Finding the best NAS drives for you in 2021 isn't an easy task, with so many top-quality models out there to pick from, but we've got your back – we'll talk you through the best NAS specs, features and prices right here.
For the uninitiated, Network Attached Storage drives do a lot more than store files like traditional hard drives do. They're personal cloud services and media servers, backing up data as well as storing it, and enabling you to get hold of your files from any computer you're using, anywhere, any time, on demand.
These NAS drives are even able to work their magic when your main computer is switched off, as these drives connect directly to your router. They cost a bit more than a regular hard drive because of that, but you'll find them well worth the investment, with all the extra functionality that they offer.
One of the best NAS drive use cases is for media playback – viewing your personal video library on your TV over your Wi-Fi network, without having to connect to anything, couldn't be any simpler. In short, having a NAS drive rocks!
If you're shopping for a NAS – and we think it's a smart buy – then we've picked out the best NAS drives of 2021 right here for your consideration.
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The best NAS drives you can buy in 2021
A great offering from QNAP, the TS-332X allows you to optimise storage capacity and protect against one disk failure with RAID 5 arrays and 3 bays. It also features a 10GbE SFP+ port for accelerating enormous file sharing and data transfer.
Meanwhile, its three M.2 SATA 6Gb/s SSD slots enable higher performance. This nifty NAS supports LXC and Docker containers for rapidly deploying application services across platforms including the cloud, servers, and PCs – making it ideal (and affordable) for small businesses. We like the nice minimalist design too.
If you've got a growing business, then you want a NAS drive that grows with it, and our second Synology entry is the more expensive and more powerful DiskStation DS918+ – you get more memory, a faster processor, and twice as many drive bays. It's a perfect fit for the serious NAS user.
Obviously all these upgrades ramp up the price too, but if you've got a lot of data to store, then it's worth the extra investment. As usual from Synology, the bundled software is capable and straightforward to use, and drives can be fitted and removed with the minimum of fuss.
If you're just starting to dip your toes into the world of NAS, then this two-bay unit from Buffalo is a perfect fit. It has all the features you're likely to need at the consumer level, none of the extras you probably won't bother with, and it's all available for an appealing price.
Both transfer speeds and processing power are impressive for a NAS at this price, and you can pack in up to 8TB of hard drive capacity here – which should be enough for most users. Accessing your data from remote devices, including Android and iOS phones, is straightforward too.
Western Digital has been in the hard drive game a long time, and its NAS drives are polished, reliable, and user-friendly (especially in the case of the EX2 Ultra). In fact, user-friendliness is one of the unit's key strengths, so it's worth a look if you're just getting started with networked storage.
You get two 3.5-inch drive bays, 1GB of RAM, and a dual-core 1.3GHz processor. Around the back are two USB 3.0 ports for plugging in additional drives. Allowing access to different users is a breeze, transfer speeds are quick, and it looks quite nice too, which helps.
This entry-level NAS drive from Synology ticks all our boxes – excellent performance, great software and it’s easy to set up too. It's not massively different to the older DS216j, but we were big fans of the older model too, so that's fine.
The DiskStation DS218j is a cost-effective, powerful 2- bay NAS designed for home use. It has rapid data transmission and low power consumption – a pleasing combination. It also features real-time incremental backup technology, so your data stored on a PC can be backed up to a Synology NAS instantly, using minimal system resources. What's more, it carries out even the most complete backup tasks in real-time too, to guard against the risk of data loss.
Recently arriving on the NAS scene is the 5N2 from Drobo, a storage company that's been undergoing a bit of a revamp of late. The firm wants to push out products with an emphasis on simplicity, and that's the case with the streamlined 5N2, which offers one of the most intuitive user interfaces we've seen.
You get a whopping five bays for all your storage needs, and a 1.6GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM, though extra bells and whistles (like an HDMI port) are kept down to a minimum. There is an internal battery here, to protect against data loss if the power gets cut, and some integrated disaster recovery software.
It's not always easy trying to find a decent NAS down at the budget end of the scale but the single-bay TS-128 does the job and brings you all the benefits of a QNAP drive that we mentioned above: reliability, remote access, strong app support and a friendly user interface to manage your data.
You're essentially buying an external hard drive with the added bonus of network connectivity – there's no data redundancy so make sure you have copies of your files somewhere else. It's a great 'starter' NAS with plenty of easy-to-use software for synchronising files and streaming media to other devices.
Netgear is another hardware maker with a strong track record in consumer NAS drives, and the ReadyNAS 214 is a solid choice if you've looking for extra capacity – it has four drive bays rather than two, and the disks you install can be set up in a variety of ways.
It doesn't have quite the power of some other similarly priced NAS units, so you may not be able to get as many types of media transcoded to as many types of devices, but it does all the basics well (Plex support is particularly good), and we like the look of the sturdy metal finish as well.
How to choose the best NAS drive for you
The first thing to consider when picking the best NAS drive of 2021 is capacity: that's how much data your drive can hold, set by the number of bays and the maximum drive sizes you can afford.
Go for a NAS that offers as much room as you need – some units come with hard drives fitted, some don't, but all will have a maximum capacity in their specs, so make sure you check.
Also look for RAID configuration options, which is how a NAS allows you to configure the drives you're installing. Several RAID configurations offer some kind of data redundancy, so if one disk fails, another can step up.
Of course, you’ll also want to go through the plethora of extra features available, like powerful on-board processors that can get your media files into different formats as you stream them. Take your time and use our guide to the best NAS drives of 2021 as a starting point.