Drobo 5N2 ................................................................
A CLEVERLY CONCEIVED FIVE BAY DEVICE, WITH A “KEEP IT SIMPLE” PHILOSOPHY AIMED AT LESS TECHNICAL USERS
T he Drobo 5N2 o ers a generous five drive bays, yet is barely any larger than some four-bay models. That’s thanks to its space-e cient design: to populate it, you simply pull o the magnetic front cover and slide a bare 3.5in drive into one of the awaiting slots. Below, a row of LEDs shows how much space you’ve used – a thoughtful feature.
The Drobo 5N2 embodies a unique design philosophy: it aims to make the world of network-attached storage accessible to non-technical users. All talk of RAID levels is banished: the unit automatically configures your installed media to provide the best balance of capacity and security, asking you only whether you want to be protected against a single disk error, or against two simultaneous failures instead.
The principle of keeping things simple also guides Drobo’s attitude to external connectors – which is to say, there aren’t any. You’ll hunt in vain for USB or eSATA ports. Perhaps surprisingly, you do however get two Ethernet ports, which provide support for adaptive load balancing.
To cap it all, Drobo eschews the conventional web-based management approach, in favour of a desktop client called the Drobo Dashboard. This isn’t a bad idea, as the software also handles the sometimes fiddly business of discovering the NAS, logging on and mapping a drive in Windows. We must say, though, we’re not fans of the interface: the white-on-black text links feel small and fussy compared to most web-based approaches.
A respectable range of apps and services is supported: iTunes, Time Machine and Plex are all here, along with a selection of developer tools such as Node.js, Ruby and Subversion. With its 1.6GHz quad-core CPU and 2GB of RAM, the Drobo should have no trouble running them smoothly; there’s no AirPlay, though, nor any support for IP cameras. And you can forget about big business features such as Active Directory and iSCSI.
For the flexibility of a five-bay NAS appliance, it is a decent price. The question is whether the Drobo philosophy works for you. If you want to get handson with technical settings, or interface with other devices and systems, you’ll probably get along better with a more conventional NAS unit.