This is Netgear's new entry-level two bay NAS. It replaces the ReadyNAS Duo v2 while a four-bay version of the RN102 (dubbed the 'RN104') replaces NV v2. This move means Netgear is slimming down its range and places greater pressure on the 100-series to perform. They key thing, however, is at £120 this is the cheapest NAS drive Netgear has ever made, making it a potential ideal starter NAS for someone looking to buy their first NAS drive.
Looks are not typically the focus of NAS evolution, but the RN102 has made some useful changes in comparison to its predecessors. There is no great size or weight reduction with measurements of 220 x 142 x 101mm and a weight of 2.12Kg (empty), but the panel for the power button, activity lights and front mounted USB port have been recessed to reduce the change of accidentally bumping them.
Netgear has also wisely increased the size of the fan from 80mm inside the Duo v2 to 92mm, which makes it quieter (if not completely silent, more on this later) both in operation and when idle. It also sees the introduction of new tool-less drive bays, which we'll discuss in the Setup section.
Where we are happy Netgear hasn't made any changes, however, are the build materials. While many manufacturers are switching to plastic, Netgear retains its customary metal chassis even for this entry-level model and the result is a drive that feels highly durable and also belies its budget price tag.
We won't linger on the design of the RN102 too long though, because the major changes are not skin deep. Stepping up from the Duo v2, we now see a faster Marvell Armada 370 1.2GHz CPU. This is actually a step down from the 1.8GHz Marvell chip in the Duo based on clock speed alone, but that used the older and less efficient Kirkwood architecture. RAM gets doubled from 256MB to 512MB as well. This CPU/memory configuaration won't match more premium devices like the Synology DS214play and DS414, but it clearly isn't meant to.
Connectivity is also pretty good with 2x USB 3.0 and 1x USB 2.0 ports, eSATA and Gigabit Ethernet. A single front mounted backup button transfers the contents of any connect drive to the NAS with one press. It is a shame the sole USB 2.0 port is on the front, which means the most accessible port is the slowest, but it is the one least likely to have permanently connected drives and cost cuts have to be made somewhere.
RAID arrangements are surprisingly comprehensive. JBOD, RAID 1, 0, 5, 6 and 10 are all supported (6 and 10 often get the chop with cheap NAS) along with Netgear's own proprietary X-RAID 2. The original X-RAID was the first auto-expandable RAID technology to reach the mass market. Where it led, everyone else followed.
For users looking to upgrade an older Netgear NAS, one of the biggest benefits of switching to the RN106 is ReadyNAS OS 6.0. This completely revamped OS was launched with the 100 series and its bigger 300, 500 and 700 series stable mates (reviews coming), but controversially is not backwards compatible with older Netgear NAS. The user interface gets a much needed overhaul and adds BTRFS support and integrated anti-virus.
With it comes ReadyCLOUD, a Cloud-based portal for remotely accessing your 100, 300, 500 or 700 series NAS from a web browser or smartphone apps and will surely soon be rolled out to the company's routers as it looks to catch up with D-Link's mydlink and Linksys' Smart WiFi router Cloud portals.
Netgear drives, while logical, have never been the most enjoyable of devices to setup, but this changes dramatically with ReadyNAS OS 6.0. Gone are the need for software downloads and IP addresses with a browser based setup that has more than a whiff of Synology's stylish user experience.
Simply plug in the RN106, connect it to your router and -- once booted -- load the page www.readycloud.netgear.com where you will be prompted to 'Discover' your NAS. This will detect it, let you set its name, user password and time zone and give you the option to join ReadyCloud (it isn't mandatory for those looking to maintain maximum security).
The main UI has more than a hint of iOS7 about it with a flat, clean appearance and a new tab based navigation system which is simple and intuitive. In our opinion it doesn't match the industry-leading 'virtual desktop' experience of Synology's DiskStation Manager (DSM), but its more rigid approach may appeal more to new NAS owners.
As part of the setup process, an honorable mention must also go to Netgear's new tool-less drive bays. A clever system means the release mechanism to free a drive bay from the NAS also doubles as the catch to release the drive from its bay after it is pulled out. The drive slides backwards out the bay on runners and once half out it exposes plastic secondary runners that simply pull away from the drive to disconnect it.
Clip these secondary runners to a new drive and it simply slides into the bay and locks with a push. Netgear may have been one of the last NAS makers to implement a tool-less design, but it is one of the best.
While Netgear's NAS software and hardware setup has moved on leaps and bounds, unfortunately the same cannot be said for its mobile apps. The 'ReadyNAS Remote' for iOS and Android have not been updated for seven months and 14 months respectively, which is completely unacceptable. The Android app in particular looks like a step back time (grabs above) and we encountered multiple bugs and errors on both platforms to the extent that their two star ratings in both the Apple App Store and Google Play look generous. Netgear needs to address this, fast.