With its black finish and angular frame, the Netgear Stora has more style than most NAS devices - a calculated attempt to appeal to consumers as much as techies.
The lightweight plastic feels cheap, but the Stora shines when it comes to more practical concerns. A front USB port allows a printer or hard disk to be shared on the network, and there's a spare bay to add to the 1TB disk.
Do so, however, and you're stuck with a mirrored RAID1 array; there's simply no option for RAID0 or JBOD. And the user guide and installation guide disagree as to whether the Stora actually permits hot-swapping of drives (it doesn't).
Setup is about as simple as it gets, though. Once you've connected the Stora to your router via the supplied Ethernet cable, the setup CD leads you through naming the device and setting up a username and password.
The Stora Agent software then runs unobtrusively in the System Tray and gives quick one-click access to shared folders, the browser-based front-end and backup preferences. The browser has a simple interface with thumbnails and slideshows for photos, album art and even music playback, and it's easy to manage shared media libraries.
The web access feature is neatly implemented, too, and although it costs an extra $20 a year for full remote access, it's possible to use a free account to create collections of media and share them. Not that there aren't annoyances: when sharing a folder, you also inexplicably have to share every subfolder manually.
Performance-wise, the Stora is no slouch. While bundles of tiny files were written at a sluggish 3.6MB/sec, and read at 8.6MB/sec, large files were written and read at 24MB/sec and 26MB/sec respectively.
More confident users may find Netgear's own ReadyNAS Duo a more customisable solution. As a NAS drive for the masses, though, the Stora does a fine job of simplifying complex tasks. And that makes it a good performer for NAS novices at an attractive price.