Back in 2014 I first reviewed the Drobo Mini and now I’d like to write an update that discusses the unit from a more long-term view.
As a refresher – the Mini holds up to four 2.5″ SATA I/II/II drives and one mSATA SSD. This is in effect a fusion drive (similar to the technology used in iMacs from Apple.)
The connectivity on the Mini is provided using both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.
The BeyondRAID technology allows for redundancy, meaning if you have one drive go bad, you can replace it and the unit will self-heal with no data loss. There is also a battery backup built into the unit. This is impressive. Drobo has assigned this battery backup technology to both of its new products and you would pay big bucks for this from most any other manufacturer.
Over time I have had to rely on the Drobo Mini fixing itself twice in real life. This happened because one of the SATA drives I installed failed. It happens. Both times the Mini was able to make sure my data was safe and I didn’t end up with any data loss. It does take some time – as in about a day – with a full drive and I have noticed some photographers being impatient and trying to interrupt the process (BAD idea) so I learned to wait. In both cases I was still able to write and read from the Mini during the healing process so frankly it’s not a big deal that it takes a while.
I now have a better sense about how rugged this unit is. I have taken it on many trips and it’s been dropped (sorry) more than once. It comes with a special cable that recognizes that the use case for this device is on-the-go, portable storage. You have to insert the cable like a key – turning from left to right so the power cable doesn’t accidentally get pulled out. Both times I dropped it nothing happened as in no damage. (I do recommend the purchase of the additional – optional Drobo carry case which is expensive, but very nice – I sort of wish Drobo just included this because you really need it.)
I have also had enough time with this unit to be completely stumped at why so many reviewers say it’s too noisy. I simply haven’t had that experience. All disk drives make noise and unless you’re using this in an environment where you’re recording audio it isn’t an issue.
The unit is slower in general than other Drobo products and I have to assume it’s because of the portable nature of the device. (It speeds up considerably if you add the mSATA SSD memory card.) I have experimented with lots of different drives in the Drobo Mini and come to the conclusion it’s not worth spending a lot of money on super fast drives. It doesn’t impact performance proportionately to the price. So I recommend 4 of Seagate Laptop Thin 500 GB 7200RPM SATA 6 GB/s 32 MB Cache 2.5 Inch Hard Disk Drives.
The Mini is super portable. I stash it in my camera bag or briefcase and it is always near. I’ve taken it all over the United States from Alaska to Florida. When I am on the road, I have added piece of mind knowing that since I have limited access to my computers and drives at my office, the redundancy of the Drobo Mini keeps me safe. Nothing would be worse than spending a lot of money on a trip only to find your images gone due to a laptop’s hard drive failing. Based on my research, there’s nothing else like the Drobo Mini. If you want redundancy on the road, fast and reliable data transfer, battery backup all in a small case the Drobo Mini is for you.
STILL – Highly recommended.