Storage Wars NAS Roundup: Thecus, QNAP, Netgear

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Testbed & Performance Showdown

While all these NAS boxes support a variety of configurations, including RAID 0, we focused our attention on RAID 5 performance. RAID 5 requires the use of at least three drives and offers a cost effective balance of performance and redundancy. We're also including benchmarks from Netgear's proprietary X-RAID2 format using the drives that shipped with the ReadyNAS Pro 4 (four 2TB Seagate Constellation ES).


To test RAID 5 performance, Western Digital supplied us with quad 3TB Red (WD30EFRX) drives built specifically for NAS duties. WD Red drives feature proprietary "NASware" technology to address concerns like compatibility, noise, vibration, power management, and reliability, all of which are accentuated in a NAS box environment.

We wired each NAS appliance to our Netgear WNDR4500 (N900) router, which is one of the fastest routers around, and measured file transfer performance to and from our testbed consisting of:

  • Intel Core i7 930 processor
  • Asus P6X38D Premium motherboard
  • 4GB DDR3-1333 memory
  • 240GB OCZ Vertex 3 solid state drive
  • AMD Radeon HD 5850 graphics card
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit w/ SP1

To kick things off, we copied a 3GB ISO file through a wired GbE connection.

 

We saw some interesting things out of Netgear's ReadyNAS Pro 4. Going from Netgear's proprietary X-RAID2 using the company's supplied 2TB Seagate Constellation ES drives to RAID using Western Digital's Reds, write performance (PC to NAS) took a slight hit, but read performance (NAS to PC) improved to the point where it was the fastest of the bunch.

As far as overall performance goes, QNAP's TS-569 Pro was the most consistent, taking around 31 seconds to read or write a single 3GB file. Both QNAP and Thecus thumped Netgear in write performance, which is perhaps the result of having a faster Atom processor (thereby reducing some of the latency hit).

To test small file performance, we transferred 1GB worth of files ranging in size from around 16MB to 32MB, plus a spattering of 1KB to 4KB files, all unzipped. Once again, Netgear's box took more time to write files, but aligned with the other devices in read performance. This time, however, the N4800 box from Thecus edged out a small victory over QNAP's appliance.


Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 4 - X-RAID2
 


 Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 4 - RAID 5
 


QNAP TS-569 Pro - RAID 5


 Thecus N4800 - RAID 5

After a little tweaking, we were able to supplement our read and write tests with the popular ATTO benchmark. In order to do so, we had to map a network drive and use an older version of ATTO (v2.34).

Once we jumped through the requisite hoops, everything ran without a hitch. So, what did we learn? Well, from a raw speed perspective, Netgear's ReadyNAS Pro 4 continues to favor RAID 5 over X-RAID2, though keep in mind it's not an apples to apples comparison since different hard drives were used for each test. All three devices posted impressive scores, with QNAP once again proving the most consistent.


Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 4 - X-RAID 2
 


Netgear ReadyNAS Pro 4 - RAID 5
 


 QNAP TS-569 Pro - RAID 5


Thecus N4800 - RAID 5


Finally, we subjected each NAS box to a round of benchmarking using Intel's NAS Performance Toolkit, which is a "file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable performance comparisons between NAS devices." The gamut of tests focus on a variety of real-world use scenarios, such as HD video playback, content creation, file copy performance, and more. Windows 7 64-bit isn't officially supported, but with a little tinkering, we were able to get it to run successfully on all three devices.

Interestingly, Netgear's box showed marked improvement in the HD playback tests when running the company's proprietary X-RAID2 configuration, and bested both other appliances in the 2x and 4x HD Playback runs. In real world terms, that means (in theory) that it's best suited for streaming multiple videos at once, though we're splitting hairs over a few megabytes per second. Still, it's impressive.

Overall, QNAP came out on top by posting the best scores in 8 out of 12 categories (two-thirds). QNAP was especially strong in the HD Video Record, where it benched 125.2MB/s versus 112MB/s (Thecus), 87.6MB/s (Netgear X-RAID2), and 84.3MB/s (Netgear RAID 5).
 

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