We've worked closely with Drobo over the last two months while preparing a trio of product reviews. At Computex 2016, though, we discussed how Drobo plans to implement upcoming technologies like USB 3.1 Gen 2 and Thunderbolt 3.
Drobo is in the middle of a rebuild. The company has a new CEO, executives, and support staff. New products like the 810n and 810i have begun shipping in volume. Drobo plans to bring other models toward the tail end of 2016, too. Most of the new models are still under wraps, but the company has allowed us to discuss the next in a long line of successful releases.
Although unnamed at this time, Drobo plans to bring a new 5-bay direct-attached storage (DAS) system to market later this year. This will be the first DAS to utilize USB 3.1 Gen 2 from the company. Gen 2 hardware increases bandwidth to 10 Gbps, twice that of USB 3.0 and USB 3.1 Gen 1. You can read more about USB's confusing specifications here.
We were told the new product looks identical to the existing 5D DAS except for the new connector on the back. This system connects to the host through a USB 3.1 Type-C connector with full 10 Gbps bandwidth. This doubles the bandwidth of the existing 5D DAS.
Support for USB 3.1 Gen 2 is spotty at best at this time. Users of legacy hardware can purchase an add-in card to gain support for the high-speed protocol. If your motherboard supports Thunderbolt 3, then you already have USB 3.1 Gen 2 and the Type-C connector. (Intel merged the two competing technologies last year.)
Drobo plans to focus on making complicated technology easy for all users. Over the past several months, the company has released new software features that remain easy to use. We haven't tested any of the company's direct-attached products but plan to in the future. However, we can give our approval for the network-attached products and how easy they were to setup, configure and deploy.
The company didn't want to dive into pricing information, but we were told the retail price should be between the 5N ($490) and 5D ($620). We suspect many of the Drobo 5D features will carry over to the new, unnamed model. The features list should include single- and dual-drive failure support in BeyondRAID, and five 3.5-inch HDD bays. You can read about the existing Drobo 5D here.