NetGear ReadyNAS NV+ v2
Priced at around $400 without any storage, the new ReadyNAS NV+ v2 is slightly cheaper than the older but higher-end ReadyNAS Ultra 4 while offering higher storage capacities and more features. Where it needs to catch up, however, is its performance: though not slow, the NV+ v2 was significantly slower than the Ultra 4 in our testing.
To make up for that, the ReadyNAS NV+ v2 sports easily front-accessible drive bays, and USB 3.0 connectivity, and its flexible X-RAID2 configuration makes replacing and upgrading the server's internal storage a nonissue. The server also has a great backup mechanism and supports Apple's Time Machine. On top of that it now features Netgear's sleek new RAIDiator 5 operating system for NAS servers. While easier to use than its predecessor, RAIDiator 5 doesn't add many more features, however, and the server is still behind competitors' servers in this regard, missing popular options such as PC-less download and support for IP cameras.
If you're looking for a relatively affordable server with lots of storage space, and don't mind the intermittent loud noises its fan emits, the ReadyNAS NV+ v2 is a decent choice. For better performance and more features, also check out the Synology DiskStation DS410.
Design and setup
ReadyNAS NV+ v2 has almost exactly the same design as the ReadyNAS Ultra 4: it's as compact as a four-bay NAS server can be. On the front the server has a large door that opens to reveal the hard-drive trays, which can be pulled out easily without using any tools. Once a hard drive is installed, a tray can be locked into its place firmly with a latch. You do need a screwdriver and four proprietary screws to attach a hard drive to a drive tray, though fortunately the server comes with enough of them for all four drives.
Below the drive bay door, there's a small LCD that shows the IP address of the NAS server and the current status of the internal hard drive. On top of the drive bays are a USB 2.0 port and a Backup button that quickly copies a USB drive's contents into the server's internal storage. On the back, the server has two USB 3.0 ports to host more storage via external hard drives. The NV+ v2 is the first NAS server we've seen that supports this new and much faster USB standard.
Unlike the Ultra 4, which comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports, the NV+ v2 has only one. This means it doesn't have the fail-safe or load-balancing networking feature, which is not a terrible shortcoming, since most NAS servers don't have that, either.
The NV+ v2 comes with a CD of help materials and a desktop application called RAIDar you can use to detect the NAS in the network, browse its share folders, and launch its Web interface to further customize the server's features. For the server's target audience, tech professionals, the NV+ v2 is easy enough to figure out.
The reviewed unit comes with one 1TB hard drive but the server can handle up to four hard drives of up to 3TB each (as opposed to the 2TB of the Ultra 4) for a total maximum storage space of 12TB. (In most cases, when all four bays are occupied with 3TB hard drives, you'll get about 9TB of storage out of the server; generally the other 3TB are used for redundancy overhead.) The server, however, works even when there's only one hard drive installed.
Regardless of how many hard drives you use, even if it's just one, the server by default will set them up in Netgear's proprietary X-RAID2 configuration. Similarly to Synology's Hybrid RAID or LaCie's AutoRAID, X-RAID2 enables you to dynamically expand the volume without having to back up or restore the existing content. The configuration automatically safeguards the setup against a single-drive failure. Obviously, you'll need at least two hard drives for the XRAID 2 to be effective. In this case the two drives will be set up in a RAID 1-like configuration (also called a "mirror," in which only half of the total capacity is available). Now if you add another hard drive, the volume will be dynamically expanded and changed to a RAID 5-like setup, which is balanced between data integrity and maximum storage space. And you can keep doing that until the bays are all occupied.
X-RAID2 permits changing the hard-drive setup anytime, even when the server is running, as long as you only add or subtract one drive at a time. You can even replace an existing drive with another of larger capacity, making this a great way to upgrade the server's storage without having to rebuild the RAID from scratch. Note, however, that once a new hard drive is added, it takes a very long time for it to be synced with the existing RAID. This means, depending on the capacities of the drives, it could take up to a few days for you to replace all four drives. The good news is the server still works, though at slower speed, during this process and you can keep track of this process via the front LCD.
The ReadyNAS NV+ v2 doesn't have much to offer in terms of features. Nonetheless, the server does come with a completely new user interface compared with the Ultra 4. It's sleeker and more or less resembles the UI of an operating system. Once logged in you'll be greeted with the Dashboard showing the server's operating condition. On top, you'll find four self-explanatory tabs, Configure, Documentation, Community, and How To. The Configure tab is, obviously, the most important since it takes you to all the server's settings.
The server offers an easy way to add or remove users and share folders. Once each new item is added, you'll be able to assign the access privileges (Read-only, Read/Write, No access) of each user to each folder with a few clicks. For each share folder, you can also turn on the ReadyDLNA feature, which permits streaming digital content stored in that folder to DLNA-compliant streamers in the network. All in all, we found the new interface much easier to use than the Ultra 4's.
Like the Ultra 4, the NV+ v2 has a great backup feature that can either back up a networked device's data in its internal storage, or back up its internal storage on a networked device, or both. For example, if you want to back up a folder on a computer in the server's network, you just need to share that folder. From within the Ultra 4's Web interface, you set the backup feature to have access to that share folder and then make a backup schedule. From then on a copy of the contents of that folder will be made and kept updated in a share folder of your choosing on the NAS server. This method of backing up is much better than using software installed on the computer as it doesn't significantly affect the computer's performance when a backup is in progress. In addition, the server also supports Apple's Time Machine.
Other than that, you'll need to install add-ons if you want to use the server for other functions. At the time of this review there are only two add-ons: ReadyNAS Remote and ReadyNAS Photos II.
ReadyNAS Remote enables users to access the NAS remotely over the Internet. Unlike other remote-access solutions, the ReadyNAS Remote requires a piece of software installed on the remote computer. This application then creates a VPN-like connection to the server and allows remote users to access its share folder as though they were in the same local network with the server. ReadyNAS Remote also comes with mobile apps that enable users to access the NAS from mobile devices, such as the iPad.
ReadyNAS Photo II is an online photo-sharing service that enables you to directly share photos stored on the server online, saving you from having to upload them to an online service such as Flickr or Facebook.
The ReadyNAS NV+ v2 did well in our testing, though it was much slower than its big brother, the ReadyNAS Ultra 4. This is to be expected as the server is supposed to be of a lower tier than its predecessor.
We tested the NAS with the X-RAID2 setup, and in write tests it registered 38.1MBps, faster than most USB 2.0 external hard drives, but slower than the 55.5MBps of the Ultra 4. It's also slower than the 43.4MBps of the Synology DS410 in RAID 5 configuration.
In the read test, the server did much better than in the write test, averaging 82.3MBps, while still being slower than the other two. All in all, the ReadyNAS NV+ v2's performance was about in the middle of our charts of RAID 5-capable NAS servers. It's more than fast enough for most network storage applications and we didn't have much to complain about where its performance was concerned.
What we did complain about, however, was the amount of noise its ventilation fan emits. This fan only turns on when the server gets hot, but when it's on, the NV+ v2 is louder than even a full-size domain-controller server.
Service and support
Netgear backs the ReadyNAS NV+ v2 with a rather generous three-year warranty, which is much better than the one year of most NAS servers. The company's Web site offers lots of support information, including troubleshooting, a knowledge base, firmware, a support forum, and manual downloads. You can also access documentation, a community, and other support materials from within its Web interface.
With good performance and decent ease of use, the ReadyNAS NV+ v2 makes a good NAS server for environments where its noisy fan won't be a problem.