ReadyNAS RN312 – A Beta Tester’s Review

Today we have seen arguably the biggest change to the ReadyNAS lineup since the introduction of the ReadyNAS Pro back in 2008.

NetGear today announced two new ARM devices (RN102 and RN104), the 300 series (RN312, RN314 and RN316) which use Intel Atom CPUs and the RN516 (high-end desktop) which uses an Intel Core i3 CPU . They also announced theĀ 2120 (4-bay rackmount). This is a significant simplification of the ReadyNAS product line. In the past customers have at times found the range of models available confusing particularly when it came to the software feature set. This new product range makes it much easier to find the right NAS for you with clear differences between each product line.

These devices come with a revolutionary new Operating System complete with a stunning new Dashboard web interface, a new filesystem BTRFS, the forked-daapd (replacing Firefly used in older models) iTunes Server and much, much more.

Hardware

The hardware has a new distinctive front door which makes it easy to distinguish at a glance from the previous generation. While the Pro 2 had one USB3 port on the front, the 312 has one USB 2 port on the front and two USB 3 ports on the rear.

The 312 also has a rear eSATA port for connecting an EDA500 expansion chassis (or a 3rd party eSATA drive to backup to), and a HDMI port for future use.

A new drive tray is used by the new models. When installing 3.5″ drives screws are no longer needed (this is a welcome change as screws can easily be lost or missing from a unit that is purchased. If you have an older model and can’t find disk screws or wish to use 2.5″ drives in a new model you can contact NetGear Technical Support and they will be happy to send you some replacement screws). 2.5″ HDDs and SSDs are now supported for the first time. Whilst I haven’t tested 2.5″ drives at this point I look forward to seeing which models make it onto the Hardware Compatibility List (http://kb.netgear.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/20641)

There is an infrared port on the front of some models such as the RN312.

The RN516 uses ECC RAM, a feature that was previously only available in rackmount ReadyNAS and both 6-bay models have a new touch screen (I look forward to finding more about this).

Across the product range there are some nice CPU bumps. The RN312, RN314 and RN316 all use the same CPU which is a good improvement over the previous generation where the Pro 2 had a faster CPU than the CPU in the Pro 4 but slower than the CPU in the Pro 6. In terms of hardware features the RN316 is clearly better than the RN314 which is clearly better than the RN312

The increased amount of RAM across the board is another great change. As NAS units get more powerful over time they can handle doing things at once including running more apps such as Plex Media Server, PHP, MySQL etc. but running more apps means that a greater amount of memory is required. I continue to be impressed with NetGear’s attention to detail in areas such as this.

Reading up on the 516 today I noticed that it has a spare RAM slot. I hope NetGear makes a memory upgrade kit available for the RN516. With an Ivy Bridge CPU and two RAM slots it should be capable of taking two 8GB RAM modules providing a very impressive total of 16GB RAM.

Software

The new product range comes with ReadyNAS OS 6. All the new desktop models share the same OS and as much as possible the same software feature set.

ReadyNAS OS uses Debian Wheezy/Sid and a 3.x kernel. When considering older models it can be observed that RAIDiator 4.2.x for x86 uses Debian etch and a 2.6.x kernel and RAIDiator 5.3.x for ARM uses Debian Squeeze and a 2.6.x kernel.

NetGear has included newer versions of protocols such as CIFS (Samba) and AFP (Netatalk) than what were included in the OSes for previous models.

BTRFS is the filesystem now used rather than EXT4 which was used previously. BTRFS is a native Linux filesystem with many benefits over EXT4, most notably unlimited snapshots. In RAIDiator 4.2.x you could take a single snapshot. When you wanted to take a new one it was necessary to delete the older snapshot. Now so long as there is sufficient free space on the volume you can have as many snapshots as you want. Once there is no longer sufficient free space old snapshots will be automatically deleted. Now you can restore your data volume back to a previous point in time or clone your volume and work on a clone. It doesn’t matter how you modify the data on the NAS you can recover lost data from snapshots (which are taken as often hourly). In the past there was a Recycle Bin feature but this feature was quite limiting in that it only worked with one protocol CIFS.

NetGear has added forked-daapd (a much improved iTunes server compared to Firefly which was used in previous products) and has planned more features to come such as the ability to encrypt volumes. These are exciting changes.

There are other nice new features which you will be able to read about in the software manual (once available) which is good to have available to look at if you are unsure about how to configure a feature.

The OS for the Intel devices is 64-bit which alone should give a performance improvement over the previous generation which retained a large number of 32-bit utilities in order to support older devices such as the ReadyNAS NVX. The dropping of support for older devices is bittersweet. On the one hand it allows NetGear to optimise the new OS for the new devices but on the other hand I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed that the new OS isn’t coming to devices such as the Ultra 6 which like the new Intel devices has a 64-bit CPU.

Dashboard – UI

Whilst the Dashboard was available in RAIDiator 5.3.x for the Duo v2 and NV+ v2. It has been given a refresh for ReadyNAS OS 6. It now looks much more professional and on the RN312 (which uses an Intel Atom processor that is much faster than the ARM CPU in the Duo v2) the new UI is very fast. The new UI makes good use of available screen real estate which was a major criticism of the dated Frontview web-admin UI used in 4.2.x devices.

Genie Apps are now available for all the new desktop ReadyNAS products as is ReadyCloud a new cloud based option to manage ReadyNAS units (don’t worry if you don’t have an internet connection where your NAS is based or if you prefer not to use ReadyCloud you don’t have to) which will be a great help to those who like to manage their ReadyNAS units while on the road or manage ReadyNAS systems for clients or a large organisation with units at multiple sites.

I found the new UI a pleasure to use. Users of both 4.2.x and 5.3.x will find that it both provides a great improvement but at the same time has a familiar feel to it.

Apart from a few odd things like Dropbox being in the backup section and backing up data in a single-direction from a share on the NAS to a folder in Dropbox I found it quite straightforward to use.

Conclusion

The new ReadyNAS desktop offerings take the ReadyNAS line to a new level and the RN312 is a new favourite in my collection. I look forward to seeing the additional new features NetGear brings to these models over time.

Disclaimer

As a ReadyNAS RN312 beta tester, I received a free unit with one 500GB hard drive installed. I also do some contractual work for NetGear on a part-time basis. Please take this into account before making a product purchase. This review is based on my use of the product and I hope you find it helpful.

Category: Uncategorized 5 comments »

5 Responses to “ReadyNAS RN312 – A Beta Tester’s Review”

  1. BartC

    I am excited about the new 500 series. I hope you will have a chance to review one, esp the 516 w/ Ivy Bridge CPU.

    My only concern is the new direction that Netgear seems to have taken with customer relations. The ReadyNAS forum seems destined for the bit bucket. Truly a shame as the forum folks are some of the strongest supporters of Netgear hardware. I find all the staff departures worrisome.

    Bottom line, in spite of the good looking specs for the 500 series, I am hesitant, for in the end what one really buys into is the company.

    bc

  2. mdgm

    I hope I will review the 516 too. There’s a lot of things that I would like to test with that unit.

  3. Norman Sims

    Why would they get rid of the Recycle Bin in ReadyNas OS 6.0??? Does not make sense to me. I need a real time Recycle Bin, not hourly snapshots that use up my storage space and don’t help me if I deleted something by accident in the last 59 minutes. Help!

  4. I Telfer

    Worth noting a bug with the current OS v6.0.4 limits file sizes to less than 4gb…Netgear are currently working on a solution and hope to have it in with 6.0.5

  5. mdgm

    Not sure Norman. You might want to ask about this on the ReadyNAS Facebook page and/or on the ReadyNAS forums


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