One of the biggest benefits of the NAS drive industry is the way it works – it's marginal enough for manufacturers to fill similar bodies with different innards. This definitely works in the RN104's favour as it carries across high end features from drives which cost twice as much, and in terms of connectivity it's the best we've seen for this price.
The fact that it takes four drives is also a definite boon – even if you install two, it's nice to know you've got the ability to double your capacity as and when you need it.
The fact that the RN104's design is copied wholesale from its bigger brothers means that on top of a robust and quiet design you get all the ports you'll ever need. Installation is straightforward and the basics of the software and operation of the router are easy get to grips with, unlike some other NAS drives.
We really like the backup features, too, which make copying files and folders a cinch, and it's really simple to customise this process. It's not the fastest drive we've looked at, but its speeds are just right for home users, and its quiet operation makes it a great repository for media files.
While it's very easy to get going, you only have to dig beneath the surface a little to realise how over-complicated Netgear has made the RN104. There's little in the way of instructions as to what each setting does, and this is likely to put off casual users.
Cloud access and Dropbox-like storage are important facets of a modern NAS drive, but Netgear has seemingly gone out of its way to make what should be simple, ridiculously complex. Worse still is the fact that this is the latest version of the software – we dread to think what its previous iteration was like.
Mobile apps for the device are sluggish and underdeveloped, too, and even browsing via the web on smartphones and tablets isn't navigable.
The RN104 is a family NAS in office clothing, which brings with it the benefits of lots of connectivity and slick design. It's fantastic that high-end features such as dual Ethernet ports and eSata connectivity are available.
Where it all goes a bit wrong is in the software, which is likely to confuse the target audience with its myriad options and complex menus. Fortunately software is far easier to fix than hardware – it's just a question of whether or not Netgear will update it to make it easier.
There are lots of NAS drives at a similar price point to Netgear's, but what they lack in hardware features they make up for in software and ease of use – and arguably it's the latter which is more important for home users. If Netgear can give the interface an overhaul it would win on both fronts, but as it stands it's an impressive drive let down by frustrating use issues.