Drobo Rocks

I have made it back from Beijing (woot) and am slowly getting caught up. I want to begin with a review of my Drobo.


It really is as simple as they say. I unboxed it, plugged in three fresh 500 gig SATA drives, turned it on and formatted it. That was it. No setup, configuration, or anything else. As an aside, the drives were only $99 each, on sale at NewEgg. If you’re in the market, keep an eye on the “cheap drive deals” forum at DroboSpace.

Next, I started copying data to the Drobo. While doing so, I popped in a 300 gig drive in the fourth slot. There was no excitement whatsoever – the copy continued, the green light came on and the Volume was suddenly a little bit bigger.

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So, setup is as simple as could be.

Performance is probably the biggest downside of Drobo. If you need crazy thruput, this isn’t the device for you. I’m seeing about 16 Megabytes/second, compared to about 60 megabytes/second on the internal disk. That’s a pretty big difference, but I’m just using the device for archival purposes.

Some folks are also confused by the way it reports free space. The DroboDashboard application (shown above) reports the true disk space of Drobo. However, the OS will report it as a 2 terabyte volume, no matter how large the actual drives are. This is how they’re able to grow and shrink the volume dynamically – they trick the OS a bit. What it means is that you can’t trust the “Free space” report in Finder. There are also lights on the front of Drobo that tell you how much space is available. Not a big downside for me, but some folks might not be so keen.

Another issue that some folks have is noise. Drobo does have an 80mm fan in the back, which runs at varying speeds depending on workload and ambient temperature. For me, it seems pretty quiet, and I certainly can’t hear it over my air conditioner. If you’re one of those silent-workspace types though (still running a Cube?), you won’t be thrilled.

Overall, I’m very impressed. Build quality is nice, with a bunch of high end touches, like magnets to hold the front faceplate on. For a first product from a new company, it all feels very polished.

So, if you’re a person with lots of data to store, without a need for high disk bandwidth, and you want to be able to grow over time, Drobo will make you very happy.

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