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NAS Reviews

Features

NETGEAR has completely reworked the ReadyNAS OS, dubbing it OS 6. I was happy to see that the old frame-based admin GUI that I disliked so much is gone. It is replaced by a modern interface that looks like it can be driven comfortably from a tablet or a desktop machine. The screen that greets you upon login is shown below.

NETGEAR ReadyNAS OS 6 System Overview

NETGEAR ReadyNAS OS 6 System Overview

As mentioned earlier, we're going to be doing a separte review on OS 6. But here are some initial observations. The Admin GUI is visually attractive and responsive with logical organization. There are many shortcuts and overlays that speed things along by preventing complete page reloads. The Services screen shown below is a good example

NETGEAR ReadyNAS OS 6 Services

NETGEAR ReadyNAS OS 6 Services

Some RAIDiator features didn't make it into the initial OS 6 release. These include:

  • Print serving
  • JBOD (Planned for 6.1.0)
  • Idle drive spindown
  • WebDAV (Planned for 6.1.0)
  • No bundled backup client for Windows or MacOS (branded version of Genie9 is planned for Windows)

NETGEAR said that multiple volumes and single-drive volumes are supported. With a two-drive RAID 1 volume created, I was offered the option to create a second two-drive RAID 0 or 1 volume. When I tried to create a single drive volume, only a RAID 1 option was provided. Oddly, NETGEAR says this is a valid choice and will create a single-drive volume.

All the new OS 6 powered ReadyNASes use a new filesystem based on BTRFS. One of BTRFS' claims to fame is its unlimited snapshot capability. This is supposed to give ReadyNASes a Time-machine like capability to be able to dial back to any point in time (at least to the resolution that you choose to take snapshots in) to restore the filesystem to an earlier state. I didn't play with this capability. But it will be explored in the OS 6 review.

Updated 5/23/2013

NETGEAR asked me to point out that setup isn't the only cloud-enabled feature that OS 6 brings to ReadyNAS. You get portal-based (no fiddling with dynamic DNS or router port forwarding) file access and management, a Dropbox-like service (ReadyDROP), Remote support for Time Machine backups, remote play for media files and other features that will be explored in the OS 6 review to follow.

Performance

Firmware at test time was OS 6.0.5. As I was taking some screenshots for this review and after testing was done, I got a popup upon login informing me that version 6.0.6 had been released. Since testing took sooo long and the release notes didn't indicate any performance improvements, I did not retest. As is our custom, I ran our standard NAS test process on RAID 0, 5 and 10 four-drive volumes.

Starting with this review, however, I also ran RAID 1 tests on a two-drive volume and will be doing so in the future for all NASes with two bays or more. This will let me re-use test data from four-bay and greater NASes for dual and single drive products built in the same hardware platform when I move the NAS Charts to the new consolidated NAS system. When that happens, you will be able to view (and Rank) NASes by processor class for fairer and easier comparison.

The Benchmark Summary below shows pretty consistent 50 MB/s-ish Windows File Copy write performance for RAID 0, 1 and 10 modes. RAID 5 write takes a hit, however, coming in at only 40 MB/s. File copy reads are uniformly higher for all modes tested with throughput in the mid to high 80 MB/s range.

NETGEAR RN104 Benchmark Summary

NETGEAR RN104 Benchmark Summary

NASPT File copy are generally higher for write, but lower for reads across all RAID modes. RAID 5 again turns in the lowest performance at 51 MB/s write and 68 MB/s read.

Of particular note are the abysmal NASPT Directory Copy results. While these are always lower than File Copy, the 3 MB/s write throughput across all modes are particularly low and indicate that you'll be waiting awhile when copying folder of lots of smaller files.

iSCSI target write performance to target created on a RAID 5 volume wasn't too bad for a Marvell-powered RAID 5 NAS measuring 41 MB/s write and 50 MB/s read.

Your best option for attached backup looks like eSATA with an NTFS formatted drive. This combination produced the highest value measured—35 MB/s. Network backup to our standard rsync target came in at 28 MB/s.

Manufacturers have generally moved on to using at least single-core Intel Atoms in their lower end RAID 5 capable NASes. But I managed to find two other Marvell-powered four-bay NASes in our database, the Iomega ix4-300d and slightly older Synology DS413j. I combined these into the RAID 5 File copy charts below for comparison.

RAID 5 File Copy Performance comparison

RAID 5 File Copy Performance comparison

The comparison shows that except for one benchmark—RAID 5 Windows File Copy—the RN104 ranks at the bottom of the group for RAID 5 performance.

Updated 5/23/2013

NETGEAR says this lower performance is the result of their choice of a filesystem (BTRFS) that "prioritizes data integrity over raw performance".

Closing Thoughts

NETGEAR has traditionally priced its ReadyNASes at a premium. But times have changed and the competition is much fiercer and the RN104's pricing tries to reflect that. While not cheap at a bit above $300, it's still about $70 cheaper than the Synology DS413j that forms the RAID 5 entry-level point for Synology's offerings. But if you equip it with the same four 2 TB Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 drives that Iomega's ix4-300d has at around $100 a pop, you'd come up to a bit over $700, which is about $80 more than the 8 TB diskful Iomega currently prices out at.

Since performance isn't the only reason to buy a NAS, be sure to read the OS6 review before you make your final judgement.

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