Netgear ReadyNAS 102 Review
Whatever your needs, the Netgear ReadyNAS is ready and waiting
IntroductionAs we move with ever increasing pace into a world of digital media and slowly say goodbye (sadly in this reviewer’s opinion) to physical media, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a good device in place to be able to supply your Home Entertainment system with all the digital media goodness it needs. To do this there are several options - your main PC with enough spare storage space to act as a home server, a separate dedicated PC as a home server or a NAS (Network Attached Storage) device.
The latter is probably the easiest and most cost effective option. A good NAS device can not only provide the means to easily supply digital media to any other network attached or DLNA compatible devices but also with enough spare storage can act as an easy and efficient way to safely back up the files of PCs in the home. Another benefit is that now with some NAS devices, you can connect from anywhere in the world to grab that important file or share photos for example.
The Netgear ReadyNAS 102 includes 2 x 1TB HDDs, which retails at £170 for the diskless version and various options of 1TB to 8TB costing up to £440. Netgear claim this product offers a sleek, modern and intuitive user interface along with various powerful embedded and add-on applications for iTunes, DLNA and backup. There's also cloud-based setup and file management with ReadyCLOUD, with Netgear claiming its the only consumer NAS to include unlimited snapshots, cloud-managed replication and real-time anti-virus. Read on to see what all this jargon actually means and how the ReadyNAS fares...
Design and ConnectionsThe ReadyNAS 102 is a very compact device, not the most attractive but then it’s not been designed to take pride of place in the home, it’s something you expect to work and just sit happily in a corner or under a desk. A substantial and well built, all black device measuring just 220mm long, 101mm wide and 142mm high with a weight of our review sample with the 2 x 1TB HDDs of 2.9kg, it can easily sit hidden next to your router.
To the front we have various LEDs for the power, disk activity and the USB and backup status along with the one touch backup button and a single USB 2.0 port. The glossy drive bay door at the front reveals the two hard drive slots, which use a very simple push and click mechanism to extract or install either of the two drives. To the front and sides we also have various exhaust ports and to the rear we have the main exhaust fan, Kensington lock, LAN port, 2 x USB 3.0 ports and an eSATA port along with the reset button and power socket.
Installation and SetupOur previous experience with all manner of Netgear products has not given us any causes for concern when it comes to installation and setup. They have all done exactly as they should, with a setup and installation process that literally anyone could comfortably manage. The ReadyNAS 102 doesn’t disappoint in this regard, you simply connect the supplied Ethernet cable to your Router, connect the power and turn it on. It took well under a minute to initially start up and initialise which, when completed, is shown by the Power LED turning a solid blue. Once this was completed you then go to readycloud.netgear.com to discover the device. Then you have two options, setup as ReadyCLOUD mode enabling you to access the files from anywhere via your ReadyCLOUD account or a simple offline mode. Whichever option you choose, the simple setup is completed in just a few minutes.
In terms of disk drives, both 3.5” and 2.5” HDD and 2.5” SSD are compatible, although Netgear do provide a small list of compatible drives and give a warning that you must use the drives in the list but we can’t confirm this as we have no spare drives to test if non-listed drives work. The list isn’t entirely accurate as it doesn’t list any SSDs at all despite the documentation clearly saying the ReadyNAS 102 is compatible with SSDs. The drive installation is very simple and completely tool-less.
You have two main options initially on how you would like your drives configured with the two choices being Netgear’s Flex-Raid or X-Raid2. Effectively Flex-Raid allows you to choose any of the standard RAID options such as RAID 0, RAID 1 etc so you can configure the drives to exactly how you would like. The second option, X-Raid2 is similar to RAID 1 (which duplicates the data across both disks providing full redundancy should one disk fail) and probably best suited to the larger Netgear NAS devices with 4 disk trays, in that the first disk is used for storage space, the second disk for data protection and then any further disks added will then increase the storage space. Our review sample with the 2 x 1TB disks had been setup in RAID 1.
FeaturesThe ReadyNAS 102 uses Netgear’s ReadyOS 6.0 storage operating system. The first feature of this OS is the browser based Netgear ReadyCLOUD. Once signed in you can access all of the data stored on the NAS device remotely, including a simple drag and drop system for uploading files and also configure additional user access and check the system status and drive health for example. A very easy to use system with a clean and modern GUI but for drag and drop file transferring we found it to frequently freeze and fail when used within our wired network, rather than remotely. Those files that did successfully transfer took significantly longer than by directly accessing the NAS from Windows for example.
The second option is ReadyNAS remote. Once the software is installed it works much like the ReadyCLOUD online system, in allowing you to simply upload and download files remotely, accessing shared folders and configuring access to other users. This option works in conjunction with the ReadyDROP software which allows you to synchronise files in real time between the NAS device and any devices with the ReadyDROP enabled. During our testing it worked without any problems and as described with any file added to the ReadyDROP folder on the PC very shortly (depending on size of course) appearing in the ReadyDROP folder on the NAS and vice versa.
Our last two management options are firstly connecting to the device’s admin page via the IP or from the ReadyCLOUD main page where you have more in-depth options to configure the NAS device, such as the backup options, adding free apps to expand the NAS device’s features such as ReadySURVEILLANCE which turns the ReadyNAS into a comprehensive Network Video Recorder, adding paid apps from the genie+ Marketplace and the final and probably the most simple (and our preferred) file management solution is to access the NAS device directly from Windows allowing you the easiest and fastest transferring of files and configuring of folders.
We then come to a very useful feature called Snapshots. This is basically a system that provides multiple scheduled backups of shared folders on the NAS. The system takes a backup of all the files in the folders you choose and should you make unwanted changes to a photo for example and save it by mistake, using Snapshots you can very easily rollback to an earlier version of that file. You can configure how often the backup occurs and what folders are included and the Snapshot system will keep multiple copies depending on the disk space remaining and the schedule you have setup (weekly Snapshots are kept for 8 weeks for example).
Our next feature is the Backup system. You can configure and schedule numerous backups or recovery jobs from computers on the same network or those attached to the USB ports such as a USB key for example. For those Apple users out there, you can also use this system to backup using Time Machine. This system seemed a little overcomplicated for our liking, yes it has extensive options which you can configure so the backup does exactly what you want, but there didn’t appear to be a simple option to backup from a connected USB drive for example, without having to first configure a backup job. We were looking for the kind of one button backup, where you connect a USB drive to the NAS, press a button and it backs up everything from that drive. That appears to be absent here.
PerformanceProbably the most important part of a NAS device as far as Home Cinema fans are concerned is the media streaming capabilities. We’ve gone through the various system setups and features, but the important part is seeing how well the ReadyNAS 102 copes with streaming Blu-ray rips or other media and from our testing we had no issues at all.
The ReadyNAS 102 using Netgear’s ReadyDLNA lets you easily stream media to all manner of DLNA compatible devices such as games consoles, TVs and also mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets. We tested with a variety of media files from photos, simple videos and Blu-ray MKV rips. Each time the media was ready instantly and with the case of videos started playing immediately and there was no stuttering or failures during any of our playbacks.
As for file transfer performance, we were very impressed with the read speeds, but then disappointed with the write speeds. A large 1GB file was transferred from the NAS to our PC in just a few seconds at 101MB/s (808 Mbps), but writing back to the NAS from the PC we only managed 21.5 MB/s (172 Mbps). Perhaps this points to the relative low specification of the NAS unit with the Marvell Armada 370 1.2GHz CPU and 512MB RAM. These tests were initially carried out with Netgear’s built in antivirus enabled, once disabled we did see the write speeds increase to 33 MB/s (264 Mbps). The drives used in our review sample were two 1TB WD Red NAS drives which are optimised for NAS use with WD’s NASware 2.0 features (WD10EFX).
All of these read and write tests were carried out directly to the NAS device via Windows, we found using the browser based UI resulted in frequent freezes and crashes with incomplete data and missing files being transferred.
One last point to mention is the noise. Whilst the ReadyNAS 102 is not excessively loud, using our sound level meter we measured a steady 35dBs when idle. If your router is in your main living room or bedroom, the noise level is definitely something to be aware of.
AppsOne of the great extras with most Netgear products is that there is a smart phone and tablet app available to compliment it or provide additional functionality. This is again true here with the ReadyNAS remote which allows you to access the files stored on the NAS but, the app is neither the most user friendly nor the most stable. During our testing we found the apps to look rather dated and provided a few annoying issues. Viewing photos for example on the iPad version of the ReadyNAS remote allowed you to only see half the photo and clicking on it made the photo disappear altogether. We had no issues with any video files though, they all started to play instantly and no freezing or crashing was suffered. Given the sleek design of the browser based UI, Netgear really need to transfer this to their smart device apps.
ValueThe diskless ReadyNAS RN102 with an SRP of £169.99, can be found at many online retailers hovering around the £105 mark. It doesn’t quite match the specifications on paper of the 2 bay Synology DS213J, but that’s £55 more expensive. The only cheaper solution we could find was the Buffalo LinkStation 421E which has similar specifications such as the same Marvell Armada 370 1.2GHz CPU and 512MB RAM, although not all of the features of the Netgear unit but is available at just £90 currently on various websites. As a complete package, for £105 the Netgear ReadyNAS 102 does offer excellent value for money.
Although when you start looking at the non-diskless versions, it is not such good value. For example 2 x 1TB WD Red NAS drives will set you back about £100-£110, add this to the diskless NAS unit and you get to £215. The 2TB version of the ReadyNAS RN102 has an SRP of £299 with a current price if you shop around of £245. So that’s a £30 premium just for buying it with the NAS drives already installed and configured. As we described above the tool-less installation of the drives is child’s play, as is the initial setup, so you would be best suited buying the diskless version and fitting your own drives.
- Build quality
- Value For Money
- Tool-less drive installation
- Noisy Fan
- Average Write Speeds
- ReadyCLOUD drag and drop issues
- Mobile apps needs updating
Netgear ReadyNAS 102 ReviewThe compact design has an all over black finish and the build quality is excellent with a real substantial feel. The tool-less drive installation makes adding new drives a piece of cake with a very simple click and release mechanism to remove installed drives from the NAS. It’s not the most attractive piece of kit and we did have an issue with the noise from the system fan being louder than we would have expected, but unless you plan on positioning it in your living room or in a bedroom for example, then those issues may not be relevant to you.
The installation and setup is as simple as we would have expected from Netgear. The drives can be set up in a number of RAID configurations and the system is all managed from a very sleek looking GUI in the shape of Netgear ReadyCLOUD. Alongside this we have a number of other options such as Netgear ReadyNAS Remote and ReadyDROP for managing folders and transferring files. The system can be set up to allow remote access to several users, which can be drilled down further to just a certain folder if you wish. Our main issue with the ReadyCLOUD browser based GUI is that it is extremely slow and very prone to freezing when dragging and dropping files. The majority of the functions work perfectly, but for general file management we found the simple folder access from within Windows provided a much easier and quicker experience.
We also had good results with the performance of the ReadyNAS 102. Using Netgear’s ReadyDLNA to stream media to our games console, TV and Blu-ray player we had no errors or issues with files not opening and videos from small clips to MKV Blu-ray rips started playing instantly and had no stuttering or freezing issues. For file transfers the read speeds were excellent and approaching the restrictions of our Gigabit network during the testing, the write speeds on the other hand were disappointing with just 21.5MB/s or a slightly improved 33 MB/s with the inbuilt Anti-virus disabled.
Coming in with an entry level price point of just £105 for the diskless version, this puts the ReadyNAS 102 firmly to the front in terms of value. Offering an array of excellent features and simple management options along with a generally good performing system, Netgear have really excelled here. Only let down slightly perhaps by the fan noise, average write speeds and dodgy mobile apps that are in dire need of upgrading, but even with those negatives we have no issues in awarding the Netgear ReadyNAS 102 an AVForums Recommended award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £169.99
Ease of Use8
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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