Flexible storage expansion with a fast, capable connection
$694 (enclosure only) From Drobo, drobo.com Features 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports, 1x USB-C (5Gbps) port, mSATA bay for optional SSD cache
Drobo makes attractively flexible storage arrays that enable you to start with just two disks installed, add more on the fly to boost capacity, or swap out a failed or inadequate disk and automatically adjust to the change.
The standout feature of this model is two Thunderbolt 3 ports, which provide plenty of bandwidth for demanding uses such as video production. Our review unit came with five 3.5-inch Toshiba DT Desktop Series disks, from 500GB to 2TB in capacity. This gave us mean average transfer rates of 547.1 and 325.8MB/sec when reading and writing data sequentially, and 180.4 and 124.8MB/sec when reading and writing from random locations. These are good, yet unspectacular. The peak sequential read speed we observed was 1027.9MB/sec, which is still far below Thunderbolt 3’s potential; faster hard disks or, ideally, SSDs is one way to a speed boost.
Another is to add an mSATA SSD to the Drobo Accelerator Bay, where it acts as a cache of frequently used data. Using a 64GB Plextor M6M, transferring a 4GB test file to our MacBook Pro went from 7.4 seconds on the first attempt to 2.4 once cached. With a 20GB test file the reduction was slimmer, yet still appreciable: 49.9 seconds down to 30.8.
Thunderbolt 3 also enables you to chain two 4K displays or one 5K display from the second port, keeping expansion options open if your MacBook Pro itself has just two ports.
Drobo Dashboard and its complementary menu bar utility show array and disk status info with clarity. Despite a Kensington lock slot to secure the 5D3, sadly there’s no way to lock the bay cover in place.
the bottom line. Drobo’s flexibility now works over Thunderbolt 3, but getting best speeds can get costly.
The 5D3’s front panel is magnetically attached, and pops off easily for a new disk to be installed.