The Drobo 5C uses the same chassis as the 5n NAS we looked at recently. In fact, the only way to tell them apart is to look at the rear panel where the LAN connector of the 5n has been replaced by a USB-C one.
The first thing you notice about the 5c, apart from its really plain looks, is just how much the thing weighs. It tips the scales at a hefty 3.9kg (empty) thanks to its mostly metal construction.
The detachable front bezel plate is made from good quality plastic, has a shiny finger print-attracting Piano Black gloss finish and is held in place by magnets.
The rear of the unit is dominated by the grill for the cooling fan with the only other things on the rear panel being the ports for the power adapter, the USB-C and the power button. That rear-mounted power button will soon have you cursing if you have the Drobo on a shelf or in a cupboard.
So an uninspiring, even dull, looking device. Until you turn it on, that is, when it transforms into a multi-coloured LED light-fest. The front right-hand side of the unit holds a vertical row of drive bay LEDs which glow green, amber or red depending on the what the drives are up to. Usefully, there is a little schematic on the inside of the front plate that explains what the colours mean and what, if any, action needs to take place.
At the base of the front panel sits a row of twelve indicator LEDs. The first one is the power mode indicator (green – power on, yellow – standby, red – over temperature) while the last one indicates data transfer activity. The ten in between these two display the percentage of storage space used and these are blue. You can set the brightness levels for the LEDs in the Drobo Dashboard
The Drobo 5C has five drive bays which are hidden behind the front bezel. The bays are tool-free and are protected by sprung doors which are forced up and out of the way by pushing a drive into them. Each bay has a latch to hold the drive in place. There’s no form of extra physical security in the way of drive bay locks or similar.
The bays support drives up to 10TB in capacity but not all available 10TB drives; there is a compatibility chart on the Drobo website to check which ones it supports.
The bays support both 3.5in and 2.5in but in the case of 2.5in drives you need to use bay converters. Incidentally, Drobo recommends IcyBox products on their website but we used Startech 25SAT35HDD converters to test SSDs with the unit and they worked perfectly well.
Drive bays: 5
Tool free bays: Yes
Ports: 1 x USB-C
Dimensions: 150.3 x 185.4 x 262.3mm
Weight (empty): 3.9kg
Warranty: 2 years