Data Robotics Drobo S Review

Article Index

Performance Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: There should be no doubt that the Drobo S offers a more flexible data integrity alternative than a traditional RAID DAS solution. But that flexibility gets you only so far if data transfer speeds aren't up to muster. The Drobo S consistently put out only mediocre data transfer performance, and also demonstrated a noticeable performance drop when set to its most aggressive fault tolerance setting. Depending on what you plan on using a DAS device for, its performance capabilities can be a mission critical factor. If you plan on using a DAS for a task such as non-linear video editing, then you're going to want to use a fast device, such as the Promise SmartStor DS4600 and connect it via the eSATA interface. On the other hand, however, if the device's primary purpose is for automated backups that take place in the background or during off hours, then performance shouldn't matter that much to you. Also, if you plan on using a slower interface connection, such as USB 2.0 or FireWire 400, then performance also becomes much less of an issue.

There are times, though, that the most important factor you want in a DAS device is data integrity, and the Drobo S shines in that department. You can start with as few as two drives and by default the Drobo S could lose one of the drives and still never miss a beat when it comes to uptime or maintaining data integrity--similar to RAID 5. If you have three or more drives, you could lose up to two of them and have a device that still holds all of your data and is still accessible--similar to RAID 6. But there is a lot more to the Drobo S than fault tolerance.

For starters, unlike RAID, you can use a mix of any size drives in the Drobo S. With a traditional RAID array, you either have to use the same-size drives, or the array will need to be configured based on the lowest-capacity drive of the group. With the Drobo S, you can add additional drives to an existing array and the new drives will automatically be configured to join the array and increase total storage capacity. You also swap out existing drives for higher-capacity drives, and the Drobo S will automatically integrate the new drives to the array.

What the Drobo S offers that traditional RAID-based DAS devices don't is a very flexible and seamless way to upgrade storage capacity and replace failed drives. But this level of innovation comes at a steep price. For the price of an unpopulated Drobo S, you could buy two Promise SmartStor DS4600 devices, plus a Vantec NexStar MX DAS, and still have money left over. You have to decide for yourself if the ease of use and flexibility of the Drobo S is untimely worth the significant price premium.



  • Can use any combination of different capacity hard drives
  • Array auto-rebuilds when adding or swapping drives
  • Single and dual-disk fault tolerance modes
  • Drives are hot swappable
  • Tool-less drive installation
  • eSATA, USB, and FireWire 800 interfaces
  • Expensive
  • Mediocre data transfer performance
  • Some potential flakiness with eSATA and FireWire connections

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