There are a number of slick and interesting features buried within Netgear’s ReadyNAS Ultra 4 Plus. They include an easy-to-navigate setup screen, integrated backup utilities, a magician’s hat worth of streaming services, and ample settings for user permissions and management groups. But don’t let the good looks deceive you: Some of these features can be maddening to configure.
The Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 4 Plus runs a dual-core 1.8GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and supports up to four drives in an X-RAID2 configuration. X-RAID2? That’s not a typo—X-RAID2 is Netgear’s proprietary technology that lets you add or remove drives from your array at will. With two drives, the X-RAID2 creates a mirror array. With three drives, your capacity doubles; with four, it triples.
We especially like the "backup" button on the front of the ReadyNAS Ultra 4 Plus.
Whether you’re transferring single huge files (like movies) from this Gigabit-powered NAS device or from your desktop to the ReadyNAS, you’ll appreciate the system’s haste: We clocked sub-minute transfers in either direction for a single 2.79GB file. On our test that measures a device’s ability to process 176 files totaling 659MB, the ReadyNAS took between 11 and 14 seconds to complete the transfer. Blink and you’ll miss it.
We were impressed by the design of the NAS box’s primary configuration screen—accessed by using the Setup button on RAIDar, Netgear’s included find-my-NAS software. All the standard NAS box network-settings options are present, including a one-click option to set up jumbo frames, if you have a Gigabit network that supports them. Setting up new users (or groups of users) and giving them access to any of the contents on the ReadyNAS couldn’t be easier—you even have the option to import groups of logins and passwords as a .csv file. Sharing multimedia via one of the multiple services available on the ReadyNAS is easy—you can set up a working iTunes streaming service and DLNA server within seconds.
According to the ReadyNAS’s manual, the drive’s software should be able to find storage devices attached to the three USB 2.0 ports, and make those volumes accessible via Windows Explorer and the NAS device’s built-in backup utility. We weren’t able to get the device to recognize either a Corsair Flash Padlock 2 flash drive or a WD Passport external drive, though.
We had difficulty getting the ReadyNAS’s built-in backup utility to back up Windows 7 shared folders. Having to figure out one’s host, path, and login credentials is too much for the average user; a simplified (or more thoroughly explained) version of the backup screen would make it much easier for users to back up portions of their desktop systems onto the NAS.
We appreciate the scheduling functionality built into the ReadyNAS backup utility, as well as the button on the front of the device that lets you launch a backup with a single press. Couple that with the device’s ability to power on and off at a set schedule, and you have a great system for backing up your networked computers—provided you can get it set up.
There’s a lot more to like in the ReadyNAS: easy-to-install add-ons by both Netgear and community members that build popular utilities like BitTorrent and TiVo support directly into the storage device; a disk-scrubbing and automatic parity-fixing utility that tries to fix up any data corruption in your RAID during scheduled downtime; streaming support for Orb; remote file management via a simple Windows Explorer utility; and Skifta-based media streaming to supported devices (including smartphones).
A few more built-in features would sweeten the ReadyNAS’s appeal, but it’s a pretty speedy product with an unconventional method for slapping a ton of storage in an appealing networked configuration. Just watch out for a few of the pain points. And be prepared to shell out extra for drives; the device ships diskless.