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Drobo B810n 8-Bay NAS Review

Drobo. Now that's a name we haven't heard in a long time. The company is back, and it sent us its new Marvell-powered B810n storage appliance to test. Is there new magic in this once-prolific brand, or does it fail to reignite that old flame?

Conclusion

Drobo recently released its Access feature that lets you retrieve data from the appliance through an encrypted portal from anywhere in the world. It's a great addition to the B810n's datasheet, but it's hardly unique. Competing storage vendors introduced similar functionality more than two years ago. And in a way, that sort of sums up my opinion of Drobo's B810n.

Right now, Drobo is behind other storage vendors both in terms of hardware and software. Nothing shows that more than the B810n's lack of iSCSI support or the idea that you'd have to buy the B810i to get it. Although iSCSI is often overlooked, as enthusiasts, we put a lot of value on the standard.

The B810n also ships with embedded system memory that users cannot upgrade or replace. RAM does go bad, and the inability to recover from such a failure scares us more than just a little. And then there's Marvell's quad-core processor. Conceptually, it sounds new and exciting, but there's a reason Marvell doesn't dominate the $1600 appliance space. We can purchase comparable systems with even better specifications for less than half the cost of Drobo's B810n.

Drobo's focus has always been on ease of use and simple setup. In that regard, it's successful; my 10-year-old can configure one of these systems. We have to wonder, though, just how low does the bar have to be? When your focus on accessibility inhibits capabilities that other companies made standard years ago, it's time to rethink the strategy. After all, if you have $1600 to throw at a storage server, you should be able to follow a 10-step quick-start guide.

Drobo wants to become iconic again. In my meeting with company representatives, they said they want to be as highly regarded as Apple. I often hear this, and it makes me cringe. Immediately, I conjure up images of trendy-looking hardware with a cult-like following that ends up over-priced. Iconic status should be earned through superior features and not willed through superior marketing.

As Drobo changed hands over the past few years, its development slowed to a crawl. Its claim to fame was having the easiest products to configure, which supported that stagnation. There simply wasn't anything new to complicate the devices. Even now, its latest products aren't much different from what it shipped six years ago. Drobo tells us that it's back. But given what we just saw, we wonder if it means back to 2007. After all, the B810n is the most underpowered NAS in this price range.

I do like the enthusiasm from Drobo. But this is a product review, not a company forecast. Its B810n is overpriced, underpowered and it lacks many of the storage-specific features we consider standard in 2016—or in 2012, for that matter. We suspect this model will receive a price drop over the coming months to be more competitive with NAS appliances coming from Taiwan.


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  • Khimera2000
    Would of like to see the qnap tvs-871 i3 in the review. Its in the same price range. The qnap model mentioned in the article isnt even stocked on newegg any more, and although it makes for nice charts it does nothing from a buyers perspective.Adding something that might of passed end of life just skews performance expectation at the given price point.

    Just my opinion on it.
    Reply
  • firefoxx04
    $1600 with only 2gb ram and no support for zfs (or equivalent). Pretty sad when they market it for big data. Raidz2 with 3 or 4tb disks would be nice.
    Reply
  • Blytz
    Have to say I would get another DS1815+ Synology unit over that drobo any day of the week. Equal or better specs, about 1/2 the price.

    Not to say the Drobo is a poor unit, just very overpriced for what's on off
    Reply
  • Xajel
    I wonder when NAS becomes more home friendly in pricing and features... Dual Lan port with Link aggregation and 4-6 bays with support for expandability using USB 3 drives ( or another DAS ) for timely backups is not that much of a problem... wondering why prices for such features are very high
    Reply
  • milkod2001
    @XAJEL
    Look up for Zyxel 540 or 542, affordable 4 bay, dual lan port unit
    Reply
  • DPichugin
    Drobo b810n has 2 ethernet ports, and support port bonding. It was not clear whether bonded port configuration was used for benchmarking. I would expect different numbers for bonded port test. see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Link_aggregation for details.
    Reply