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Netgear ReadyNAS 104 review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

1 of 10

ReadyNAS 104
  • ReadyNAS 104
  • ReadyNAS 104 2
  • ReadyNAS 1043
  • ReadyNAS 104 4
  • ReadyNAS 104 setup
  • ReadyNAS 104 update
  • ReadyNAS 104 update 2
  • ReadyNAS 104 UI
  • ReadyNAS 104 speed
  • ReadyNAS 104 noise

Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Superb design and excellent build quality
  • Slick, intuive setup and user interface
  • X-RAID dynamically expandable volume
  • Very quiet
  • Great value

Cons

  • Not as fast as some peers
  • 512MB RAM is penny pinching

Key Features

  • 4x 3.5in/2.5in SATA HDD Bays
  • 2x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
  • X-RAID dynamic volume expansion
  • Manufacturer: Netgear
  • Review Price: £149.00

What is the Netgear ReadyNAS 104?

This is the long-awaited four-bay version of Netgear’s impressive, bargaintastic ReadyNAS 102. The original two-bay 102 caused shockwaves when it offered a fully blown NAS for little more than £100, and now Netgear is making the next logical step.

ReadyNAS 104 2

Netgear ReadyNAS 104 – Design

While very similar, the ReadyNAS 104 isn't quite the simple enlarged 102 that you might expect.

The good stuff is all there: the rigid black metal chassis that punches above its price point, the dust- and fingerprint-resistant matt finish, and the easy-access drives with a tool-less install (but more on that later).

The ReadyNAS 104 also has a small monotone LCD screen, as found on its more expensive brethren. This is a real differentiator for the 104, as many of Netgear’s rivals don’t even include displays on their premium NAS devices.

With it you can quickly check the IP address and the status of firmware and volume upgrades. There's no navigable menu – it's purely context sensitive – but that doesn’t matter, as the 104 is still streets ahead of the competition here.

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ReadyNAS 1043

Netgear ReadyNAS 104 – Features

While the 104’s budget roots don’t show in the build, you'll spot them when you look inside. It's unchanged from the 102 and the most obvious black spot is that there's just 512MB RAM. Reduced RAM tends to affect more performance-intensive work, such as writes and transferring a lot of small files.

The good news is that the RAM gets help from the Marvell Armada 370 1.2GHz CPU, which we've found to be a strong performer in the past, and Netgear has also dropped in a second Gigabit Ethernet port, which wasn’t present on the 102. Just don’t expect Link Aggregation at this price.

Elsewhere, however, everything is very familiar. You’ll find the same pair of USB ports – one 3.0 and the other 2.0 – and an eSATA port, but there’s nothing media focused such as HDMI or SPDIF.

On the software side, though, this is still a fully fledged Netgear NAS. You get remote access to content via the company’s ReadyCLOUD service and lorryload of apps, support for iTunes and Time Machine automated backups, plus staples like DLNA and UPnP.

But the ReadyNAS 104’s ace card is X-RAID. Like Synology (Synology Hybrid RAID) and Drobo (Beyond RAID), X-RAID enables RAID volumes to be expanded or contracted at will using drives of any size. This is a boon the likes of D-Link, Asus, Buffalo and Thecus can’t yet match, and bringing it to a drive at this price range is a killer advantage.

ReadyNAS 104 4

Netgear ReadyNAS 104 – Setup

While rivals battle it out on hardware and price, Netgear and Synology remain in a class of their own when it comes to setup and ease of use.

Drive installation is a doddle. No tools are required and your drives simply lock into their bay trays, slot into place and lock. You’ll have four drives installed in just a few minutes.

The setup process is similar joyful. Like any ReadyNAS (regardless of price), 104 owners simply switch on the NAS and (once booted) type ‘readycloud.netgear.com’ into a browser. The device will be automatically detected and the setup wizard begins.

ReadyNAS 104 setup

The setup is seamless. You can configure ReadyCLOUD remote access, passwords (defaults: ‘admin’ and ‘password’ could do with some work) and it'll check for and install the latest firmware. Sensible pre-shares – backup, documents, music, pictures, videos – are also in place, saving less tech-savvy users the bother of creating new ones, which is a one up on Synology.

Meanwhile the UI itself has been drastically reworked in the last year. It doesn’t have quite the same power and flexibility as Synology’s DiskStation Manager, but it's among the best-looking interfaces around. These two companies really are pulling ahead of the pack.

ReadyNAS 104 UI

toboev

November 1, 2014, 3:53 pm

Keep the NAS reviews coming, great stuff. Maybe you could also digress a bit into why WD Red drives, and how well the key usage add-ons work (Media server/DLNA/Plex, backup of PC/MAC, etc) as well as the core stats on speed.

Chris B

November 3, 2014, 11:21 am

Good points. I'm looking at upgrading an old Synology 2-bay NAS, and would have liked more information on DLNA performance (formats / codecs supported, streaming to multiple clients at once, etc), as the raw disk performance figures often don't have any bearing on the performance of the media server.

Pg

November 3, 2014, 2:31 pm

Regarding the RAM situation, I wonder how accessible the RAM is, maybe you could upgrade the RAM yourself.

Ron Laws

September 25, 2016, 8:03 am

I have one of these, there's a few mistakes in the article:
Link aggregation is available and fully supported and configurable from the network tab in the user control panel. (this requires a switch that supports it) there is also adaptive load balancing and fail-over modes which does not require any special switch hardware.

Secondly the USB ports a 2x USB3 (rear) and 1x USB2 (Front)

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