Drobo review

When the original USB Drobo was released at the beginning of 2008, it made a big splash, even earning a nomination for best storage product in the Macworld Awards. The sturdy black box that quickly and efficiently organises your hard drives to give you a continuous large pool of storage was appealing. Now, Data Robotics has added a FireWire 800 port, allowing it to do everything its predecessor promised, but faster.

The Drobo uses a simplified RAID technology to protect your data over up to four drives. Unlike with other RAID systems, the capacities of the drives do not have to match: plug in any four SATA drives, and Drobo will automatically set them up into what appears to you as a single, large volume on your desktop. Drobo performs data redundancy that allows you to upgrade a drive or install a replacement drive simply.

A simple light system (green, yellow, red) tells you the status of each drive, while a blue LED display tells you how much storage space is left. If you start to run out of space, you can simply pull out your lowest-capacity drive and replace it with a larger capacity disk.

Drobo will recognise the increased storage capacity on the fly and start rebuilding your volume in the background without cutting off access to your data. Likewise, if a drive were to fail, you can swap in a new drive without losing any data.

Setting up the Drobo is a breeze: it requires no tools and the drives require no cables to be installed.

One of the disappointments with the first-generation model was that, although you can fill the slots with speedy SATA drives, the Drobo was limited by the sluggish performance of the USB connection. The new Drobo offers both USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 connection options, providing more versatility and speed than the previous model. However, while the new Drobo is faster, its results weren’t quite as impressive as we’d hoped.

Our lab tests proved that the Drobo with FireWire 800 is faster than the original USB Drobo, performing more than 30 per cent faster in some tests. The new Drobo finished our low-memory Photoshop test a minute faster than the original, and beat the original Drobo’s duplication test time by 16 per cent.

In our copy tests, the new Drobo performed 25 per cent better. The new Drobo’s copying to our Mac Pro
test workstation was only about nine seconds faster than the original Drobo, a small 15 per cent improvement.

OUR VERDICT

The new Drobo costs the same as the old one. To have this much more speed for essentially the same cost is a solid deal.

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