Drobo just released their Drobo 5N2 5-Bay NAS recently. The Drobo 5N2 focuses on simplicity and a smoother user experience, which is much appreciated for new users. Despite its simplicity, Drobo still managed to pack a lot of features into the Drobo 5N2.
The browser’s interface is also simple. The apps that support it cover various uses for your NAS making your user experience comfortable and less technical. However, the app library can be limiting to some users. It doesn’t have an extensive library compared to other NASes.
It is designed to be as a user friendly NAS. It is easily installed and deployed. The instructions are simple and have really good drive compatibilities which will be discussed later. Regardless of technical know-how, almost anybody who is patient will be able to set up their Drobo 5N2 and get it up and running quickly.
Drobo 5N2 Review – Whats in the Box?
Just like it’s slogan underneath its name, the Drobo 5N2 comes in a simple yet large white box. The front highlights its main features to the right of the box and shows the Drobo 5N2 itself on the left side.
At the back we have the specifications of the Drobo 5N2 in detail and also shows the back of the NAS.
At the side, you’ll see other Drobo products being compared side by side to each other along with its specifications.
Once you open the box you’ll find that the Drobo 5N2 itself is packaged in a nice and simple black carrying bag with the name of the brand on it.
There’s another box that carries all the accessories. Upon opening it you’ll find two Ethernet cables, a 9.3 ft or 2.8m power cord with power adaptor and a quick start card. There’s also a 90-Day DriveSavers recovery service plan, warranty information card, a couple of stickers in three languages as well as a Drobo sticker.
Lastly, we have the NAS itself protected by a thin layer of plastic covering the body.
Drobo 5N2 Review – Drobo Knocks it Out of the Park Once Again
The NAS looks fairly simple on the outside. We have a few LEDs for power and the status of the NAS.
At the rear end of the NAS, we have a big 12mm variable speed cooling fan, a power plug, a power switch and two Ethernet ports.
Removing the front cover plate is easy since it is only secured with magnets. When you remove the front cover of the NAS, you will see all five drive bays. You won’t need any tools for the job and you don’t need any trays either. You can insert the drives in the Drobo 5N2 without needing tools for the job. The whole process is tool less. All you need to do is press the button next to the drive and the drive will pop out. The drives just slide in and immediately lock using the gray clips on the left side.
The Drobo 5N2 has rubbers for feet to ensure that it stands in place. Under the NAS is also where you can find the mSATA slot for the hot data cache function. Like the drive bays, this is also tool less. Just open the cover and you’ll see the slot. You can use any normal mSATA SSD module.
- 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
- External Power Supply: AC Input – 100-240VAC~2A, 50-60Hz / DC Output – 12V, 7A, 84W
- Connectivity: 2x Gigabit Ethernet ports
- Drives and Expansion: Up to five (50 3.5” SATA II/III hard disk drives or solid state drives (sold separately)
- Management: Drive bay indicator lights, capacity gauge, status lights / Drobo Dashboard version 3.0.x or later
- Operating System Support: Apple macOS X 10. 10 and higher, Microsoft Windows 7, Microsoft Windows 8, Microsoft Windows 10
Using the Product
Drobo makes using the 5N2 incredibly.
Downloading or updating the software
The setup of the Drobo 5N2 NAS is really easy compared to other NASes out there. This is also one of its main selling points.
To start off, you will need the Drobo Dashboard. You can download it from the official website. Refer to the included quick-start guide to get started. It doesn’t require a lot. However, if you already have the Drobo Dashboard installed, it will most likely be an old version and it will automatically start updating itself.
Once you’ve installed or updated your Drobo Dashboard go ahead and restart it to make sure everything is up to date. The software will start scanning your network and ports for your Drobo Devices. It is not required to register and sign up for a Drobo account but we highly suggest it.
The NAS will then start checking for firmware upgrades. Once it finds one, it will start downloading and upgrading it.
Initializing the software
Once that’s done, the Drobo Dashboard should be ready to be configured. If your drives have files inside it and aren’t formatted, the Drobo Dashboard will block access to your drives to prevent data loss. However, if you inserted completely new, empty, clean or formatted drives without any files inside, the software would start building the BeyondRAID array.
If you inserted clean and empty drives you can skip this part but for those who didn’t, you would need to fix the lockout. You will need to reset the NAS using the Dashboard’s Tools section. Press the Drobo Reset and it will ask and confirm if you are sure. It will then reboot your system and initialize your drives for the use of the NAS. It will take a couple of minutes for your system to initialize, please wait while it does.
To further customize and configure your Drobo 5N2, check the software part of this review.
The overview of your Drobo devices can be sorted out either by icons or in a list like what Windows OSes does. You can also sort your devices by health, name or product. Viewing your devices on list mode, like the typical Windows OS, will also grant you more information of your devices. This includes, total capacity, used space, free space, serial number and the logged in state. Towards the left most part, there’s a light. This signifies the overall health of that device. If it’s green then it’s good.
If you go to the status tab, you’re able to view more details of the device and of course it’s status. You can also configure it. The information presented will be the name of the device, serial number, health, firmware, uptime, hot data cache and active interface. There’s an image of the NAS to the right as well and it shows you the overall health of all your drives.
If you move to network information it shows the IP address, MAC address, port speed, subnet mask, default gateway, DNS server 1 and 2.
If you go to the capacity tab, you’ll see that it too has two view modes which are capacity and usage. The capacity view shows information like a pie chart while the usage view emphasizes on how storage is allocated on your NAS.
On the shares tab, this is where you can configure which files you want to share to the public. By default the NAS already created one that is for public access. However, if you want your personal files to be accessed only by you or a handful of selected people, you need to set it up.
First you need to set up users and shares. You also need to enable users for this. To do this, you need to log in but in order to log in; you have to set up your new admin password.
Once you have set up your admin password, you now have access to all of the NAS with all privileges. Click share and this will give you access to the settings. You can now define certain user’s access to certain folders in your NAS. Of course, you can also deny access, set read access or set full read and write access to the folder. You can also add a shared folder by just entering the name of the specific folder. The time machine support defines the maximum size for the backups. Adding users is also just as easy except you just have to also add a password. The shared folders and user have their own view modes so you can conveniently switch back and forth between the two views.
Mounting a drive is also easy. You can easily configure it in the Drobo Dashboard as well.
Now on to the DroboDR tab. The DroboDR duplicates all content and even users from one Drobo 5N2 to another so you have a live back up in case of an emergency.
Just set one device as the source and the other as the target. Provide the needed information such as password, IP address and the schedule.
If you want more features, you can head to the Drobo Apps tab to install new apps. All the apps are grouped together by certain categories so it’s organized and you can easily navigate to what apps you need and want.
The tools page is where you are able to shut down or restart the device. You can also check for updates on this tab.
The Drobo settings are divided in four categories. The general settings allow the user to change either from dual disk redundancy or disk drive spindown. You can also dim the lights on your device if it’s too bright.
The network settings give the user the IP settings from the DHCP server. You can also manually set it.
The admin settings are where you login.
The last one is alerts. The device will send the admin an email in case something happens.
The Dashboard Preferences have a few settings for the general application of the software like visual alerts, automatic updates and so on.
The Help and Support page has all the helpful links and resources for your Drobo 5N2.
There’s a ton of apps that you can put on the Drobo. Obviously if we discuss them all, this review would be ridiculously too long. However, we will only discuss a few that we think that would interest you. The apps are available in the Drobo Dashboard. A fair warning though, Drobo highly advises you to use caution and not illegally collect copy righted material and file sharing content is also an attack vector for malicious exploits.
The DroboPix app will back up both your photos and videos on your Android or iOS devices automatically. It uploads the files to your Drobo device whenever you are connected to a Wi-Fi connection. The app can be used with DroboAccess for remote sharing and also gives access to your files once the photos and videos have been successfully backed up to your NAS.
We highly recommend the DroboAccess since this app gives the user access to their files using a web browser or a mobile device. You can easily view your documents, images, videos and share these files or folders with others as well.
If you’re running a blog or any website using WordPress, you can download the WordPress app to add to your NAS. Like the browser version, you can install and switch between WordPress themes.
Forget Dropbox and other cloud based services. If you have ownCloud, you can use your NAS as your own private cloud complete with maximum configuration compared to the ones provided by other companies. It is also open source.
FireFly allows users to stream their music library directly to iTunes or any other client that is DAAP capable. This is a good app for music lovers. As someone who has an extensive amount of music that eats up a lot of storage, being able to store this to a NAS will provide room for my actual programs.
MiniDNLA serves media files such as music, images and videos to the users in the network that use media players, smartphones, smart TVs and gaming consoles like PS3 and Xbox 360. This is a convenient app so you won’t need to store your files on your devices. You just need to store it on your NAS and the device can access it through the network.
Plex streams media saved from your NAS directly to your devices. Watch movies or listen to your music library. You can also display media directly to your TV and other devices. This is an amazing device as it supports all your media from pictures and videos to audio.
You can use the Couch Potato app to automatically download media such as Movies, TV shows or Music using NZBs and Torrents and directly saved to your NAS. Another helpful app if you wish to download media directly to your NAS.
Headphones automatically downloads music to your NAS. This is a pretty simple app and does its job fairly well. You might want to still consider installing this if you refuse to download your music to your computer then transfer it to your NAS. It’s time consuming and can be a hassle. Being able to download directly from your NAS is convenient and saves a lot of time.
Does the same as the Headphones app but focuses more on shows. Sick Beard downloads and also manages your TV shows on your NAS.
If you also want to upload files besides downloading them, you can use Transmission. Transmission is a lightweight BitTorrent client that you can use to download and or upload files.
Koken is content management and website publishing software specifically for photographers. This software has a full-featured management feature that looks and also feels like an actual desktop application.
This is probably the only dedicated mail service app for the Drobo so if you’re planning to access your e-mails on the NAS, this is a recommended download. Modoboa Mailserver is a full featured email server package that uses Postfix for SMTP and Dovecot for IMAP.
NFS allows users on client computers to access files in your NAS over a network that simulates how a local storage is accessed.
7-Zip is a popular open source file archiver that is also used in Windows desktops. I, myself use it as well. There’s also a Drobo app for this. It is used to primarily compress and unzip files. It also uses its own 7z archive format but is able to read and write several other formats.
Other System Apps
There are also popular and useful system applications depending on what you want to use for your NAS. There’s Apache, Java, Locale, Mono, MySQL, Node.js, Perl, Python and Ruby.
There’s a lot more apps than what we have listed. You can check them out on your Drobo Dashboard and find what you need.
The Drobo 5N2 is connected via cat 6 ethernet cable to the office network. Testing a 10GB video the NAS saw an average read speed of around 109MB/s and an average write speed of 114MB/s.
The overall build quality of the Drobo 5N2 is excellent. The casing is durable and is simple. The software, which is the Drobo Dashboard, works smooth. The setup was fast and simple, although not quite as simple to other tech devices but simpler when compared to the setup of other NASes. The UI was very simple and direct to the point. Granted it doesn’t have as much customization compared to other software but that’s not what they’re aiming. They’re aiming for a simple NAS that does its job marketed to casual users who are looking to dive in the NAS world so we’re not taking any points of it. We didn’t have any trouble with the initialization whatsoever. It was a bit long but that’s understandable. The apps were quite abundant and it pretty much supports everything that you can do with the NAS however, other NASes has better apps.
The Drobo 5N2’s ability to add any drives of any capacity to your existing ones is very convenient. Replacing the smaller drives with higher capacity ones were also a breeze thus making upgrades to your NAS storage quite easy. Compare this to other NAS brands where you are forced to use the same drives. The Drobo 5N2 gives you more flexibility when setting your NAS up. You can upgrade, revert, swap and replace your drives easily.
The DroboDR which is Drobo’s disaster recovery software also makes backing up a breeze. You can put your second Drobo 5N2 off site to protect it from disasters or emergencies. The backups are also easy to configure as we have discussed in the how to part of this review. And while we’re on to the how to part, setting the NAS is quite easy. The only requirement is you need to be patient and know how to read and write to set it up. It’s that simple.
The Drobo 5N2 is a phenomenal choice for enter-level users that is incredibly simple to use.
Where to Buy
You are able to purchase the Drobo 5N2 for around $850AUD from local retailers. To find you closest retailer head on over to the Shop on the Drobo website.