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Drobo 5n NAS review

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The Drobo 5n is a sturdy, well-built NAS with a mostly metal construction which accounts for its hefty 3.9kg (empty) weight.  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 front of the unit is devoid of any ports or power buttons and looks pretty dull, that is until you turn the system on when it lights up like the proverbial Christmas tree. 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 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 and Ethernet 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. The Drobo 5n has no ports to connect an external device to so there’s no way to drop data directly off the unit to an external drive for extra security, which is a bit odd for something designed with the small office environment in mind.


The five drive bays sit behind the detachable front plate and are tool free. The bays themselves 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 etc. The bays support drives up to 8TB in capacity.


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 and they worked perfectly well.


In the base of the 5n is what Drobo calls the Accelerator Bay, a compartment that holds an mSATA slot.

Access to this compartment is via a small hatch that has a sliding lock to hold in place. Drobo recommends an mSATA drive in the 64GB – 120GB range; going larger provides no real benefit. At the time of writing the 5n does not support SandForce based drives in either the main bays or the Accelerator Bay.


  • Drive bays: 5
  • Other drive bays: 1 x mSATA
  • Tool free bays: Yes
  • Ports: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Dimensions: 150.3 x 185.4 x 262.3mm
  • Weight (empty): 3.9kg
  • Warranty: 2 years

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