Drobo is a manufacturer that produces quality data storage products for small and medium-sized businesses, and professionals offering a balanced mix of state-of-the-art data security, management functionality, reasonable storage capacity, and simple usage.

Bagging numerous awards in the industry and catering to customers all over the globe, Drobo has shown success by resolving the top three storage challenges in a single device: app service-level optimization, data security, and storage capacity management.  All these carried out by their very own patented BeyondRAID, Automated Data-Aware Tiering technology, and Thin Reclamation.

Drobo has marketed the 5C as a USB-C storage solution that’s “self-managing” which essentially means that it won’t entail any micro-management of a user’s storage device. Hard drives and drive capacities can be mixed and matched according to the user, and the 5C will do the rest. The experience with Drobo is intended to be effortless. And the 5C easily succeeds such notion.

Since launching its previous version years back, many deemed it to be expensive, going as high as $600. This mainly attributed to the complexities involved with the mSATA hot data cache as well as other functionality that further bumped up the pricing. While the cache seemed to please many, a lot of users (specifically videographers and photographers) prefer editing their content on a portable and swifter SSD, and moving their media to external storage in high volume sequential copies.

These same users really don’t require pre-installed caching tier within their mass storage device. All that’s needed was a decent speed in offloading data quickly and seamlessly.

The 5C is a perfect replacement for its predecessor — which happens to be a bit of problem for quite some time now. The 5C is essentially a 5-nay Direct Attached Storage (DAS) unit that utilizes the manufacturer’s BeyondRAID storage technology.

It’s easily a quality product with easy usage and excellent BeyondRAID data protection. Performance-wise, it’s relatively highly compared to traditional NAS units.

Currently, the Drobo 5C can be purchased for a little over $350 online. Other drive-equipped variants are available, which boasts as much as 40TB in out-of-the-box storage capacity.

Drobo 5C Review – Whats in the Box?

The 5C is conveniently housed in a white, plain cardboard box. The front display showcases the unit, which boasts its main features. The rear portion contains further details on case scenarios and other installation options. On one side, product comparisons can between the 5C and its Drobo siblings. Another internal box will greet the user once the external box is removed.

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Contents of the Drobo 5C 5-Bay Drive include:

  • 1x Drobo 5C 5-Bay Drive unit
  • 1x power supply
  • 1x USB Type-A to Type-C cable
  • 1x quick start guide
  • 1x carry bag

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The Product

Drobo 5C DAS – Drobo Hits the Mark Once Again

The Drobo 5C is a product with a traditional tower design. It’s intended to be placed on the desk. This makes it easy to use anywhere. It’s created with a metallic chassis, offering an excellent appearance, robustness, and additional cooling functionality. A big fan works proactively and quietly in the background.

The Drobo 5C has a similar appearance in terms of size and shape from one its Thunderbolt-version siblings. Like other products in its line, the panel at the front contains a magnetized strip running along the cover edges. It can easily be removed and when it does, five drive bays can be seen inside.

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All its drive trays are carrier-less and tool-less, which entails for effortless swapping and easy installation.  LED lighting can be spotted under the unit. These lights indicate the 5C’s data fillage, current status, and power. Situated to next to each drive is an LED showcasing each drive’s status. All lights are available in varying colors for simpler recognition.

The 5C contains five bays that are concealed at the rear portion of the front bezel. All drive bays are secured by spring-based doors, which are naturally forced upward and out of the way by having the drive pushed into them. Every drive bay contains a latch keeping the drive secure. There’s no additional physical security in the form of drive bay locks or anything else like it.

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All drive bays has the capacity to support as much as 10TB of storage. It’s important to take note that all 10TB brands are compatible with the unit. Therefore, it pays to look into the compatibility chart available on the manufacturer’s official website to see which drives it’s compatible with.

The drive bays can cater to 2.5” and 3.5” drive. In case a 2.5” drive is being used, bay converters are needed for secure fitting. Drobo highly recommends IcyBox products on their website although other converter brands (ex. Startech) for SSDs have been reported to work considerably well with the 5C.

When it comes to removing a hard drive, a button/notch on the left portion of the drive bays can be seen. Simply give it a firm push, and the drive will immediately pop-out. This is intended for easy swapping or replacing of any hard 2.5” or 3.5” drive.

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The large fan seen in its rear ensures the unit is kept cool even with all drives loaded. It’s housed with overlaying mesh for protection.

Its power switch is a “soft touching” button. A USB 3.0 Type-C connector, security latch, and power connector, can be spotted externally.

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When the Drobo 5C is a powered on, the unit will transform into a bright and multi-colored light fest. The front right-hand side of the unit features vertically-aligned LEDs at the drive bay, which emit red, green, or amber depending on the current status of the drives. A small schematic within the front plate showcases the definition of each color and what actions need to happen in that given moment.

The green light indicates the unit being powered on. Yellow light would indicate the unit in “standby” mode. The red light would alert overheating or high temperature. The last lighting is indicative of data being transferred. The ten found between these two is in blue and showcases the amount of storage space utilized. Brightness levels can be set for LEDs within the Drobo software.

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The bottom aspect contains four rubber feet that keeps the unit in place. A front cover is magnetically secured. It can easily be removed when required. Five transparent parts can be spotted where lighting can shine through.

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Within the cover, a sticker can found explaining possible drive states. This gives the user the ability to see if action is needed without having to recall anything.

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Product Features

The manufacturer’s advantage is its self-managed setup. It lets anyone utilize the 5C regardless if the user is a novice or advanced user in tech. If the process involves connecting a USB cable and a power cable, then it’s all that’s really needed. Such functionality is what sets Dobo from its market competition.

In layman’s terms, a self-managed setup involves plugging in the necessary drives and powering the device. The 5C takes care of the remaining process.  It’s basically an effortless and hassle-free experience for any user utilizing the unit.

A majority of storage solutions capable of bridging drives into a volume entails the utilization of drives of the same kind and capacity in order to make the most of the setup’s benefits. But with the manufacturer, that’s not the case. A user can seamlessly match and mix the drive capacity and types anytime and still be able to acquire plenty of capacity. The user will also benefit from the same security features offered from other Drobo models. That means, if one or more drives fail, sensitive data won’t be lost in the process.

Technology involved in this functionality is known as BeyondRAID, and it’s only exclusive to Drobo’s products. It’s easy for a user to purchase the capacity needed today. When more storage is required, have the smaller drive replaced with a bigger one, and quickly make use of the available capacity in mere seconds. It also makes room for complete use of smaller and older drives available until the overall capacity has met its minimum storage requirements.

In improving the experience further, each Drobo product is bundled with its own Smart Volume technology. Smart Volumes are volumes that have been provisioned and which uses the required capacity from a storage pool. When data is being deleted, free capacity is brought back to the common pool — increasing the available capacity right away. This brings improved dependability, protection, and easy usage of data.

One of the first aspects noticeable when unpacking the 5C is its weight. Weighing at 4kg, there’s reason for it. The manufacturer did more than just protect the user from drive failure, the product was intended to shield one from data loss as a result of power outage.

Each Drobo product contains a battery backup technology that shields data in its memory. If power is cut unexpectedly, data is being saved. Drobo migrates in-flight data to the C5’s onboard flash so it can be shielded and delivered right back to the disk drive after power is restored. Such process guarantees all essential data remains safe. What’s more, the unit’s battery will self-re-charge whenever it’s switched back on. It’s made to last for as long as it can.

The 5C functions admirably in both Mac OS and Windows platform. It has the capacity to handle NTFS and HFS+ volumes. Aside from its typical volume, a second one can be made for system backups (ex. for Mac OS users, its “Time Machine.”).

Pairing the C5 with a Time Machine enhances data protection by guaranteeing data safety in case a hard drive experiences failure. Its Time Machine support contains limited storage, which eradicates the feature’s downside of using up the available disk space.

Moving to the C5 is as simple as they come. In case a unit fails or an upgrade is needed, it’s a matter of unplugging the drives and slotting in a new unit.  Plug and play at its best.

The 5C requires no carrier or tools. Drives can be inserted into the slots for immediate use. Its security comes in the form of Kensington lock slot. Drives will spin down when it’s not active, thereby extending the life of the drive while using little power. LED lights can also be dimmed if it happens to be too bright for the location where the unit is being placed.

The Drobo 5C comes with a 2-year warranty period. It’ll largely depend on where the user is located. The warranty includes replacement of parts (in case of defects) and a 90-day technical service support. A DroboCare 3-year option can be bought and be extended for another year. Pricing for 5C’s DroboCare is around $150 (for 3 years) and an additional $70 per year for its extended care service.

Using the Product

When it comes to the Drobo installation, the process is as simple as follows:

  1. Plug in the power supply.
  2. Directly connect to the system via the USB 3.0 cable.
  3. Have the Drobo Dashboard software installed. Take note: if a Drobo Dashboard is installed, please have it updated to the latest version.
  4. Install the required drivers.
  5. Follow instructions listed in the automatic prompts.
  6. After the process, a drive letter will appear, showing the connected device(s) on the dashboard (a green light will be emitted).

File Transfer Speed

The file transfer speed of the Drobo 5C was excellent when both sending a file to the 5C and downloading it from the 5C. Sending a 10GB file to the DAS it achieved an average transfer rate of 109.37MB/s. Downloading the same file from the DAS it saw an average speed of 117.27MB/s.

Specifications

Connectivity

  • 1 x USB 3.0 port, Type-C

Drives and Expansion

  • Up to five (5) 3.5″ SATA II/III hard disk drives (sold separately).
  • Drives of any manufacturer, capacity, spindle speed, and/or cache can be used. No carriers or tools required. Click here for drive recommendations.
  • Expandable by adding drives or hot-swapping drives with larger ones.

BeyondRAID Features

  • Thin Provisioning
  • Instant Expansion
  • Mixed Drive Size Utilization
  • Automatic Protection Levels
  • Single or Dual-Disk Redundancy
  • Virtual Hot Spare
  • Data Aware
  • Drive Re-ordering

Management

  • Drive bay indicator lights, capacity gauge, status lights
  • Drobo Dashboard version 2.8.3 or later

Operating System Support

  • Apple® Macintosh® macOS 10.10 and higher
  • Microsoft® Windows® 10
  • Microsoft® Windows® 8
  • Microsoft® Windows® 7

File System Options

  • Apple® macOS: HFS+
  • Microsoft® Windows: NTFS

Hardware Features

  • Carrier-less Drive Bays
  • Power Fail Protection with Internal Battery
  • Metal Chassis and Cover
  • Kensington Lock Port for Security (lock not included)

Additional Software Features

  • Drive Spin Down
  • Dim Lights
  • macOS Time Machine Support

Software

The 5C’s Drobo dashboard is a software that aids in the initialization, update, and management of Drobo systems. Regardless, if they’re connected in a network or directly attached, the software alone can easily seek them all.

The software can detect automatically if updates are available for the unit and software itself.  Opting for the latest firmware and software is a good thing as it brings in newer functionality and bug fixes.

Once the unit has updated itself, a drive volume will need to be made. If the drives have already been moved from another Drobo product, it’d be read ready to go. But if not, the drives will need to be formatted.

Operating the 5C begins with the dashboard. On the far right, a diagram of bays and its installed capacity can be seen. On the left contains the current interface being used as well as the firmware revision. The dashboard for the 5C is now a slimmed-down version. It’s still utilizing animated graphics in showcasing drive bay info and display drive. Its features have been trimmed down for easier navigation and use.

The software’s image is animated. It mimics the functions of the Drobo 5C. For instance, if the unit’s drive indicators are green, its mage would also display a green color. If they’re seen flashing on the unit, the software animation will also function in the same way. A smaller animated unit image situated on the right side functions in a similar manner.

Finding a certain bay will offer information on the drive installed on the left portion. Data being used and layout can be seen further down to the capacity menu.  Its tools menu allows for managing the product by switching on/off the LEDs, making firmware updates, and volume formatting. Going through the settings involves opting either for a dual drive or single redundancy as well as enabling/disabling drive spin down.

A Capacity page showcases how much the Drobo 5C is currently being utilized. Its usage button will point out the division of capacity between space available for data, expansion being reserved, protection being used, and overhead usage.

Software settings can be seen under “Preferences.” From there alerts via e-mail can be setup as well as configuration of updates. The settings screen also sets the name of the unit, enabling/disabling idle spin down, and tweaking front panel lighting brightness. This happens to be section where Dual Disk Redundancy can be enabled.

The process involved in switching between redundancy modes is the amount of time proportional to the volume of data housed within the unit. So it’s ideal to go for such option while the 5C is being setup for the first time.

E-mail notifications can also be configured right from the Dashboard itself. Even in grave conditions, the Drobo volume can still be made available to the OS and be fully usable (although it’s important to approach cautiously in this regard).

Another task BeyondRAID is capable of is its ease of use and quickness. This far more of an advantage compared to the standard RAID. It’s able to toggle from single disk failure support to dual disk support.  Simply head straight into the “General Settings” page and click on the “Disk Failure” option. The software will take care of the rest.  Data can be accessed while the system is in the middle of switching from one option to the next.

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Conclusion

Thanks to the 5C, Drobo brought in a NAS-level storage management to an external hard drive. If additional functionality and management that a NAS can truly bring isn’t really needed, or in a scenario where network is essentially non-existent, but entails high volume storage, then the Drobo 5C is a no-brainer option.

The Drobo 5C is an ideal product for those who require plenty of external capacity attached to their own system and want to carrying things without dabbing into complex configurations or diving into highly technical aspects. Fortunately, its systems operate intelligently, as the Drobo 5C is self-managing on its own. Its redundancy offers flexibility either as a single or two-drive option.

Having the capacity to match and mix drives according to the user’s preference while preserving complete functionality and the highest capacity possible is another great functionality bundled with the 5C. It boasts these features as well as a pre-installed flash memory and backup battery for securing data being transferred in power outage scenario.

Its desktop tower design makes the 5C a versatile piece for placement just about anywhere. The encasing is highly durable and attractive as a result of its metallic construction.  It’s also bundled with a fan that operates quietly in the background. That means no need to worry of any drives overheating, even when used extensively.

The Drobo 5C allows for a secondary partition setup for Time Machine use and system recovery. It provides support for both NTFS and HFS+ as a file system. All in all, it’s a recommended solution that’s easy to set up while possessing world class security paired with dual-disk redundancy and built-in battery backup.

If there’s a storage solution worth going for, Drobo is one recommended brand worth pursuing. If one is after the latest model in the market, then the Drobo 5C 5-Bay is the best in its class and at a reasonable price tag.

Where to Buy

If you like the look of the Drobo 5C and are interested in getting your hands on one, simply head over to the Drobo website to find your closest retailer.

Drobo 5C DAS Review
Design
Features
Performance
Usability
Value
4.2Overall Score

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The Streaming Blog is about all things home entertainment. We provide the latest Home Theater news ranging from streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu as well as reviews on media players and home entertainment devices.

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