Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4 review
The ReadyNAS Ultra 4 is a network storage device from Netgear designed to provide enough storage for even the most demanding of users. With four 3.5in drive bays it can store terabytes of data, making it an ideal backup device for small businesses or the self-employed, or an expansive multimedia vault for the home user.
The unit itself is large and not particularly attractive. The mesh front panel swings open to reveal the hot-swappable drive bays and a rather large carrying handle protrudes from the back of the unit. Given that it weighs 2kg without hard disks, this is a welcome inclusion. Disks are cooled by a rather noisy 90mm fan, which makes it irritating to use in a home setting.
The useful RAIDiator software simplifies the initial setup as it can identify, format and mount any installed disks. Multiple disks default to the proprietary Netgear XRAID-2 format, which automatically uses the last installed disk for data redundancy. If a disk fails, it can be replaced and the data rebuilt. This is useful if you have plan on adding disks at a later date as it can expand the array without erasing data, but regular RAID modes are still available. Once the unit is up and running, you don’t have to use the monitoring software; a smart LCD screen on the front of the device shows useful information such as IP addresses and the status of installed disks.
Three USB ports are available for attaching external hard disks, digital cameras and printers, all of which can be accessed through the user interface. The single USB port on the front can be used for one-touch backup to an external storage device; although if you’ve filled four drive bays with data it’s unlikely you’ll fit everything on one external disk.
There are plenty of features that make the ReadyNAS Ultra 4 suitable for a range of tasks; a BitTorrent client for downloading files straight to the device, UPnP and DLNA media streaming, iTunes music server and even support for TiVo-based DVR boxes. Unfortunately Virgin’s Tivo-based box won’t be out until later this year, so we couldn’t test how well it worked. The unit also supports Logitech’s Squeezebox and Skifta for streaming content over the internet. It also borrows features from more business-oriented storage devices including SCSI support, but few home users will require it. Remote access through the ReadyNAS Remote software is fairly straightforward and requires minimal advanced setup.
With our test disks installed in RAID 1 mode, the ReadyNas Ultra 4 wrote large files at 63.2MB/s and read them at 58.8MB/s, which is very fast for a NAS device. Smaller files were written at 12.6MB/s and read at 16.7MB/s, which while slower is still very impressive. These speeds are mainly down to the Intel Atom Processor powering the unit; it acts more like a mini PC than a storage device. This helps speed up the web interface as well, so you’re never left waiting for pages to load.
Ultimately, most users won’t benefit from the ReadyNAS Ultra 4. Performance might be fantastic but the feature set isn’t that much greater than any other high-end NAS device. The major concern is the very high price; even without hard disks the unit is prohibitively expensive and if you don’t have any spare you’ll have to factor them into the cost of purchase. For peace of mind that your data is secure, it would be better to buy a much cheaper two-bay enclosure such as the Synology DS210j.
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