Hands-on: The ReadyNAS NV+ provides serious storage for prosumers

Netgear's latest NAS system provides four bays for up to 4TB of easy-to-access storage.

Netgear is well known for its line-up of wireless routers, adapters, gateways and print servers, but the company has made serious inroads into the network attached storage (NAS) arena as well. The company recently released two new versions of its ReadyNAS prosumer systems: the DUO, which includes two drive bays and options for RAID 0 and RAID 1; and the NV+, which has four drive bays and adds the capability for RAID 5. I received the latter model for review.

Netgear ReadyNAS NV+
Netgear ReadyNAS NV+

You can buy the ReadyNAS NV+ with no drives included for $350; adding two 1TB drives brings the price to $650, while filling all of the unit's four bays to a preconfigured 4TB caps it at $900.

For added utility, the NV+ provides four ports -- two USB 3.0, one USB 2.0 and a Gigabit Ethernet port. Netgear boasts that the unit's Marvell 1.6GHz CPU lets the new NV+ perform twice as fast (PDF) as its predecessor. This claim is factual -- at least as far as internal processing of any NAS instructions are concerned. However, it is really the available speed of your router and/or your network that will govern the actual throughput.

The USB 3.0 ports, meanwhile, will give you about a 35% improvement in data transfer speed for any directly attached devices (printers and USB drives, for example) over the older USB 2.0 technology.

A two-line LCD display at the bottom of the unit gives status and addressing information. It's a nice touch for the true technophile.


The out-of-box experience for the Netgear ReadyNAS NV+ is nearly perfect. Personally, I try to avoid documentation whenever possible -- especially for relatively simple hardware installations. A NAS device requires two things: power and a LAN connection. Ideally, you should be able to plug in one of each cable and be done with it, at least for the physical installation.

My only gripe with the NV+ in this area is that it uses an external power brick, which meant I couldn't use the more standard 110v cable that I already had connected to my AC outlet. That being said, an external power converter is not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps one possible source of heat outside of the NAS enclosure and away from your hard drives.

You can, if you wish, use the NV+ immediately. The drive(s) come already partitioned and formatted with a number of "shares" (folders) labeled for backup, media and general storage.

You can insert any number of drives up to the unit's 4-bay capacity -- even drives of different sizes -- and Netgear's firmware X-RAID 2 will manage the RAID configuration for you. It spreads out the contents across the drives, adding redundancy automatically as the NAS develops into a RAID 5 configuration. You have ultimate control through the including RAIDiator 5 management firmware but you have to go there only if you want to tinker. And ReadyNAS drives are hot-swappable so you can plug one in or remove one while the unit is powered on.

Software features

The ReadyNAS Photos II application, which is also included, allows you to upload your photos directly to the NV+ and create choreographed slideshows with a full music background.

Viewing them isn't restricted to just your family members at home. You can access your slideshows remotely via a variety of devices, including Netgear's NeoTV streaming player, the Sonos wireless music system, Logitech's Squeezebox Wi-Fi music players, Apple iTunes clients, Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360.

In case you're not a social media maven, Netgear's RAIDiator firmware lets you set up a backup regimen for your files so you can safeguard them on a redundant environment (when the NV+ is equipped with more than one drive). The process is simple, with obvious choices presented from within the range of options. Having done this for a variety of NAS products in the last year, it took me about 2.4 minutes to create my backup protocol -- it will probably take a less experienced user 5 minutes or less.

I did run into a few minor setbacks. I first used the RAIDiator firmware with an older version of Firefox (V. 6.0); it produced an excellent array of onscreen icons but neglected to present any of the menu options needed to initiate tasks. Netgear's support suggested that, while it should work with Firefox, I might try Chrome instead. I updated to the latest version of Firefox (8.0), and things worked correctly. It also worked with Internet Explorer 9.

Using a single drive in the NAS unit, I checked out the unit's "hot swap" claim; theoretically, I could put a drive into the unit or pull one out while it was powered up without harming the hard drive or the ReadyNAS. And it worked -- with the NV+ running, I was able to open up the front panel, slide out an empty carrier, bolt a new drive into it, and then slide the assembly back in without disrupting the unit.

The RAIDiator firmware then informed me that it would take approximately 2.5 hours to synchronize the new drive with the existing data. That may seem like a long time, but actually, it was a realistic period -- the ReadyNAS had to integrate the existing data on the first drive with the new second drive as it started to develop into a RAID 5 device with data redundancy. (Netgear support claims that it takes a mere 15 to 20 minutes for the process if you start from a default configuration with empty disks.)

You can continue to use the NV+ while it's synchronizing but I don't like to press my luck when there are viable alternatives available. My advice would be to plug in a new drive at the end of the day and let it synchronize overnight.

Bottom line

This is, by far, the best upscale consumer NAS I've seen from Netgear. It easily compares favorably to my all-time favorite NAS, the Seagate Black Armor, and earns itself great grades in both feature and price arenas. The only caveat is to make sure you need as much as it offers. If not, the entry-level Netgear DUO ($269) will probably suffice at a better price point, albeit with a somewhat lower feature set.

Bill O'Brien has written a half-dozen books on computers and technology. He has also written articles on topics ranging from Apple computers to PCs and Linux and has authored commentary on subjects such as IT hardware decisions.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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