Best Buy
  • Price: 340

  • Company: Data Robotics

  • Pros: Unique intelligent RAID system; extremely simple to use.

  • Cons: Slow performance; no eSATA port for Windows users; no backup software.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

This drive is reviewed as part of our group test of desktop storage devices.

The Drobo aims to make secure storage easy – and it succeeds. The toaster-sized box has a shiny black exterior with lines of green and blue LEDs on the print. Pop the front off, and you’ll find four drive bays with quick-release switches that you just push hard drives into – no bays or screws are needed.

By combining these drives using a proprietary form of RAID, the Drobo creates a single drive that requires almost no administration from you.

The unit creates the volume that appears in your Finder or Windows Explorer and takes care of everything from there.
Another advantage of Data Robotics’ home-grown RAID is that you can mix-and-match different drive sizes. We filled it with four 500GB Western Digital Raptor drives – but if one of these had failed, we could have slapped in a smaller or larger drive to replace it if that’s what we had access to. If a drive fails, the Drobo warns you – by turning one of its green lights to a flashing red, and begins rebuilding your RAID to maintain security (at a lower size) with your data intact. Replace the drive and it rebuilds again to give you the space back.

The Drobo is even intelligent enough that if it fails – rather than the drives inside failing – you can get a replacement system and it’ll work out how your drives were arranged and rebuild the RAID, so your data’s still safe. It can be turned into a network drive using the £170 DroboShare.

You control the drive through the Drobo Dashboard – a Mac and Windows application than enables you to increase space through data compression, which slows down the connection speed. The second-generation Drobo’s FireWire 800 port offers a massive speed boost over the original’s USB 2.0-only connection – but reading and writing data across both connections is slower than other drives with the same ports.

Windows users would probably prefer eSATA to FireWire 800. There was no bundled backup software with our product when we looked at it, but Data Robotics has just added the DroboCopy backup facility to the latest version of Drobo Dashboard.

The Drobo is an excellent backup system that will appeal to even the least techie user.