Review: 4 NAS appliances deliver big storage cheap

12-bay rack-mount systems from QNAP, Netgear, LenovoEMC, and Infortrend combine huge storage capacities, business-grade features, smooth setup, and easy administration

Storage requirements are growing for everyone -- small offices, branch offices, and departmental workgroups included. On the flip side, so-called entry-level storage systems have never been more affordable, expandable, or capable. Available in cabinet or rack-mount form factors, these low-cost appliances can combine enormous capacities with enterprise-class storage features and cloud services that ease remote access, file sharing, and off-site backup.

The four contenders in this roundup -- the LenovoEMC PX12-450r, the Infortrend EonNAS 1510, the Netgear ReadyNAS 4220, and the QNAP TS-1279U-RP -- are all 12-bay rack-mount systems that provide as much as 48TB of SATA storage. They can serve as iSCSI SAN targets, handle light server and database workloads, and support file sharing among Windows (SMB/CIFS), Apple (AFP), and Linux (NFS) clients. Naturally, they're also ideal targets for network backups, and they can easily replicate those backups off-site.

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The LenovoEMC PX12-450R I received for review came with four Hitachi 2TB drives installed. Under the hood, it pairs an Intel Xeon CPU with 8GB of memory. The rear panel includes four 1GbE connectors, plus two USB 2.0 ports and a connector for a VGA monitor. There's another USB 2.0 connector on the front of the unit for easy access. Dual independent 550W power supplies add an extra measure of reliability. The LenovoEMC proved to be the most consistently solid performer in my Iometer tests and provided the richest set of cloud connections of the group. It costs $5,999 without drives.

The Infortrend EonNAS 1510 boasts advanced storage management features such as snapshots and deduplication, and at $3,890 without drives, it bests the competition in price. My review unit came without any drives installed, so I put in four 4TB enterprise-class Western Digital drives. The system is powered by an Intel Core i3 processor and is equipped with 8GB of memory. The rear panel provides two 1GbE and two 10GbE network interfaces, six USB ports, a VGA monitor connector, and a serial port. Dual 550W redundant power supplies round out the package.

The Netgear ReadyNAS 4220 shines from both a polish and a performance perspective. My review unit came with six 2TB enterprise-class Western Digital drives. On the rear panel are four 1GbE connections, two USB 2.0 ports, two eSATA connectors, and a serial port. Hardware details include an Intel Xeon processor and 8GB of memory. The unit also included a 10GBaseT card that I did not test. The ReadyNAS 4220 costs $5,279 without drives.

The QNAP TS-1279U-RP wasn't the fastest of the bunch, but it is rich in features and provides plenty of value for the cost. My review unit came without drives, so I installed Seagate Constellation CS SED 3TB drives. I also tested the QNAP system's ability to use SSD for cache, via a pair of STEC s620 drives. These were removed for the performance testing. Inside the box is an Intel Core i3 processor and 4GB of memory, expandable to 32GB. The TS-1279U-RP costs $4,032 sans drives.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Features (30.0%)
Management (30.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Setup (10.0%)
Performance (20.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Infortrend EonNAS 1510 7.0 6.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 7.0
LenovoEMC px12-450r 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 9.0 8.2
Netgear ReadyNAS 4200 9.0 9.0 8.0 9.0 8.0 8.7
QNAP TS-1279U-RP 8.0 10.0 9.0 8.0 7.0 8.7
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