but they’ll need to manually install them".

Doug Reid did a good job of detailing many of RAIDiator's features in his ReadyNAS Duo review. The Pro review fleshes out the backup features and also explains the X-RAID2 storage system that the Ultra 4 comes set to use by default instead of standard RAID. There is also a Pro slideshow of many of the key admin screens.

If you don't want to wade through the features and are looking at a ReadyNAS for the first time, the key bullets are:

  • Most flexible backup - Until recently the ReadyNASes stood alone in their ability to back up virtually anything to anything, including internal volumes, attached drives, networked shares, rsync servers and the "cloud" (Internet) . Iomega finally broke ranks last year and added CIFS share backup support to its ix2-200 and ix4-200d. But NETGEAR still leads the pack in backup flexibility.
  • Lots of media services - I own few Logitech Squeezeboxes and relied on the Squeezecenter server running on an NV (then NV+) until they got too slow and were replaced by a QNAP TS109. But through the magic of optional add-ons, ReadyNASes support a wide array of media services including TiVo archiving and playback, Orb and Skifta for remote media access and iTunes and streaming to PS2, Xbox 360, Sonos music systems and more.
  • Good support - The ReadyNAS Forums are quite active and there is a robust add-on developer community. And for those who need business-grade support, enhanced warranty and service plans are available for many models.

Of course, good stuff doesn't come cheap and neither do ReadyNASes. But QNAP and Synology may have overtaken NETGEAR as the purveyors of expensive "prosumer" NASes. The closest QNAP match to the Ultra 4 is the TS-439 Pro II, which sells for almost $200 more (!) than the Ultra 4.

Updated 9/19/2010: More info on Ultra 4 vs. NVX

Forum regular and ReadyNAS fan claykin kindly provided these corrections and comments. Thanks!

1) NVX Business is more than just an NVX Pioneer with only the optional items listed. The NVX is a Business class NAS which includes additional features such as AD Integration, Secure RSYNC, Snapshots, SNMP, NIC team/failover, VLAN, 5 year warranty, enterprise disks on most populated systems (except NVX with 500GB disks).

2) Ultra line does not support NIC teaming/failover.

3) Also note that iSCSI is now available for free on Pioneer edition products so they are more on par with Ultra line.

4) Orb and Skifta are also available for ALL x86 products including Pioneer.

5) 64 bit support also allows for individual files up to 16TB, iSCSI volumes up to 16TB and for timemachine volumes up to 4TB. Readynas NVX is limited to max 2TB for files, iSCSI and timemachine volumes.

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