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Performance

We benchmarked the NAS’s performance using Intel NASPT 1.7 and Western Digital’s Caviar Black WD5001AALS disks (500 GB). Having reset the NAS to its factory defaults, we created a disk volume, a shared folder and a user with full access rights for that folder. Jumbo Frames were enabled.

The first diagram shows the performance of the NAS in the X-RAID mode with one or two disks.

Frankly speaking, these numbers cannot impress us because x86-based NASes usually deliver data-transfer rates comparable to the theoretical capabilities of the Gigabit Ethernet interface. Here, the speed of sequential reading is only 85 MBps. The peak speed of writing is slightly over 90 MBps. This is about 10% lower compared to the performance of competitor products based on the same platform. This may be due to the Ultra 2 having a single-core processor. On the other hand, the difference isn’t large and the Ultra 2 can be considered quite fast, especially as data-transfer speed is not the only important aspect of a NAS.

Now let’s see what we have in the Flex-RAID mode.

The speed of reading hasn’t changed much whereas the speed of writing is considerably higher now. We must note that the benchmarking suite we use produces inadequate results once again at such high speeds. The results of some scenarios are higher than the theoretical limit for Gigabit Ethernet.

Comparing the different RAID types, we don’t see much difference except that the manufacturer may want to improve the speed of reading from a RAID1.

It is important for dual-disk NASes to support external disks. The Ultra 2 has USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports for that. To check out their speed we used an Intel 510 SSD in a SATA-USB3 box from Enermax. This external disk, formatted in NFTS, delivers read and write speeds over 100 MBps when connected to a PC via USB 3.0.

Alas, the peak read speed of the NAS’s USB 3.0 interface is only 43 MBps which is higher than with USB 2.0 but lower than the capabilities of our external disk. The same goes for the speed of writing. Interestingly, EXT3 benefits more from USB 3.0 than NTFS.

Summing up the performance tests, we can say that the Ultra 2 belongs to the top segment and is comparable to other x86-based NASes. Moreover, there are other usage scenarios for NASes, besides reading and writing data over LAN. Such scenarios are often hard to benchmark, yet the fast x86 platform is going to have a positive effect on them, too.

Conclusion

Network attached storage devices based on the x86 platform used to belong to the top-end segment both in performance and price. The Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 2 brings this platform to a lower market sector. Although it has a single-core processor (which supports Hyper-Threading) and no eSATA ports, it is quite an appealing product for home users. Besides its high performance, the x86 platform is interesting for its great expansion opportunities that allow adding new features easily.

The ReadyNAS Ultra 2 also features a USB 3.0 port but our tests show that it is not as fast as in desktop PCs.

The basic functionality of Netgear’s firmware does not change much over time but the ReadyNAS Ultra 2 supports iSCSI volumes, IPv6 and 3-terabyte HDDs. Most of its new features are implemented as add-on modules so that users could install only what they really need.

The Netgear ReadyNAS Ultra 2 can be recommended to people who need a standard x86 platform with high performance but do not want to pay a lot of money for top-end NASes with redundant functionality. 

 
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