Netgear ReadyNAS 516 6-Bay NAS Review

Netgear ReadyNAS 516 6-Bay NAS Review

Netgear ships more NAS products than any other company in the world. The 516 model is a business class NAS capable of high concurrent connections.

@ChrisRamseyer
Published Mon, Dec 9 2013 8:00 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Apr 7 2020 12:32 PM CDT
Rating: 92%Manufacturer: Netgear

Introduction

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If you are a regular reader of NAS reviews at TweakTown, then you wouldn't know that Netgear sells more NAS products than any other company. The reason why is because this is the first Netgear NAS we've ever tested at TweakTown. Yes, it does seem odd, especially since the Infrant Technology, the NAS maker Netgear acquired to develop the Netgear NAS program, sponsored the second NAS I ever reviewed prior to the May 2007 acquisition. Over the years, we've reached out to Netgear but never had any luck getting ReadyNAS products in for review. That's changed now. Today we look at the Netgear ReadyNAS 516, a business class unit with flagship level specifications.

Although similar in appearance to Netgear's ReadyNAS 316, the ReadyNAS 516 uses an Intel Core i3 dual-core processor, a step up for the 316's Atom processor. The 516 also doubles the amount of DDR-III RAM, 4GB total. The end result was a SMB NAS designed for 26 to 250 concurrent connections.

The ReadyNAS product family has moved to a new OS in 2013, OS6. The feature list is impressive and filled with both consumer and SMB applications. ReadyCLOUD provides management and access to the unit from remote locations and ReadyDROP is a Dropbox-like feature for accessing data on the NAS from anywhere an internet connection is available.

Let's take a look at the hardware and then discuss the software features.

Hardware Specifications and Pricing

Modern NAS servers have moved beyond data storage through a wire network. In order to get the most out of a NAS, you need to look at the extra I/O hardware and the mountain of potential software features.

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Netgear sells the ReadyNAS 516 in a handful of configurations. Those are diskless; today we're looking at the 6TB volume, a 12TB version, 18TB version, and a 24TB model with 6x 4TB drives. Netgear also offers an expansion chassis with five additional bays. The ReadyNAS 516 in conjunction with several expansion chassis can hold up to 84TB of data.

At the heart of the ReadyNAS 516 is an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3-2120 dual-core processor running at 3.3GHz. The processor is fed by 4GB of ECC DDR III DRAM, a sizable amount considering many NAS manufactures only include 2GB out of the box.

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As mentioned, the ReadyNAS 516 is a six-bay model. Unique to Netgear ReadyNAS products is a trayless drive sled. Our 6TB model shipped with three screws per sled, but we also tested this system using Western Digital Red drives and enjoyed the ease of the tool less design when swapping drives.

When it comes to connectivity, the ReadyNAS 516 packs a lot of I/O option. Two gigabit Ethernet ports with 802.3ad provide the primary data transfer duties. Three eSATA ports on the back provide expansion; two rear USB 3.0 ports take expansion a bit further, and a front USB 2.0 port in conjunction with the proximity touch display adds quick USB backup capability to the system. A single HDMI port provides A/V options and a front infrared remote port provides IR capabilities.

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Looking online, we found a wide variety of prices. Part of that may have been researching on Black Friday. The diskless ReadyNAS 516 sells for around $1200 at several e-tailers. The 12TB (6x 1TB) that we received sells for roughly $1,970. The 12TB model jumps to $2,550, 18TB for $3,200, and the largest capacity size, 24TB for $3999.99. Newegg shows a 5 year parts and labor warranty.

Software Features

NAS products are equal parts hardware performance and software features. One compliments the other in a balanced product. You need more hardware performance to run more software features at the same time.

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As with most NAS products, we can't go into detail on every software feature, since many are so complex, it would take an entire article to cover just one. Netgear has a stable of embedded applications and the end-user can expand the capabilities through the NAS's add-on application system. Listed on the right are a few of Netgear's more popular 3rd-party apps.

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Packaging

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Our unit shipped in the display box without a double box package.

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The package held up well to the shipping company's abuse.

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Inside we found a NAS that was packaged well with dense, closed cell foam keeping the NAS safe. The foam kept the NAS in the middle of the package and the corners of the NAS well protected from accidents.

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The accessory package is fairly tame. We received a paper manual, software disk, power cable, screws for installing 2.5" SSDs/HDDs, and a single, shielded network cable.

Netgear ReadyNAS 516

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With the power off, the front of the NAS is void of anything other than a black face.

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With power, the system comes alive with a two-line display, a Netgear logo, and a touch panel for easy system configuration and USB 2.0 data backup. The front face will turn off to reduce power until you get close to the middle buttons. Netgear uses a proximity sensor, so it senses your approach before you even touch the display. Once in contact, the button glows brighter to show it's been pressed.

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With the front door open we see a lot of ventilation holes for keeping the system and your drives cool. A power button at the bottom right brings the system to life and a USB 2.0 power in the middle at the bottom works as a quick touch backup for external storage devices.

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Any device with a door raises our suspicion for failure since you end up with metal, in this case wires, bending back and forth. Netgear wraps the cables in plastic mesh to reduce strain.

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With the door closed, air for the drives has to pass through the front door through vents in the side. Sadly, the door does not lock, so power button and drive access is open for the taking, so to speak. If your office needs to stay HIPA compliant this isn't the unit you want unless you have a room to lock the NAS in.

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The structure is steel but we couldn't hear any rattles, or for that matter, any fan noise or vibration.

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Cooling was handled by a large fan on the back and the power supply has a small 20mm fan as well. Netgear recessed the power supply so the small fan isn't right at the back of the NAS. This helps reduce any high frequency fan noise we often hear from smaller fans.

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The ReadyNAS 516 has a nice set of I/O ports. Two eSATA ports at the top and bottom of the I/O area allow the system to expand to 84TB with ReadyNAS Expansion Chassis units, model EDA500-100NAS. Newegg sells the expansion unit for $749.99.

Two USB 3.0 ports increase your expansion and connectivity options, and a HDMI port means A/V capabilities, but you may need to install third-party software to use the function.

Two gigabit Ethernet ports provide the main I/O for the ReadyNAS 516. The ports can be used on separate networks or trunked together for failover or increased performance.

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The front USB 2.0 port allows for easily removable device backup.

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On the back of the NAS we noticed a PCIe expansion slot, but once inside, we found the system didn't have the PCIe header to add a 10GbE card.

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We did spot a nice detail while inside though. Netgear uses foam on the side to prevent air from channeling past the HDDs in the system. This should also help with some vibration and help control noise. It's a small addition, but it goes to show the level of detail Netgear put into the design.

Configuration Menus

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The ReadyNAS OS6 front end is fluid and easy to navigate. We weren't overwhelmed with options on a single page like some NAS products. When I first started using the software, I thought this must be in some type of easy mode void of advanced features. As I started to move through the system, I found all of the advanced features well placed and out of the way unless you need them.

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Test System Setup

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Our NAS test 'system' has migrated to a full 45u rack like what you'd find in a datacenter. There are ten servers that attack the target NAS with 120 Hyper-V installations of Windows 7 64-bit, each with a dedicated gigabit Ethernet port. The systems feed to three Extreme Networks Summit 400-48 switches that link together via Extreme Network's proprietary link cable system. One switch has a two 10GbE Xenpak adapters installed. When testing NAS products with 10GbE capability, the NAS connects to the switch via single or dual 10GbE, courtesy of an Intel X520-SR2 installed in the NAS.

This level of testing wouldn't be possible without the help and support from several companies, many of which have little to do with NAS products. We would like to thank AVADirect, Antec, Corsair, GIGABYTE, Icy Dock, Kingston, LSI, Noctua, Rosewill, and Western Digital for their much-appreciated support.

Intel NASPT

The Intel NAS Performance Toolkit (NASPT) is a file system exerciser and analysis tool designed to enable direct measurement of home network attached storage (NAS) performance. Designed to emulate the behavior of an actual application, NASPT uses a set of real-world workload traces gathered from typical digital home applications. Traces of high definition video playback and recording, office productivity applications, video rendering/content creation and more provide a broad range of different application behaviors.

TweakTown Custom 120-Client Office Test

The TweakTown Custom 120-client Office Test uses 120 Windows 7 Hyper-V installations and custom software to stress each NAS with traces from Microsoft Office tasks. Both throughput (in Mbits per second) and latency (in milliseconds) are measured.

Western Digital RED - The NAS HDD

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TweakTown uses Western Digital RED 1TB hard drives for all of our NAS tests. You can read our full review of the Western Digital RED 1TB here.

Our system shipped with six Toshiba 3.5" 1TB HDDs, and we used a combination of the included drives and WD Reds for out tests.

Benchmarks - 6 HDD / RAID 10

RAID 10: A Stripe of Mirrors. Multiple RAID 1 mirrors are created and a RAID 0 stripe is created over these.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player* 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 6 HDD / RAID 5

RAID 5: Use block-level striping with parity data distributed across all member disks.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Benchmarks - 6 HDD / RAID 6 and Single Client Wrap-up

Benchmarks - 6 HDD / RAID 6

RAID 6: Extend RAID 5 by adding an additional parity block; thus it uses block-level striping with two parity blocks distributed across all member disks.

HD Video Playback

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HD Video Play - 720p HD stream from Windows Media Player 256kB reads

2HD Video Play - 2x playback

4HD Video Play - 4x playback

HD Video Record

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HD Video Record - 720p HD stream, 256kB writes

HD Video Play & Record - 1 playback, 1 record simultaneously

2x HD Video Play & 2x Record - 2 playback, 2 record simultaneously

Content Creation

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Photo Album - All reads - wide distribution of sizes

Office Productivity - Reads and writes, 1kB & 4kB reads; Mostly 1kB writes

Content Creation - 95% writes; 1k, 4k & little reads; Writes up to 64kB

File / Directory Transfer

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Directory Copy From NAS - 64kB reads

Directory Copy To NAS - Predominantly 64kB writes, wide scattering under 16kB

File Copy From NAS - 4GB file copy, 64kB reads

File Copy To NAS - 64kB writes

Single Client Performance Wrap-up

The Netgear ReadyNAS 516 performed very well in our single client tests. In many of the tests it performed better than the other products in the charts.

Benchmarks - iSCSI Enterprise Workloads

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Across the board, the Netgear ReadyNAS 516 performs exceptionally well in the IOPS workload tests.

Benchmarks - iSCSI Workload Latency

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Here we see the same workload tests, but this time we measured the latency and not IOPS. Again, the Netgear ReadyNAS 516 performed very well here.

Benchmarks - Multi-Client Test

The Intel NAS Performance Tool (NASPT) is an excellent way to determine NAS performance in a single user environment. Any review that only uses NASPT assumes that only a single computer will access the target NAS at one time. We took issue with this method of testing and spent over a year designing, building, programming, and finally validating the TweakTown Multi-Client Test.

The test uses Microsoft Office data recorded to traces and played back to the NAS from up to 120 client Windows 7 installations (clients). We record total throughput of all clients and average response time per client.

Over time we'll populate the two multi-client charts with several NAS products from a span of categories. The products range from a dual Xeon server with 2x 10GbE to a 2-bay NAS with a single gigabit Ethernet connection. The products will fall into their performance categories based on performance and not marketing material or opinion.

Throughput

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The Netgear ReadyNAS 516 finished our multi-client test with more throughput at 120 clients, but the NAS took longer to ramp up performance than many others on the chart. We wanted to see if this was due to the Toshiba HDDs that shipped with the NAS, so we replaced the Toshibas with Western Digital Red 1TB drives. The Reds performed better than the Toshiba drives but the performance profile was the same aside from a slight increase in performance. The dip at 48 clients was the same with both sets of drives.

Latency

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Latency was also slightly better with the WD Red 1TB drives over the Toshiba drives the ReadyNAS 516 shipped with. Here you can see two distinct groups on the latency test, models with low latency and models with higher latency when used with more clients connected to the NAS.

Final Thoughts

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Until last week, ReadyNAS 516 was the flagship Netgear SMB offering, but the company recently released a new model with 16GB of DRAM and an even faster processor: ReadyNAS 716. We'll have the new 716 review online prior to CES 2014. Given the performance of the ReadyNAS 516, the 716 surely won't disappoint.

Before we go too far ahead of ourselves, let's sum up the ReadyNAS 516. This unit is an attractive offering for a broad range of groups. Small offices looking for big performance will find the NAS responsive. Medium sized offices will find the NAS scales well with a lot of people accessing the NAS at the same time. Individual users in a home or home office environment will see very fast file transfers and backups to and from the NAS.

Our unit shipped with Toshiba 1TB HDDs but we did notice better performance with Western Digital Red HDDs. That means most users will get better performance from the ReadyNAS 516 if they purchase the diskless model and add their own Red Series hard drives. The difference in performance wasn't great, but if your office has more than 200 people connected to the NAS, every bit helps.

This was our first run with the new operating system, OS 6. It's been quite a while since we tested any other Netgear NAS, so we can't make direct comparisons to older software versions. OS 6 is easy to navigate and easy to configure.

At roughly $1,200, the ReadyNAS 516 costs around the same as the Thecus N6850, but is faster in nearly every test. The price jumps up to just over $2000 with six 1TB drives. In our testing, we found that the included Toshiba drives were slower than our standard Reds, so the better buy would be the diskless ReadyNAS 516 with six 1TB Red HDDs; you save a little money that way and get better performance.

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Chris Ramseyer started his career as a LAN Party organizer in Midwest USA. After working with several computer companies he was asked to join the team at The Adrenaline Vault by fellow Midwest LAN Party legend Sean Aikins. After a series of shake ups at AVault, Chris eventually took over as Editor-in-Chief before leaving to start Real World Entertainment. Look for Chris to bring his unique methods of testing Hard Disk Drives, Solid State Drives as well as RAID controller and NAS boxes to TweakTown as he looks to provide an accurate test bed to make your purchasing decisions easier.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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