Network-attached storage tends to fall into one of two camps. It can be industrial-strength – and industrial-looking – NAS boxes brimming with RAIDed hard disks, all ready to take on terabytes of business data. Or there’s the burgeoning growth in lower-cost units for domestic use.
With so much media like video, music and photos to store in the home, domestic NAS drives now frequently take more than one hard disk, and are available at more approachable prices – often with easier user interfaces and attractive exterior styling.
The Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 rather straddles both small business and home media applications. It’s a compact two-bay unit in sober but purposeful metal dress, almost military looking in its gunmetal finish.
In performance and facilities, it compares to the Synology DS211, although that unit is more aligned toward home use.
The front fascia, a ventilated metal mesh, hinges away from a magnetic clasp to reveal two drive caddies behind – hot-swappable trays that carry 3.5in SATA disks. Sadly, Netgear hasn’t drilled out these trays to allow the easy fitting of quieter 2.5in notebook drives.
A single USB 2.0 port faces forward, ably augmented by a pair of USB 3.0 on the back. Also on the rear is a single large fan, the better to pull through airflow over the disks and electronics than faster-revving small-diameter fans.
In use, the fan was rarely audible, typically being drowned out by the intrinsic noise of even a single 3.5in hard disk.
Build quality is superb, a solid-feeling all-metal brick, although some slight warp in the chassis meant the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 could worryingly wobble on its four feet.
The Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 is available as a diskless unit for around £150, or pre-stuffed with one or two hard disks.
Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2: Interface and setup
An essential part of the NAS is its software and interface. The Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 is Linux-based, and with an unusual Dashboard style interface. This graphically rich environment gives a good overview of what’s happening on the NAS and how it’s been configured, down to an animated blade icon that indicates fan speed.
By default, the ReadyNAS Duo v2 sets itself up with Netgear’s X-RAID2 system, which gives automatic expansion as you add more disks. In the case of the ReadyNAS Duo v2 though, with just two bays, adding a second disk creates a mirror of the first: in other words, RAID 1.
The Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 is also capable of JBOD; or RAID 0 for speed and capacity.
To setup as anything other than X-RAID2, you must reset the drive to factory defaults, and use Netgear’s RAIDar program for Windows or Mac. This requires Java on your PC to run. You then have a ten-minute window in which to use RAIDar, and select what Netgear calls Flexi-RAID.
Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2: Performance
Driving the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2 is a new single-core ARM processor, clocked at 1.6GHz, replacing the SPARC-platform RISC processor of the original ReadyNAS Duo.
Such an ARM processor suggests low power consumption – an important consideration for a device that will typically be left on 24/7. And compared to Intel-processor solutions, it will also run cooler, and thereby quieter.
We measured 15W draw with the system active but idle (loaded with two disks), rising to 22W under load. This fell to just 8W when the NAS was dormant.
The flipside of low-power processors is typically slower file-transfer performance, especially when writing files to the NAS.
We initially tested transfer performance with a single Hitachi 1TB 7200rpm disk supplied with the unit.
Here read speeds peaked at around 102MBps over AFP, in large file tests (greater than 3MB).
For files down at the 32kB level, sequential reads were still relatively strong at 35MBps, although random 32kB reads dropped to just 0.7MBps.
Write performance was lower, as expected: just 17MBps for 3MB samples, rising to a maximum of 42MBps for 40-100MB data.
Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2: RAID 0 for the brave
Setup with a second disk and striped as RAID 0, overall performance improved in most tests. For 32kB files, for example, sequential reads increased slightly to 44Mbps, but sequential writes shot up to 12Mbps; and random writes similarly expanded, from 0.7 to 13Mbps.
Curiously, maximum sequential read speeds in RAID 0 were lower, peaking at 99Mbps, although writes now hit a high of 47Mbps.
We don’t have figures for Mk I ReadyNAS Duo, although Netgear claims the v2 is twice as fast as the previous generation. The speeds we saw are certainly very respectable, especially in the riskier RAID 0 mode. Without striping data, performance was still quite healthy, at the large file-size level at least. And considering the ReadyNAS Duo v2’s positioning at £150, it has very respectable performance.
Netgear ReadyNAS Duo v2: Extra features
Like most consumer NAS drives now, Netgear makes it easy to access your files remotely. This is a handy asset, more for home users than businesses; and as with most such solutions, you will need to open ports or take advantage of UPnP facilities on your router.
ReadyNAS Remote is an app that allows access to any file through the ftp protocol, while ReadyNAS Photos II is designed to both browse and upload photos to the NAS.