Drobo Review: Frickin' Awesome

Drobo: Small device, big storage
I personally use a lot of storage. Every year, I find myself buying yet another 200GB external hard drive because my iTunes library is swelling or I’ve pirated enough movies to make Paramount go bankrupt. Either way, buying multiple external drives is both expensive and annoying. For every drive I use, I’m forced to give up another USB port – something I can’t afford doing what I do. Drobo appears to solve anyone’s storage problems instantly, but does it? You’ll just have to keep reading to find out, tiger.

Drobo is being marketed as the world’s first “storage robot”. Call it a buzzword, but it does act like a robot. It’ll keep your data in tact, it detects read and write errors before they become critical issues, and it has four hard drive bays. Drobo itself is just merely a long, black square with LED indicator lights, hard drive bays, and USB cable. Add your drives, plug it in, connect it and you’re done. Drobo relies on no software, making it an excellent choice for both Mac and PC users.

The guys at Drobo were kind enough to hook me up with 2TB in hot-swappable hard drives, which was very kind of them. Just shove ’em in and partition them and you have yourself a big chunk of storage on your desktop. I used Disk Utility in OS X no problem and decided to create two 1TB partitions in case I needed to keep certain data separate.

Drobo contains four drive bays

One of the cooler features about Drobo, is that it’s automatically redundant. For instance, say you’re watching a video that is stored on Drive 1. You can pull Drive 1 out while it’s being used and your video playback will be uninterrupted. Very nice. This could be useful if you’re in a rush to get data into Drobo and have to yank out a drive right away.

Having 2TB of storage is nice though, especially when it’s being run via an SATA II connection. Filling it up has truly been a challenge. I’ve copied 400GB from my external drives and downloaded about 100GB so far, but I’m not even close to filling up Drobo. Having all this storage via one, single USB cable is really a treat. It keeps my other ports free and takes up less space than multiple enclosures. That’s the beauty of Drobo. I can add however much storage I need. If I only need 500GB, I’ll add in a few older drives and be done with it. If I need 2TB, I have that option available to me.

However, Drobo isn’t for everyone – especially poor people. Drobo costs $499 and that’s without hard disks. You figure maybe $250 for a hot-swap 500GB drive multiplied by four and look what you’ve spent. Nearly $1500 on an external storage solution. Pricey, yes, but Drobo does come with a space for a Kensington lock so no one can walk off with your terabytes of pornography data.

Drobo got back!

Read and write times are pretty good on Drobo. It’s probably thanks to the SATA + USB 2.0 connection and I’m pleased it responds fast. Sure there’s bound to be a little bit of a lag when Drobo comes out of idle mode, but when it’s up and running, you’ll forget you’re using an external device half the time. Gone are the problems of clunking and booting up that have plagued external enclosures for years.

So is Drobo worth it? Should you buy it? If you need a lot of storage or want to keep it managed and you have the cash, absolutely. Drobo keeps your USB ports free, which is a godsend when I go to hook up a peripheral or two. The hard drive indicator lights are simple and let you know what’s going on with your drives. Furthermore, the ability to add drives as needed is always a plus in my book. Drobo is a home run by all means. And though some people may miss out on the chance due to pricing, the rest of us can enjoy having massive amounts of data available without fear of losing it.