A few months ago Drobo introduced their new Drobo mini. And since we have special attachment to “mini” products, we ordered one in to give it a look. First, know that this won’t be a super intensive speed test. There is plenty of information on that. Rather, this is just a first look. I know that when I’m considering a product, I’m interested in the general feel and interaction of it. So with that said, let’s get to some photos and observations:
I ordered the mini a few weeks ago. Since it is a new product, I wasn’t surprised to find out it was backordered. After waiting just a few days, I got the shipment notification. But then I watched and waited, and waited, and waited. After a week with no update on it, I sent a note to the company. The bad news is that it was marked as shipped and never left the facility. The good news is that they offered a discount and free shipping on a new order. Good enough for me.
But, I’ve never been impressed with the ordering process straight from Drobo’s online store. When you make an order, you get a phone call later in the day confirming that you made the order. I know it’s to combat fraud, but I don’t love it. Also, shipping costs $20 at a minimum, or $100+ if you need it overnight. I suppose Amazon Prime has just spoiled us all.
When the machine arrives, it’s a nice unpack experience. A few photos:
It comes in a cover box
Then the retail box has a Macbook feel to it.
In the image above, you’ll see Quick Start card. It’s real nice and simple. Basically, go to Drobo.com/start to download the Drobo Dashboard. Then put in your hard drives, power up the drobo, and format the drives. Pretty quick.
Inside the box you have the Drobo mini, a Thunderbolt cable, a USB3 cable, and the power cable and adapter.
Of course, there is a port on back for each of those cables.
You pull off the front plate. (It’s held on by strong magnets) and you’ll see the code for failing drives.
I decided to put in 1TB 5400RPM drives into the Drobo mini. I imagine this will be a common install as people order a Mac mini server, put a couple SSD drives into the Mac mini itself, they can use the two removed 1TB drives into the Drobo mini and still have that space for storage and use.
Speaking of the Mac mini, here are some comparison charts. They are actually quite similar in size, which I wasn’t expecting.
And finally, how it looks on a desk. (27in iMac and Cinema Display for size comparison.)
How about a quick video of installing the drives and also starting up the Drobo mini for the first time. A few quick notes:
1) Sorry, it’s a handheld iPhone video. I did try to stabalize after though.
2) The power cord slides in, and then twists to lock. I didn’t quite catch it the first time. Learn from others mistakes.
3) The light up process is cool, I put it in 4x speed so we could watch the lights as they do their thing. Once the mini is formatted, started up, etc, it’s just a simple green light around the edge so it’s not distracting.
Alright, just a few screenshots from the Drobo Dashboard. Not to many because anyone can download and install it. But here are the things that caught my eye:
Package installation that requires a reboot. Boo.
Some good options in the app including how many light alerts you’re interested in, an email alert of issues, and whether you want the menubar icon.
And just a couple things on available space. The diagram shows which drives are good. And, with four 1TB drives, you have 2.7TB of space to use.
As far as performance, I just did a few things to get a feel for it. First, I grabbed the biggest single file on my Mac which is a video of the 1990 UNLV Basketball championship game. That file is 5GB. First I copied it from my internal HDD to my internal SSD on my iMac. That took 40 seconds. Then, I went from my internal SSD to the Drobo, and that took 15 seconds. Very fast. But, pushing it over Thunderbolt certainly helps.
For a bigger test, I moved my full Aperture library. This is the worst kind of copy for data because it’s a large folder (114GB) full of 12,000 small files. To transfer this took 25 minutes. Once I had it there, I changed the library in Aperture and used it from teh Thunderbolt drive. It was noticeably faster than using the internal HDD drive. Importing, searching, and adjusting were very fast.
As for sound, it’s much improved than the full size Drobos that I had used in the past. While sitting on my desk, the iMac was louder than the Drobo. One can hardly hear either of them.
Overall, the hardware feels high quality. And it better be because these drives are not inexpensive. The Drobo mini is $649 without any hard drives. It is $1,249 if you order the option with 3TB of space. Both are available from the Drobo Store or if you want to save on shipping, it’s now in stock at Amazon.
So what am I going to do with it?
Personally, I’ll likely keep this drive to use as my Aperture library. I like the speed and the idea of keeping my photos on a RAID drive.
For Macminicolo, we’ll likely make this an option to host along with your Mac minis. Since it’s about the size of a Mac mini, it’ll fit nicely in our shelving.
For others, the advice remains the same as with all Drobo products. The hardware looks good, the software protects well, but the price is high. For many geeks, it’s not a good equation since you can maintain backups well. But if someone just wants a good product, and few worries or maintenance, it’s a good option. It’s a calming interaction when a hard drive fails, you know you just need to pull it out and put in a new one. Sometimes peace of mind is worth it.
Happy to answer any questions on twitter @macminicolo.
Macminicolo.net, a Las Vegas colocation company, has been hosting Mac minis since their introduction in January 2005. Low cost. High performance. They are the leaders in this niche market and are known for their personal service. They currently host hundreds of Mac minis for satisfied customers located in 31 different countries around the world. Get more info on our frequently asked questions page.