Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

The single 120mm fan is a reasonable solution to balance the need to cool down five SATA hard drives while also maintaining an acceptable noise profile. We noticed many reviews online indicating fan noise to be an issue in the Drobo 5D. However, we had no such issues with our review unit.

One of the advantages of the Drobo 5D / BeyondRAID is that users can start off with just a single drive in the unit, and add more drives down the line. The RAID expansion / migration process is seamless and without data loss. The progress of this process can be monitored with the Drobo Dashboard. Similar to our NAS reviews, we first started off with one 2TB drive in the unit, and added a second one after some time. Since the unit was configured in single-disk redundancy mode, the unit took some time to ensure that the second disk could act as a protection disk. However, due to the nature of BeyondRAID, the addition of new disks (3 through 5) resulted in immediate expansion of usable capacity. We also tested out moving to a dual-disk redundancy configuration once the five disks were in the unit. This took some time similar to the shift from one disk to two disks inside the unit. The power consumption of the unit was also tracked in the course of this evaluation routine. The numbers are summarized in the table below. These numbers are without a mSATA drive in the cache acceleration bay.

Drobo 5D - BeyondRAID Migration and Expansion
Operation Time (hh:mm:ss) Power Consumption
BeyondRAID SDR (1D) - 22.97 W
BeyondRAID SDR (1D to 2D) 01:08:52 30.96 W
BeyondRAID SDR (2D to 3D) - 38.15 W
BeyondRAID SDR (3D to 4D) - 44.37 W
BeyondRAID SDR (4D to 5D) - 51.48 W
BeyondRAID SDR (5D) to DDR (5D) 00:38:32 50.79 W

Coming to the business end of the review, we must first give credit to Drobo for creating a really simple and easy-to-use product for the average consumer. The whole operation (from installing drives, to actually mounting the volumes on a computer) is very easy, and can be managed even by folks who are not particularly adept with computers. The mSATA SSD acceleration is very helpful for multimedia editing directly off the Drobo 5D, particularly for read operations. The effectiveness was brought out by using real-world storage benchmark traces from Photoshop and similar programs. The dual-disk redundancy configuration benefits more from the SSD acceleration compared to the single-disk redundancy configuration.

There are a few points that could help Drobo expand the reach of units such as the Drobo 5D:

  • Thunderbolt support in Windows (if not for the 5D, at least for future products which integrate Thunderbolt support)
  • Support for data recovery by the end-user

To expand upon our second suggestion, it is well known that disks making up RAID volumes in commercial off-the-shelf NAS units can be mounted on a PC to access the data. We would like Drobo to provide a software program that can mount Drobo volumes if the disks used in a Drobo device were to be connected directly to a PC. This would go a long way in clearing the air of distrust that many tech-savvy consumers have when considering proprietary data protection schemes like BeyondRAID.

The Drobo 5D is currently available on Amazon for $615. The price is not a surprise, given that the product's features (Thunderbolt support) and operation make it attractive to people in the Apple ecosystem. As a Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 device with a novel and easy-to-use data protection scheme, the pricing is reasonable. However, from the viewpoint of a PC user, it is just a USB 3.0 device. There are many hardware RAID solutions with a USB 3.0 port that provide much better performance. But, there is definitely a segment of the market that doesn't mind paying a premium for Drobo's simplicity and 'it just works' aspects.

Direct-Attached Storage Performance
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  • ImSpartacus - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Yeah, it's tough to swallow the cost. I've asked myself the exact same question with respect to drobo.
  • bill.rookard - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Exactly. I have a full blown desktop, dropped in 3 Seagate ES 4TB disks into a IcyDock and am running a virtualized CentOS with raw disk access into a RAID5 array. Currently testing it for stability to make sure it's going to work right before taking down my standalone setup.
  • ydeer - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    In my experience:

    Lower latency than a GigE NAS and thus better performance in everyday usage
    Significantly lower power consumption
    Reliable standby and wakeup in sync with the connected Computer (unlike WOL)
    Setup simplicity, almost zero configuration required, firmware updates are completely hands-off.
  • chekk - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Simple. Most people reading Anandtech are not in Drobo's target demographic.

    Readers here always compare it to some file server they set up themselves for low cost, but never factor in the many hours to learn all the hardware and software setup (e.g. learn ZFS) and then make it stable.

    A unit like the Drobo removes the vast majority of those hours, but not for free.
    It's not a bad or particularly expensive product, just not for you.
  • beginner99 - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    It is still more expensive than a similar off the shelve NAS, which doesn't require much knowledge to set up. (not more than drobo). Plus with NAS you don't need a PC with Thunderbolt. But yeah. the target audience is people that need huge amounts of fast direct attached storage. It's a different use case than a NAS.
  • BedfordTim - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Have you ever tried to get a broken NAS fixed? For a business losing you data for a week or more while you deal with the dreadful support offering from NAS vendors is a disaster. A PC based system allows you get up and running the next day.
  • Spunjji - Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - link

    That line of thinking works right up until you try to get support for your dead box 6 months outside of warranty. Then there is suddenly nothing user friendly about the device.
  • jjunos - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Not much.

    If you are the type of users who is goign to build their own NAS, and have the technical know how, not much here is going to sell you. The only thing may be the dynamic way you can add space with additional HD's.

    From a guy who owns 2 drobos and 2 synology's, the only benefit over that is easy of use, flexible expandibility, and the apps. Note though, drobo's apps are worse than the synology so if you are looking for an app, a good chance synology will have it, and the drobo will be a hassle
  • extide - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    I guess for the average consumer -- it's the easy setup and stuff. To me, it makes zero sense. I run ZFS and manually manage it all, but that's just my preference. I would rather configure everything directly and stuff. Plus I am not dependant on any proprietary hardware. I can move my drives to any linux or solaris machine and get my data. I am also not relying on hardware raid, which would mean I am tied to that particular manufacturer's raid cards. Drobo could go out of business and then if your box failed you are pretty much SoL.
  • jasonelmore - Monday, April 25, 2016 - link

    Simplified Redundancy with Mixed Drives off the network. Mission critical data, Trade Secrets, Computer code that China would like to hack, etc... Kept off a network, even a local network is only as strong as it's weakest link.

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