The 5D DAS has generally been quite successful and Drobo is again looking to emulate its success since the Drobo 5D3 DAS looks really similar to the original 5D DAS. But despite looking almost the same, the Drobo 5D3 is obviously using an improved processor which will tremendously help the overall performance of the DAS. It also has Thunderbolt 3 support which vastly improves speed and you can also link the 5D3 to two 4K screens for those of you looking for a 4K experience.
For people who live in a place that has constant power outages, the Drobo 5D3 DAS also has a built in battery thus you won’t have to panic with an unexpected power outage. The battery makes sure that the data is safely written on to the DAS’ drives without internal corruption. It also saves massive time from waiting for the power to come back up. A fully charged battery can keep the drives on for 5 minutes at least and once the system has restarted, the user can continue from where it left off.
Generally, the new Drobo 5D3 has two times more performance over the Drobo 5D and as always Drobo has designed it to be simple and intuitive making the DAS easier to manage.
With that in mind, let us all take a look at the new Drobo 5D3 DAS and see what it has in store for us.
Drobo 5D3 DAS Review – Whats in the Box?
The Drobo 5D3 DAS comes in a white box that has the DAS in front of along with its name and subtitles. The pictures of the DAS itself are quite good considering they are high resolution pictures. On the sides, you can find the specifications.
At the front, as we have said earlier you will find the image of the Drobo 5D3 DAS of the front while at the back of the box you will find the image of the DAS at the back. This helps the buyer at least have an idea of what they are buying before making a conscious purchase.
If we take a look on one side of the box, we will find the current models sold by Drobo. Like the Drobo 5D3, some are also DAS but others are the more known NAS products.
Once you finally open the box, you will find inside a black cardboard sheet that you will see has white text written on it saying “Quick Start Card”. You can also find a URL that will also help you set up the DAS.
Besides the actual cardboard box, the Drtobo 5D3 is also inside two pieces of hard foam. It is well fitted inside a large Drobo branded felt bag. I love getting these extra things from products. Granted you most likely will not need to use this bag for carrying the DAS but you can use it elsewhere like carrying the grocery since it is reusable. The bag itself also ensures that the Drobo 5D3 DAS does not get damaged or scratched when shipping. Drobo indeed makes sure that their DAS and soon to be the customer’s DAS is well sealed and protected. I actually would like to see more of these types of packaging from more companies especially if it is a premium product. A nice unboxing experience is part of the journey in my own humble opinion.
Along with the DAS, you will find a few more accessories to go along with it inside a white box. If you open it you will find two power cables which one is for the UK and the other is Europe. There is also a Thunderbolt 3 connector along with a small user pamphlet that explains the product’s warranty. Drobo also added a few stickers and a universal power adapter that is of course needed to power up the DAS.
When you take a look at the Drobo 5D3 DAS, it is very simple but very sleek. It looks very professional and premium because of the reflective plastic on the front panel. Adding to that, this specific panel is also not attached by screws, instead it is attached using a special magnetic surface that holds it in place.
Once you remove the cover, you can access the bays inside the DAS. You can remove it easily by using a little bit of force to pull the gloss plastic that covers the DAS bays. However, you cannot lock the DAS as it has no lock mechanic which is disappointing but if you are using this at your home, I do not think this would be an issue. This would only be an issue if the DAS is used somewhere in public like a small office.
If we take a look at the other side of the panel, it has a chart that consists of various colors. These colors have meaning and it signifies that status of the system. Green as we all know is a healthy system. Yellow means that you need to add a drive here soon. The light is flashing yellow and green, this means that you must not remove this drive. If it is a plain red light, it means you need to add a drive here now while a flashing red light signifies that it has a drive failure and that you need to replace it. You have to know these colors as these signal lights are what Drobo uses to convey certain messages or notifications to the user because the lights are quite simple and easy to understand. If you are someone who has experience on computers before the lights are not new to you. Basically, if the light is green, things are fine or the system is healthy. If it is red there is a problem and yellow signifies complications or possible future complications. On the Drobo 5D3 DAS, a yellow and green indicator light also means that there is a task that is currently being performed on that particular drive so it is best to leave it alone and not remove it just yet. Just wait until it is done flashing the yellow and green lights and then it is safe to remove it. A flashing red light is definitely bad news as opposed to a non-blinking red light. It means the drive is dead for various reasons and you will have to replace it.
As you can see, you can find a row of LED lights at the bottom of the Drobo 5D3 DAS. On the far left of the panel you will find a green LED that indicates that the DAS is turned on. On the center, there is a row of 10 LEDs that are color blue. These blue LEDs lets the user know how much space is already being used. The more space is being used, more of these LED indicator lights will turn blue and once they are all on, the drive bay LEDs will now let the user know that blank bay should have a new drive installed or that the drives currently being used needs a larger space because the DAS is in danger of losing extra space for the user. The light on the far right lets the user know that data is being transferred between the system and also to the DAS.
Now let’s take a look at the rear end of the DAS. Like many products like this, this is where you can find the large cooling vent to prevent the product from overheating. There is also I/O options and two Thunderbolt 3 ports which are USB C compatible. Lastly, there is a USB 3.0 port, power switch and the appropriate power plug.
You can fit an mSATA drive inside the Drobo 5D3 DAS as well which will improve the performance of the product as the drive will act as a fast response cache for the DAS.
- 2 x Thunderbolt 3 ports; second port for daisy chaining Thunderbolt devices, including 5K and dual 4K displays (Mac OS X only)
- 1 x USB 3.0, Type-C port
Drives and Expansion
- Up to five (5) 3.5″ SATA II/III hard disk drives or solid state drives (sold separately).
- Drobo Accelerator Bay for increased performance with one (1) mSATA solid state drive (card 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. Use the Capacity Calculator to estimate available storage in various configurations.
- Thin Provisioning
- Instant Expansion
- Mixed Drive Size Utilization
- Automatic Protection Levels
- Single – or Dual-Disk Redundancy
- Virtual Hot Spare
- Data Aware
- Drive Re-ordering
- Drive bay indicator lights, capacity gauge, status lights
- Drobo Dashboard version 3.1.1 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
- 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
- Hot Data Caching
- Maximum System Capacity: 64TB
- Drive Spin Down
- Dim Lights
- macOS Time Machine Support
- Two (2) year warranty
Size and Weight
- Desktop Form Factor
- Width: 5.9 in (150.3 mm)
- Height: 7.3 in (185.4 mm)
- Depth: 10.3 in (262.3 mm)
- Weight: 8.5 lb (3.9 kg) without hard drives, power supply, or packaging
Power and Cooling
- External Power Supply:
- AC Input – 100-240VAC~2A, 50-60Hz
- DC Output – 12V, 10A, 120W max
- Fixed, 120mm variable speed cooling fan
- 15W of power to slow charge a Thunderbolt 3 Laptop
- Drobo 5D3
- 3.3 ft (1 m) Thunderbolt 3 cable
- 6 ft (1.8 m) power cord with power supply
- Quick Start Card
The default protection system is to a single drive. But for a better protection, you can set it to Dual Disk Redundancy and you can also set how bright or dim the lights on the general settings.
If you have another NAS device on your network, the dashboard preference offers an additional support for discovery. An automatic update setting will also help so you should leave it enable to make sure your system software are always updated.
You can change the visual alert system as well here and set up an email alert system. If we take a look at the bar menu system, it is set to its default setting which is on but you can also turn it off. This would hide the icon that shows the taskbar. It is best to leave it on however because you are able to load the software quickly with just a click.
As you can see at the bottom left under the image of the DAS, it will show that the mSATA ‘hot data cache’ is active if you installed an mSATA drive.
Setting up Time Machine volume can be also done. You must create a volume and then follow the wizard.
The help and support easily and quickly gives the user access to important information like user guides and searching the knowledge base. You can also register your DAS here. If you can’t find the proper help instructions, this is also the place where you can directly contact Drobo. You can easily create a diagnostics file as well to send to the company if you want.
How to Use
How to install an mSATA drive
It is also quite easy to attach the mSATA as this is a tool less process and does not take a lot of time. It is also important to remember to attach the mSATA drive while the Drobo 5D3 DAS is turned off and once you have it inserted, you will not need tinker it again.
How to install a 3.5 inch drive
Installing a 3.5 inch drive is pretty easy. All you need to do is slide the drive or drives which is label side up into the drive bays and they lock home. If you want to remove them, all you need to do is push the grey lever towards the left of each drive bay and voila! You can easily pull them out. It is pretty secure and easy since you will not need to get your tools which can be a hassle if you have them tucked away.
Setting up your Drobo 5D3 on a Mac OS
First you need to install the Drobo Dashboard software which you can get from the Drobo website itself. You can find the website on the paper guide included inside the box. And once the Drobo 5D3 is connected to your Apple computer and you have the software loaded and you are on the home menu, you are ready to begin. Simply click on the image of the product and the software will detect if a firmware upgrade is available which will be easily downloaded and installed. After this process is done, you have to restart your Drobo 5D3 DAS. The DAS will then show a green icon which means it is ready to be used, after which, you are now able to name the partitions.
If you check the capacity, it shows the total space of the drive that has been installed. The dashboard will then request a format of the drives that has been installed. Once you agree, the software will then send an alert that the process was a complete success. You can have a maximum of 64 TB if you have the budget.
The quality of the build of the Drobo 5D3 is nice and sleek. The general design is very professional sporting a black color. Its metal edges are rounded beautifully.
The operating system of the Drobo 5D3 is quite unique however it is not hard to get yourself around it. It is practical and straightforward. Since it is simple with less configurations, it appeals to newbies but the more technical and hands-on people might get turned off by the limited control. That is not to say that the DAS itself has less configurations, Drobo just decided to get rid of the headache configurations that make things complicated.
That being said, while most NAS and DAS devices will need a tremendous amount of time to install and set up, not to mention the downtime when you migrate data, the Drobo 5D3 is quite easy. Just insert a drive then add more using the hot swap. If they fail, charge them, alter the capacity while even writing and reading on the unit. It is fast and the lack of downtime makes this DAS quite impressive. If you put a problematic drive, the software instantly reacts and tells the user to remove the problematic drive soon. Though you should not purposely try this, it is nice to know that the software and the DAS itself did not mess up my files nor did it go into an error state that it refused to do anything which shows the coding is quite good and optimized in unison with the hardware.
Where to Buy
The Drobo 5D3 is a great DAS coming in at around $1,100AUD. If you would like to find out more about the 5D3 head on over to the Drobo website for more information.