The time when you could only use Thunderbolt storage devices with Thunderbolt-enabled computers is about to be over.
Drobo announced today two new Thunderbolt storage drives, its first that, on top of the traditional two Thunderbolt ports, also come with a USB 3.0 port. In fact, these are among the first Thunderbolt storage devices from any vendor that also support USB connectivity. This means you can use the drives with your existing computer, be it a Windows PC or a Mac, and keep them for use with future systems that support the Thunderbolt standard.
The two new drives are the Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini, with five bays and four bays, respectively. The 5D supports five 3.5-inch (desktop) hard drives, to offer up to 16TB of protected storage space, while the Mini can house four 2.5-inch (laptop) hard drives or solid-state drives (SSDs), to offer up to around 3TB of protected storage space. The two drives' storage space is limited by the capacities of existing hard drives on the market, which is 4TB for 3.5-inch hard drives and generally 1TB for 2.5-inch hard drives.
What also makes the two drives different from others, and what Drobo is known for, is Drobo's proprietary RAID setup called BeyondRAID that allows for mixing and matching hard drives of different capacities. This means you don't have to buy drives of the same capacities right away but can reuse your old hard drives and mix them up with newer ones of higher capacities. Furthermore, BeyondRAID also enables users to replace the hard drives, one at a time, without having to rebuild the RAID setup.
Both drives come with any extra mini bay on the bottom to host an mSATA SSD for its SSD-accelerated feature, designed to speed up the data rate of the internal drives to match that of the Thunderbolt connection, which caps at 10Gbps. Dobro says that the Mini has a new drive bay design that makes it possible to install and replace the internal drives without using any tools.
The two new Thunderbolt drives will be available for purchase by late July, with the pricing starting at $650. The storage is not included in the price but a Thunderbolt cable is. This is going to be another first since so far none of the Thunderbolt storage devices on the market has included a Thunderbolt cable.
All this sounds very exciting, but in the end it's the performance that counts. For that, you can check back here in a month for the full review of the new Thunderbolt drives from Drobo.