Nathan Edwards Jun 24, 2008

Data Robotics Drobo

At A Glance


Great design.

No Cake

Annoying interface; slow speeds.

Data Robotics was a bit concerned about its Drobo external enclosure being tested in the Maximum PC Lab. After all, the name of the game at Maximum PC is speed. We hate that which is not fast almost as much as we hate that which doesn’t work out of the freakin’ box.

Saying the Drobo is slow is like saying dry ice is cold or that the Buckeyes are just another football team. Running our HD Tach benchmark test on the Drobo was like waiting for water to boil, only to find that the burner wasn’t even on to begin with.

Although Data Robotics swears the Drobo doesn’t use RAID for data redundancy, the device’s proprietary technology is basically a giant RAID in a box. You toss a hard drive into one of the device’s four hot-swap-style openings, and the Drobo constantly auto-configures the array. It uses your biggest hard drive as a mirror backup of your data and runs like a RAID 5 when you have three or four drives present.

Unlike a normal striped array, the Drobo doesn’t limit your total array capacity to the number of hard drives you have multiplied by the smallest drive’s capacity. If you want to use the Drobo to format a single drive that’s already been chained to an array, you have to jam a paper clip into the Dro’s butt—the included software won’t do it for you.

We wonder why the Drobo defaults to a protection setup when you have only one drive in the unit. Yes, the device is ideally designed for more than one drive, but there’s no benefit to stashing away half a drive’s contents for protection if the entire drive fails.

The Drobo has all the visual appeal of an Apple product, but in black. It also comes with enough usability issues to give a first-generation iPod room to laugh. We just can’t forgive its unholy combination of interface annoyances and worthless speeds.

  Drobo (1 Raptor)
Drobo (2 Raptors) Drobo (3 RaptorsDrobo (4 RaptorsRaptor (Baseline)
150GB (68.70 free)
300GB (135.53 free)
450GB (271.80 free)
600GB (411.46 free) 150GB
HD Tach Burst Speed (MB/s) 24.9
22.8 22.8
HD Tach Random Access (ms) 8.8
9.9 10
HD Tach Average Read (MB/s)
15.4 15.5
Best scores are bolded. Western Digital 150GB Raptor drives were used for all HD Tach testing. *A Raptor drive connected to a Kingwin KH350SEU enclosure via USB 2.0 was used for a comparative baseline.

Data Robotics Drobo

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