Platform shift hobbles Netgear’s latest ‘prosumer’ NAS
THE CPU WARS aren’t just about x86 procs, PCs, and phones. The second version of Netgear’s ReadyNAS Duo makes the move from an older Sun SPARC chip to ARM, and the transition isn’t pretty.
Netgear’s ReadyNAS Duo v2 uses a single-core Marvell 1.6GHz ARM processor and 256MB of memory. Two sliding hard drive bays are hidden behind the front door and support two drives in capacities up to 3TB each. The ReadyNAS Duo v2 ships in three configurations: empty, half populated (1TB), and fully populated (2x 1TB). We tested the last option, which came with two Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 drives. The chassis is steel and aluminum, not plastic like some other two-bay NAS devices.
The ReadyNAS Duo v2 supports JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, and X-RAID2 drive configurations. X-RAID2 is a configuration from Netgear that allows for dynamically expanding your volume by adding more drives—a carryover, one assumes, from Netgear’s larger NAS boxes, as it’s not useful in a two-bay NAS. The back of the NAS features two USB 3.0 ports, a single Gigabit Ethernet jack, and a power plug that connects to an external 60W power supply. A USB 2.0 port is located on the front of the device, along with the power button and LEDs to indicate drive and USB status. A single 9cm case fan on the rear of the NAS takes care of cooling while keeping the noise level to a low hum.
Well, that didn't take long. Just a couple of days after Buffalo beat Netgear to market with the first commercially available 802.11ac router, Netgear's responded by launching not only the R6300 Wi-Fi router it's been teasing us with, but also announcing a second, slightly cheaper 802.11ac-enabled router and a 802.11ac Wi-Fi USB adapter.
802.11n spent years tied up in draft status with the IEEE, and as a result it feels like it’s been around forever. By comparison it feels like 802.11ac, the standard being released to replace it, is moving at an amazing pace. In fact, Netgear is preparing to claim bragging rights on being the first 802.11ac compatible commercial router available for sale. Announced on Thursday, the R6300 will start shipping in May, and is capable of speeds up to 1.3Gbps on the 5 GHz band, assuming of course you have a compatible 802.11ac device on the receiving end.
Wireless routers are not really the most sexy products these days, but Netgear is trying to change that with the just announced WNDR4700. This Media Storage Router has all sorts of goodies that go beyond the routing of network connections. The WNDR4700 comes with a 2TB hard drive and a ton of firmware features to pump up any home network.
It’s easy to become jaded when you review as much cutting-edge hardware as we do. We try not to be curmudgeons, but we do get grumpy when next-gen hardware fails to make a leap in performance—or worse, when it falls behind the gear it’s intended to supplant. So we’re happy to report that benchmarking Netgear’s new WNDR4500 left us grinning from ear to ear. This is the fastest router we’ve ever tested, and it’s packed with new features.
It's been more than a year since we anointed Netgear's Rangemax WNDR3700 (N600) as our "Best of the Best" pick for wireless routers, and to this day, its overall performance has been unmatched. Even Netgear's own WNDR4000 (aka the N750, because it supports theoretical speeds of 300Mb/sec on its 2.4GHz radio and 450Mb/sec on its 5GHz radio) couldn't topple its predecessor. The WNDR4000 scored a rather pedestrian 6 verdict compared to the WNDR3700's 9/Kick-Ass. Netgear might finally have a worthy successor in the WNDR4500 (aka, the N900 because—you guessed it—the router supports theoretical speeds of 450Mb/sec on both the 2.4- and 5GHz bands).
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.
We weren’t impressed with the Netgear WNDR4000, to say the least. The router’s bizarre naming conventions (we’re still not sure what to call it, exactly) and dubious 750 Mbps speed claim raised our hackles, plus, the older WNDR3700 blew it away in benchmark testing. Netgear’s hoping that the newly announced WNDR3800 will right those wrongs. The router’s available worldwide as of yesterday and it packs a pair of interesting features.
Netgear has developed a bad habit of branding its new routers with two different model numbers. Take the WNDR4000—or is it the N750? Both names are printed on the box, and the router itself is labeled “N750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router WNDR4000.”
Woe is the home user in need of a new router. We say this because it's easy to be overwhelmed with all the choices out there, and if you go by specs alone, almost all of them are winners. Of course, we know better than that, and our current 'Best of the Best' pick for a Wi-Fi router is Netgear's Rangemax WNDR3700, which has held the top spot for a long while. The WNDR3700 has been able to deflect numerous attempts to pluck the performance crown from its head, and ironically enough, the one that finally does it might be from Netgear itself.