Drobo 5D3 Review Cheapest Thunderbolt 3 Storage – Storage Guide 2018
The Drobo 5D3 is the cheapest and fastest available direct attached Storage with a Thunderbolt 3 connection. This Storage Enclosure is offering a high video and photo editing performance for little money. In today’s Review we are expanding my Creative Professional Storage Guide a bit further. The Drobo is the first Storage Device in this series that not only offers increased read and write speed but also increased Data Security through it’s propriety BeyondRaid.
Let’s begin this Review by laying out the environment. The Hard Drives used in the Benchmarks were 1TB drives, that had rather similar performance values. All of the them reached a max read and write speed somewhere around 130 MB/s. The editing Machine is a 15″ Macbook Pro Late 2016. And yes the Drobo can charge your Macbook to a certain amount through Thunderbolt 3. On rendering intensive projects you’ll lose some battery since the PSU of the Drobo isn’t strong enough.To be safe you better keep your charger within reach.
The Drobo comes with a rather slick design in my opinion. Most of the available Storage Devices are not really a piece I’d want to place on my desk. Drobo is focusing on a simple and easy to use system and they also carry it on their design. The whole array can be serviced without any other tools than your hands. All the parts and components on the Drobo are Plug & Play.
The biggest advantage on the Drobo is that everybody can set it up without any prior knowledge of Storage Devices or technologies. This makes it for people who want to be creative and don’t want to focus on tech specs, features or settings. The Drobo is pretty much a fire and forget device.
Or let’s say it would be if it wouldn’t be for it’s noise. My unit at times got horribly loud. In my video you even can see, that you can not place it on flat surface without some wobble. Also sometimes parts of the chassis started to resonate on an unpleasant frequency. I measured a noise level of 50dBs with just 3 Disks installed. This would even increase further if you occupy al 5 available Slots.
Extending the capacity of a RAID can be challenging on traditional systems. Not with the Drobo. With the their BeyondRaid technology you easily can change your RAID Setup. If you want to extend your Array, just insert a new Drive in one of the empty Bays. But what happens if you filled up the 5 Bays you ask? Just remove one of the Drives, let the reorganisation happen and insert your new disk. Drobo is offering a Storage Calculatorto help you plan the usable capacity of your device.
Modern Storage Devices offer SSD Tiers or Accelerators to speed up the Access of smaller to mid sized files. The Drobo is no different. On the bottom of the Device you can find a hatch where you can place an mSATA SSD. These drives offer read and write speeds up to 520 MB/s. In the case of the Drobo 5D3 this value is also the Max throughput you can achieve with 5 drives. This means setting up the Drobo with 5 SSDs or fast High Capacity Helium Drives will not lead to a higher throughput.
From a performance standpoint the BeyondRaid delivered decent values. With the Amorphous Disk Mark and the Black Magic Disk Speed Test you will not see to much of a difference when you have an mSATA Accelerator installed. The recommended size for the installed SSD is 64GB. If you install a bigger Drive, the 5D3 will not be able to utilise the additional space effectively. So this is a good point point to save some money on.
The moment you throw in some real life values, this starts to change. With high capacity files like 4K Video files the Accelerator is only able to increase the performance marginally. When you start to handle big image archives for example with Lightroom, you immediately will notice a huge difference. The transfer rates were increase up to 50% in the Photo Archive Copy Test.
Naturally I also conducted the 4K Video Rendering Test again. For this the 15″ Macbook Pro Late 2016 with Final Cut pro was used. It took about 17 minutes to render with and without an installed Accelerator.
Since the Drobo 5D3 is a direct attached Storage Device, it does not come with a whole lot of extra features. Devices with a Network Connection usually also offer File Services, VPN Access, Virtualisation etc. But still the Drobo manages to deliver something unique. The 5D3 is equipped with a built in UPS. So in the unfortunate event of a power outage, the Drobo will store the not yet written Data in its RAM. Once the power goes back on, it’ll complete the unfinished transactions.
So what is my over all impression of the Drobo 5D3. This direct attached Storage is really a great value product. You get a versatile Device for little money and you even can use the Hard Drives you already have lying around. At least the most of us creatives. Performance wise it has it’s limitations, but for most users it has more than enough power. To get a system with higher performance you’ll have to invest a considerable higher amount.
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