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Netgear ReadyNAS RN104 review

Michael Passingham
13 Aug 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
160
inc VAT

The Netgear ReadyNAS RN104 has a cluttered user interface and patchy performance, which let down what is an otherwise decent NAS

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Specifications

Capacity: Bare drive, 3.5" hard disk bays (free): 4(4), Networking: 2x 10/100/1000 Ethernet, DLNA media server: Yes, Print server: No, Dimensions (WXHXD): 134x205x223mm, Weight: 4.7kg

The Netgear ReadyNAS RN104 is a cheap four-bay NAS. It ships without disks, so you'll need to supply your own. Installing the disks is a painless and screw-less affair. The disk caddies slide into the NAS and are accessible from the front of the device via a hinged door.

You'll also find a LCD display on the front of the RN104, which displays relevant information including the device's IP address, any errors and the status of current jobs, such as creating RAID arrays.

The RN104 has three USB ports; two of these are USB3, with a single USB2 port on the front of the device. There's also an eSATA port on the rear of the device for backing the NAS to an external hard disk. Finally, a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports give you redundancy, so if one connection fails the other is still alive. They can also be used to increase performance with load balancing in an office environment.

Configuring the RN104 is done via its web interface. While this doesn't have the bells and whistles of a desktop PC-style interface and takes the form similar to a router's HTML configuration web page, it's easy to navigate and cleanly designed.

Setting up file shares and LUNs using SMB, AFP or DLNA is easy; all of these functions are native to the Netgear ReadyNAS operating system and don't require any third-party applications to make them work. Even better, each file share can be backed up using snapshots hourly, daily, weekly or manually. This allows you to recover files that have been mistakenly modified or deleted, restoring them back to a previous version.

In addition, both Windows and Mac backups are supported, with a preset Apple Time Machine backup available. You can set up and schedule multiple backup jobs from multiple devices on your network.

If you want to use your RN104 for more than just file sharing and backups, you'll need to download some third-party and Netgear-developed apps. However, finding any that are useful is a much bigger challenge than we would have expected. In the Available Apps tab, there is a long list of seemingly random applications, which aren't searchable or even categorised. There's also the Netgear App Marketplace, which is equally user-unfriendly, with four pages of non-searchable apps available to download onto your NAS. The only application we could find that really extends the use of the device was ReadySurveillance, Netgear's security hub that allows you to monitor and record from IP security cameras connected to your local network.

There's also no print server software for the NAS, so if you're looking to share a printer among multiple PCs, you'll need to find an alternative. It supports DLNA streaming to compatible devices, such as internet-connected TVs, and we were able to stream video to multiple devices simultaneously without issue. We did however face problems when trying to find our library using the notoriously tricky iTunes software. Even music stored in the default, publicly accessible Music folder on the NAS was inaccessible. Video had the same problem and we were unable to find a quick fix solution, as iTunes refused to acknowledge the presence of the NAS.

Netgear's ReadyCLOUD lets you access your NAS over the internet and includes two apps. First is ReadyDROP, which turns your NAS into Dropbox-style cloud storage letting you synchronise files between your Windows and Mac computers.

Then, there's ReadyNAS Remote, which lets you remote-access your files via your computer or smartphone. However, despite their simplicity, we found both the Android and iOS apps to be both extremely slow and very unreliable: refreshing folders could take up to a minute and they wouldn't always find our files correctly. They also crashed far too regularly to make them a viable replacement to a proper cloud storage service.

With four WD Red 3TB hard drives installed, the RN104 chose to use RAID 5, which spreads parity (recovery) information across all of the disks, meaning that any one disk can fail and you retain your data. You lose one disk's worth of capacity to restore the recovery information, though.

With four fresh hard disks installed, the RN104 took a painfully long 28 hours to set itself up, so you'll need a great deal of patience when you first get it out of the box. After the very long wait, our four-bay 10400 gave us access to a little over 8TB of storage from the 12TB total capacity of our disks, as we expected. Performance in RAID 5 was fairly fast, at least for large files. It achieved a large file write speed of 40.1MB/s and a very good read speed of 86MB/s. Writing thousands of small files was a much slower affair at just 3.25MB/s. Reading smaller files was substantially better, at 10.2MB/s. That's quite disappointing.

The Netgear RN104 is a low-price 4-bay NAS enclosure, which is well suited to creating file shares and regular backups. A poor selection of third-party applications and weak smartphone and tablet apps let it down. If you want four bays, the Seagate 4-Bay NAS is faster and easier to use; if you're just after some well-priced storage, the LaCie 2big NAS is the better choice. 

Hardware
CapacityBare drive
Default file systemEXT4
File attribute supportYes
Price per gigabyteN/A
Hard disk interfaceSATA3
3.5" hard disk bays (free)4(4)
RAID modesJBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6, RAID 10
Interfaces
Networking2x 10/100/1000 Ethernet
Front USB ports1x USB2
Rear USB ports2x USB3
Other ports1x eSATA
Networking
Universal Plug and PlayYes
DLNA media serverYes
Print serverNo
USB disk serverYes
Web serverNo
FTP serverYes
Mac file sharingYes
SSHYes
WebDAVYes
Other servicesApp store, IP camera server
Features
Dimensions (WXHXD)134x205x223mm
Weight4.7kg
Vertical positioningYes
Buying information
WarrantyThree-years RTB
Price£160
Supplierwww.dabs.com
Detailswww.netgear.com
Part codeRN10400

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