Netgear ReadyNAS RN212 review

Netgear virtually owned the market for NAS for the home and small business markets a few years ago but these days there’s a lot of competition – a good thing for consumers. This means that the ReadyNAS needs to be good to stand out. It’s a two-bay diskless drive and at £250 (buy at Amazon) it’s not a bargain basement option as you’ll also have to find funds for disks too. Also see: Best NAS drives 

This NAS drive is powered by a 1.4 GHz ARM Cortex A15 Quad Core processor backed by 2 GB of RAM. ARM designed processors are what powers most smartphones, but it’s unusual to see it a NAS drive, so we were interested to see how this high-end ARM processor performed. Connectivity wise there are two USB 3.0 ports, one on the front and two at the rear. Also at the rear is a Kensington lock to physical secure the unit. 

As well as the power button and the indicator lights, there’s a Backup button, for manual backup activation. At the rear are two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Two ports are theoretically useful for increasing performance, but you need compatible hardware, and it will be more hassle than it’s worth for most users to get it working. 

If you are spending this much money you should expect solid construction and that’s what the Netgear provides. The metal housing of the RN212 inspires confidence and its narrow design means it might sneak into areas that other boxes won’t. Netgear says its tool-less drive installation is the easiest in the industry, but that proved not be the case for us. You should be able to just pop the drive into the tray, but our 8 TB test disk hard disks didn’t have a second securing hole, which means removing the inner mechanism and affixing the drives into the bay with old fashioned screws using a screwdriver. It was a bit of faff, but not the end of the world as it should be a one-time job. Just be prepared for it. 

During installation, we were prompted to set up the Ready Cloud – Netgear’s system for remote access to the drive. However, during installation, it kept throwing up a message that ReadyCloud had ‘lost communication’ with the device, but once we had completed installation we were able to set it from there. It did the job as I could login remotely, enabling us to access the drive and download a movie when we were out of the house. 

While the likes of QNAP and Synology tend to ape each other OS designs, the ReadyNAS interface is quite different. Rather than a window system it’s a more simple series of tabs running across the top. The system tab shows the health of your drive, fan and CPU temperature, and shares lets you create folders and assign them to users. 

Compared to other rivals we found the number of third-apps relatively lacking. They aren’t placed into categories with just a single page of app to choose from. There is a decent selection at least, such as an anti-virus, a Dropbox connection, and a native app for backing up to iDrive. You can also use the box as a Mac Time Machine backup. 

We looked for a BitTorrent client, but our first choice refused to install, which was baffling, our second was too complex for us to quickly get to grips with, while the third was the basic client we were looking for its interface opened in browser tab and wasn’t particularly appealing to use. We also found apps took over the NAS while installing with a dialogue box, so you couldn’t do anything else until it was done. 

Our favourite Plex Media server app was available at least and we set this up to test the Netgear’s media playing chops. See all NAS drive reviews

Netgear ReadyNAS RN212 review: Performance 

We found that the Netgear did a great job playing back all our media test files to a PS4 via Plex and was able to transcode a 1080p H.265 file to play back smoothly. However, the Netgear could not transcode the files to play back on an Oppo Blu-ray player. We also tried playing back a UHD 4K file, and while Plex attempted to transcode there was not enough horsepower in the Netgear CPU to do so smoothly. We could stream to an iPhone 7 Plus however, via the AV player app, with the transcoding done by the handset though it took a while for the file to start playing back. 

In our CrystalDiskMark test the drive achieved a peak read speed of 116.9 MB/s, nearly maxing out the Gigabit Ethernet connection. The write speed was slower though as 98.42 MB/s. so copying to the drive isn’t the fastest we’ve seen. See all storage reviews

Netgear ReadyNAS RN212: Specs

  • • 1.4 GHz ARM Cortex A15 Quad Core • 2 GB • 2x Gigabit Ethernet • 2 x USB 3.0 port(rear), 1x USB 3.0 (front) • 1x eSATA • Max capacity: 2x 12TB • 220 x 101 x 142 (WxHxD mm)
  • • 1.4 GHz ARM Cortex A15 Quad Core • 2 GB • 2x Gigabit Ethernet • 2 x USB 3.0 port(rear), 1x USB 3.0 (front) • 1x eSATA • Max capacity: 2x 12TB • 220 x 101 x 142 (WxHxD mm)

OUR VERDICT

The Netgear’s physical design and is very impressive, but we were troubled by issues that meant it lacked the appeal of drives we’ve tested from QNAP and Synology. Not all disks can be installed in a tool-less fashion and the interface for installing and using apps isn’t the best we’ve seen, not is the range of choices. Performance is good, but the ARM processor doesn’t quite have chops to handle 4K transcoding. It’s a good NAS, but it would need to be cheaper for us to recommend it over the competition.