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Storage Extravaganza: 24 two-bay NAS device group test preview

Consumers have more choice than ever when it comes to two-disk NAS devices with a wider-than-ever price range and the features range from very basic to impressively advanced and comprehensive. Hardware.Info tested 24 different NAS devices in different price classes so you should be able to find one that exactly fits both your storage needs and your budget.

Which NAS is the best NAS device money can buy? Well, that is a question with many answers, because it not only depends on what you need it to do, but also what you can afford. As it stands, we consider the best NAS to be the QNAP TS-269 Pro. If that's outside of your budget this year, there are still plenty more really good NAS devices for more affordable prices, so we have more nuanced answers as well if you read on.

You can divide the NAS market into three segments more or less. There are the true entry-level models with very basic features and modest performance. Those are a fine choice if you are just looking for a file server with a couple extra options. Speed is not their forte, so if you frequently tend to transfer large files you probably should look at slightly more advanced models.

Those have become more affordable over the past year as prices have dropped by almost £100. This segment does have a lot of very interesting models that generally perform quite well and also include some nice features. The differences between the different manufacturers can be quite significant as well. Some brands offer a permanent set of features while others leave room for expansion and upgrades. At the top end of this segment are the entry-level models from QNAP and Synology with lots of features and expansion options.

The high-end segment of two-disk NAS devices are equipped with Intel Atom processors instead of ARM processors. When you need really fast transfer rates and a variety of features that transform the NAS into much more than a storage device, these are your best options if you can afford them. And if you want to use multiple features at the same time without the NAS grinding to a halt, then getting one of the expensive high-end models is not a bad idea.

The different segments are also differentiated by their physical characteristics. The entry-level models usually come with one Ethernet port and one or more USB 2.0 ports, and sometimes a synch button for transferring files quickly. More advanced and expensive models have the faster USB 3.0 connection, and if you're lucky it's even located on the front side.

Higher-end NAS devices are often equipped with two Ethernet ports. You can use one as back-up connection should the first one fail, or if you have a fast NAS you can combine them to achieve very fast transfer rates. Some of the models in this test exceed the gigabit threshold (about 110 MB/s) with a single disk. If you put two disks in there and configure them as two separate drives, you can achieve twice the transfer rate with both Ethernet ports.

Together with a high-end switch that supports LACP, this works great. You can also give each port its own IP address and letting different devices communicate with a different port. There isn't always a direct correlation between sticker price and build quality. Relatively cheap NAS devices such as the Netgear ReadyNAS Duo V2 or LaCie 2big NAS have a sturdy metal casing, and then there are fairly expensive models made out of plastic that don't have such a professional high-end look.

To read about the 24 different models and to find out which ones are best in each category, read the full article on Hardware.Info.