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Drobo 5D3 DAS Review (Thunderbolt 3)

Rating: 9.0.

KitGuru has reviewed a handful of Drobo products in recent years and today we present our analysis of their latest Thunderbolt 3/USB C DAS called the Drobo 5D3. Drobo are still working on finalising Thunderbolt 3 Windows support so we were asked to review this particular sample on an Apple computer – specifically their latest generation laptops which feature Thunderbolt 3 ports. Apple were generous enough to send us their highest specification Apple MacBook Pro 13,3 unit, priced at just over £4,000.

While we are testing the Drobo 5D3 on an expensive Apple MacBook Pro today, news broke recently that Intel are putting a lot of focus into helping expand the platform to the mass PC audience. You can read Intel’s official press release on this (including integrated processor support) over HERE.

The original 5D DAS proved successful for Drobo and externally it looks almost identical to the latest 5D3 pictured above. Internally however it has received plenty of enhancements.

Drobo have upgraded the processor in the new 5D3 to deliver double the performance from a single core in the previous version to Quad core processor. It now has Thunderbolt 3 support to improve the throughput speeds, and you can now daisy chain the 5D3 up with two 4K screens, or one 5k screen – via the same bus.

The 5D3 still has a built in battery to protect the drives from an unexpected power cut. This battery ensures the last data can be safely written to the drive(s) and that DRAM data can be flushed to an internal flash drive. The fully charged battery can keep the drives running for 5 minutes. Once the system reboots it will automatically write all the data from the internal flash drive to the Hard drives so the user can continue from the point it was shut down.

The 5D3 also has a clever software algorithm in place to allow the product to perform background checks when the system is idle or close to idle. This helps to ensure that speed is maintained at all times when the user calls upon stored data. This requires no user intervention at all – it is set automatically by the software. Every 30 days it will check the system data, and every 90 days the user data.

The latest firmware offers full support for up to 64TB volume sizes.

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  • Welshdog

    When you say “cooling system is quiet in operation” are you referring to the noise from the unit overall? How quiet is quiet BTW? If I got one of these I would use it in a cabinet in my living room with the rest of my AV gear – BluRay, Tivo, Mac Mini server etc.

    Also, how do you feel about the proprietary RAID method used by Drobo? In the past there have been a number of issues and a lot of angry people who have lost data. Their RAID method is now 3 or 4 generations in so I expect that it is fully “debugged.” Do you agree?

  • trigger warning

    There seems to be a lot of inconsistencies in user experience out there with Drobo. On paper it is by far the best solution, but a lot of strongly negative reviews has given me pause. Has Kitguru been using the device continuously and do you still feel this is a strong buy?

  • Darrell Miller

    In the direct attached storage market.. You’ve got drobo.. you’ve got promise.. and custom enclosures via usb 3.1. (I use all of them)

    Promise tech. Pegasus you get super high performance.. but its a standard RAID. so all the drives have to be the same make and model

    .. With drobos you lose a little bit of performance but gain flexibility and ease of use.

    Custom enclosures you can build it exactly the way you want.. but you will only get usb 3.1 speed.

    With drobo or promise, pay for the warranty and the support. Drobo support is very good as long as you keep it up to date and pay for it.

    I use them all.. but at home with my photography business, i use drobo. i’ve been using drobo products since their 1st gen 10+ yrs ago. Now i’m using a Drobo 5D. Its been chugging a long for 3 yrs now, no issues other than an occasional bad drive. Its my primary storage.. but its NOT my only storage. I have a onsite and offsite backup too.

    Any system can and WILL fail.. you cant just depend on one. Drobo is a great choice as long as you keep the warranty up. Their support has always been very helpful.

  • Gary Baxter

    The 5d3 is listed with two model numbers DRDR6A21 & DRDR6A31. Any idea what the difference is? The later seems to be the only type available in the UK. I just want to make sure one isn’t configured more for Mac OS, as I’m only on windows. Thanks

  • Darrell Miller

    the fans are quiet, you get some occasional drive noise.. but you will with any drive.. in a cabnet you’d never know it was there..

    The people complaining had no other copy of their data.. any drive system can fail.. these systems are redundant..thats just reckless..

    I’ve been running various drobo products for 10 yrs now. I have had better luck with drobo das systems than with promise, g-tech, or lecie

    If you use it as recommended, put recommended drives in it.. AND have a backup of some kind, you’ll be fine.