Drobo 5N2 Review

Written by Antony Leather

January 17, 2018 | 18:00

Tags: #nas

Companies: #drobo

Performance Analysis

We've switched hard disk models with this review and also stepped up from our usual two-bay enclosures to the five-bay Drobo 5N2, so our previous results aren't directly comparable and are thus excluded from the graphs, though some results are discussed here just as a basic point of reference.

While Drobo stresses fairly regularly that its NAS enclosures aren't focussed on raw speed, with a Marvell quad-core Armada XP ARMv7 1.6GHz CPU it coped fairly well against the competition. It was quicker than the Synology DS715 in the directory copy test and offered figures not too far off the DS216 in the file copy and HD playback and record tests - that was tested with a pair of WD Red 4TB hard disks as opposed to four 4TB Toshiba N300s in the Drobo, so take the comparison with a pinch of salt.

The more modern DS216 was much quicker than the Drobo in the directory copy test, quad-stream HD video playback, and photo album tests, albeit the latter is usually rather torturous, and even the DS216 only managed 10MB/s compared to 7MB/s for the Drobo.

On the positive side, doing the unthinkable and yanking a hard disk while the unit was powered on not only meant our data could still be accessed while the 5N2 sorted out data protection with the remaining drives, but speeds were barely affected while data protection was established. For example, the quad-stream playback speed fell by a paltry 5MB/s from 64MB/s read to 59MB/s, and the file copy speed fell from 114MB/s write to 106MB/s. While there was no downtime as promised by Drobo, there is a delay in data protection being re-established, but that will depend on the size of the drive and the amount of data stored on the device. With 100GB of test data, replacing one hard disk with another saw the array protected again in less than a minute.


It's refreshing to see a simple NAS that's geared towards one thing - data protection. The Drobo unit does this well and offers a clear system both in physical and software terms to keep your data protected and indeed accessible. There's also the boon of being able to upgrade the capacity by simply removing one smaller drive and inserting a larger one and no need to have identical hard disk models or capacities. There are one or two downsides, though, such as the slightly tinny chassis plus noise and vibration, which are undeniably more pronounced than most other enclosures we've tested. We've had plenty of comments over the years about NAS noise being an issue for some of you, even with Synology and QNAP units, and if that's a concern then the Drobo probably isn't for you.

There's also the fact it has no external USB ports, although upgrading the capacity is maybe quite a bit easier than on most other enclosures. There are far fewer features too, but the basics such as Plex and BitTorrent support, for example, are here, while the 5N2 costs less than your average Synology five-bay NAS as a result. In this light, if noise is not an issue or you'll be housing it in an enclosed space and want a simple-to-use and effective data backup solution where you can literally swap and change drives with no other user input needed, the Drobo 5N2 is practically faultless.

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