Top positive review
One of the best NAS devices on the market today. Good for pros and beginners.
September 9, 2016
I’ve just spent 40+ days putting the PR4100 through its paces in a good variety of tests including basic NAS functions (with comparisons to similar Synology devices), transcoding stress tests, power failure simulation, simulated drive failure recovery, formatting and RAID changes, connecting from Macs (including Time Machine), PCs and iOS devices, moving massive amounts of data to and from the device using a variety of methods (RSYNC, FTP, WD myCloud), testing the apps, etc.
The ‘too long, didn’t read’ version: Western Digital has put together an extremely solid NAS offering that should sit at the top of any home and/or small business’s shopping list. Strengths include serious streaming horsepower, ease of use, and Western Digital reliability and reputation. It’s not completely up to Synology’s level in terms of features and apps (yet), but the hardware transcoding is the best I’ve ever seen and my bet is this platform is going to get continue to evolve. If I had to buy a new NSA today, it would be a seriously tough call and the transcoding might be the deciding factor.
Quick Review Note: I was offered a 32TB version of the PR4100 for review and was sent a 16TB version. This has no effect on anything in my review, but felt like I should note it anyway.
Setting up the PR4100 is cake! It comes out of the box ready for action… slide the drives in, plug it in to a reliable UPS, hit the power button and navigate to the local IP to start setup.
The PR4100 has tons of config options, and you can get as detailed as you’d like. I chose to go take a few extra minutes and get some of the basic setup tasks out of the way to make using the NAS easier by creating volumes I wanted to use to segregate files and people, creating user accounts, enabling cloud file access for myself, making sure basic security was adhered to (changing default ports, etc.), switching on SSH and FTP, giving the NAS a reservation on my home network (powered by Eeros), etc.
All-in I spent about 15 minutes looking through options and getting it ‘just right’. For many, many users of this NAS, you can skip much of what I did since most of the default config options are good enough to get novice users going quickly.
One commenter mentioned needing to change the PR4100 to RAID5 from RAID0. I didn’t not have to do this, mine came out of the box in RAID5. For those of you who don’t want to learn about RAID setups, just make sure your NAS (if it’s the PR4100) is set to RAID5. This will ensure you get plenty of drive space (3 of your 4 drives added together is how much space you’ll have) and that if a drive goes bad you can swap it out and not lose data.
Also, RAID is not a backup strategy. If you have a NAS, it still needs to be backed up! You can do this with multiple services today… I am doing a simple over-the-internet backup to Amazon S3. It’s not fast, but it works flawlessly (and in the background) and ensures my NAS is completely backed up in case of fire/flood/etc. If you want to set this up and are unsure how, leave a comment and I’ll see if I can’t help you.
We have Macs in our house (aside from one lonely PC), and the PR4100 accepted TimeMachine backups from both of them without breaking a sweat. With this much space, this thing is the ultimate TimeCapsule for Apple laptops. With WD’s app, you can also backup photos from your iOS or Android right to the PR4100 - pretty cool stuff.
The WD app is also easy to use, fast, and stable. No crashes and I can instantly see my PR4100 from anywhere in the world, move files, rename things, and even change basic setup parameters. In just about every way I like WD’s app better than the ones I use for Synology devices.
Streaming and Transcoding: What can I say? This thing is unstoppable. I ripped a handful of movies off my Blu Ray disks to MKV format, dropped them on the PR4100, setup Plex (SO EASY) and was streaming movies to test. I tested on an Apple TV with Plex, an iPhone 6s Plus, an iPad Pro, and a MacBook AT THE SAME TIME with four different movies, all transcoding and playing in real time at 1080p. I would fast forward on one device while my wife did the same on another: nothing to report. I didn’t even notice an INSTANT of hesitation. Unbelievable.
For fun, I also streamed the SAME MOVIE to four different devices at the same time: same result. No slow down, everything worked flawlessly.
I tested simulated power failure: the PR4100 notified me of the power interruption nearly instantly and came back up as soon as the power came back on. Very nice.
I also tested drive failure by pulling a drive out of Bay 1 without warning. Again, instant notification from the PR4100. Once a new drive was inserted, the PR4100 immediately began rebuilding and finished about 20 minutes later with another notification to let me know everything was normal again.
For fun (I need to get out more), I also decided to move a massive amount of data to the PR4100 just to see how it performed while REALLY crunching. To test, I SSH’ed (for novices, a secure command line connection directly to the PR4100 not using the web-based interface) in to the NAS, changed directories, and then RSYNC’ed (a way of mirroring two different directories) the PR4100 with 1.65 TERAbytes of data across a few hundred thousand files I had stored on an older Synology I brought home from work to test this with. The process started and ran for 27 hours straight (which is actually pretty darn fast). During that time we watched movies, we moved files, we snapped photos with phones and watched the photos sync to the PR4100, we ran Time Machine backups… We did everything we would have normally done and the CPU never showed higher than 50% usage. Again, flawless.
The WD Red drives I used in this are at the top of my list for use in ANY NAS. We use them within my office by the case load. Stick with these; you’ll find they are usually well-priced, resilient, super-quiet, and very fast.
The case’s front LED screen is fairly useful and, let’s face it, cool to look at. You can get quick reads on IP, warnings, drive speeds, etc.
I’m giving the WD PR4100 5 stars. It’s the total package, and it’s just easy enough to use that even non-Pros could get one and work their way through some basic setup tasks to have a secure, private storage device and screaming-fast media streamer. In the age of constant data loss by mega corporations, we love having our computers, movies, photos, music, and every other bit and byte securely placed within our own walls. Well done, Western Digital Team!
If you’ve read the review and are thinking of getting a NAS but feel like you need some basic setup help, or just have other questions or want me to test something on the PR4100 for you, reach out via the comments and I’d be happy to do so. Also happy to gran pictures from other angles, vidoes, etc.
Finally, if you made it this far down in the review: Thanks for reading! :-)