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Customer Review

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If speed is what you want then look no further, 3 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: Drobo DRDR5A31 5D (Diskless) 5 Bay Desktop DAS Enclosure (Personal Computers)
I have had a pair of the original Drobo (v2) four bay enclosures for three or four years. Both are equipped with four Western Digital 2Tb Caviar Green drives. Both have performed flawlessly since I got them, although connected to my iMac via Firewire 800, they are not the fastest thing on the planet when it comes to transferring large volumes of data. So I have been eagerly anticipating a Thunderbolt equipped Drobo since the interface first became available.

I've had the Drobo 5D for about a month now. I set it up with five Western Digital 3Tb Caviar Red drives plus a Crucial 256Gb m4 mSATA SSD in the dedicated slot in the underside of the 5D's chassis. Total cost was about £1,450 including VAT. That sounds like quite a lot, but a Pegasus Promise R6 with six 2Tb drives will set you back another £500 and it doesn't have the benefit of an SSD accelerator.

The 5D comes with a Thunderbolt cable which I used to connect it to my iMac. It took just a few minutes to set it up using the Drobo Dashboard software. Although I already had the latest version of the Dashboard software needed for my existing Drobos, I had to download a further update before it would recognise the new 5D. As my data is all backed up elsewhere, I opted for single rather than dual drive redundancy. Formatted capacity available for data is 10.89Tb.

So how fast is it at transferring large amounts of data as compared to the original Drobo? I copied a folder containing 3,087 RAW image files, all between 20Mb and 40Mb in size, totalling 86.47Gb, from my iMac's built-in 256Gb SSD to the 5D. It took just 10 minutes and 35 seconds. I then copied the same folder to one of my original Drobos. It took 55 minutes. So the 5D was approximately five times faster than the original Drobo at handling a largish real world file transfer.

I then used the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test (free from the App Store) to do a few comparisons: -

iMac built-in SSD - Read 215MB/s Write 185MB/s
iMac built-in 1Tb HDD - Read 125MB/s Write 125MB/s
Drobo (v2) Firewire 800 - Read 35MB/s Write 35MB/s
Drobo 5D Thunderbolt - Read 320MB/s Write 235MB/s

I don't suppose the Blackmagic software is the most sophisticated around, but it was all I had access to and I'm sure it gives a pretty good idea as to relative performance.

So in theory the 5D is even faster than the built-in SSD supplied with the iMac. If this is true then it has to be down to the speed of the Thunderbolt interface and the effect of the 5D's built-in mSATA SSD. The mSATA SSD takes the strain of a big data transfer and then, at leisure, transfers the data to the 5D's five built-in HDDs. Well, that's exactly what it's designed to do and the end result is nothing short of amazing; the Drobo 5D is an absolutely brilliantly designed product!

A month later I'm still very happy; the 5D seems to be just as fast with around 5Tb of data on it.

My advice is to just buy it!

PS Don't forget the Drobo 5D also comes with a USB 3 interface and cable for anyone not having access to Thunderbolt.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 May 2013 18:15:06 BDT
Last edited by the author on 9 May 2013 18:23:33 BDT
j s says:
"That sounds like quite a lot, but a Pegasus Promise R6 with six 2Tb drives will set you back another £500 and it doesn't have the benefit of an SSD accelerator."

Entirely misleading.

- the Pegasus R6 in 6x 2TB HDD (12TB) unit can be had for as little as £1300 (several German suppliers on Ebay, for example, amongst others - within the EU so no additional import duties/VAT to be paid either). And if you take the drives the come with it, sell them (~£450 return), then upgrade to either 3TB or 4TB HDD's, you see even greater price per TB: eg.
3TB HDD's:
1300-450 (sold 2TB drives) =£850. +690 (6x3TB WD Red's) =£1540 [for 18TB, thus =£85/TB!!]
or
4TB HDD's:
1300-450 (sold 2TB drives) =£850. +900 (6x4TB Hitachi Deskstar 7K's) =£1750 [for 24TB, thus =£72/TB!!]

vs. your Drobo 5D you priced at £1450 for 15TB (5x 3TB WD Red's) & 256 Crucial mSATA = £97/TB.

It's obvious which works out more cost effective in shear capacity terms, when priced-up properly. And that's before we talk about performance terms...

- the R6 doesn't need the "SSD accelerator", as it works much faster than the Drobo 5D Thunderbolt, across raid levels (that's including even in raid 1/5/6, nevermind the speeds one gets out of it in raid 0).

- the R6 has a proper raid controller in it, making transfers sustainably faster and more reliable than the 5D's proprietary Beyond Raid system.

The only thing that may be of use to a few users, is being able to use different size drives and updating them in the future (and suffering the problems that go along with doing that in terms of performance loss); this is it's raison d'Ítre.

But really the R6 is more of a higher-end professional unit (not the top-end professional Thunderbolt units, but then they cost $8000+(!) from the likes of Sonnet et al -- making the Pegasus very reasonable when held in comparison) that gives better performance and better bang for buck when you add plenty of storage from the get-go - as opposed to adding it later on the 5D and having all the associated performance heartaches a high percentage of Drobo owners have always reported across Drobo models.

Examples from some professional photographers, on leaving Drobo storage behind:
http://scottkelby.com/2012/im-done-with-drobo
http://davidduchemin.com/2012/06/backup-questions-answered
http://photography-thedarkart.blogspot.tw/2011/09/live-after-droboqnap.html
+ countless more from 'informed' professional users.

It may be right for you for the HDD upgrade option, but the facts stand as they are. Pity, but there it is.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2013 13:02:48 GMT
Coachman says:
A Drobo 5D + 5 x WD 3Tb Red's + Crucial 240GB mSata can now be had for £1,160.

As far as reliability and any performance issues are concerned I can only speak from my own experience; I have three original Drobo v2s and two 5Ds and have never had any problems whatsoever.
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