CNET editor Dong Ngo has been involved with technology since 2000, starting with testing gadgets and writing code for CNET Labs' benchmarks. He now manages CNET San Francisco Labs, reviews 3D printers, networking/storage devices, and also writes about other topics from online security to new gadgets and how technology impacts the life of people around the world.
One year after the first release of the first Drobo that won our Editors' Choice award, and a few days after the release of the beta SDK, Drobo Roboticstoday announced its second revision of the product.
For those of you who don't know, Drobo is the world's first, and for now still the only, solution for external storage that automatically and intelligently takes care of your data with minimal input from you. All you have to do is install the hard drives, which is as easy as inserting a CD into the CD-ROM drive. The Drobo protects your data with Drobo Robotics' proprietary technology that guarantees the integrity of your data, as long as no more than one hard drive needs to be replaced at a time. It can also predict when you should replace a hard drive before the drive actually fails.
Out of the box, the new Drobo has the same shape and design as the first-generation Drobo featuring four drive bays--each can take an SATA hard drive of any capacity from any vendor; a storage gauge that tells how much storage space has been used; and an array of big, bright LED lights that tell the status of each hard drive. However, on the inside, the new Drobo has some major improvements.
First and foremost, in addition to the USB 2.0 connection, it now also comes with FireWire connections. For this reason, the new Drobo's unofficial name is "Drobo FireWire Edition." The device works with both FireWire 400 and FireWire 800; however, it comes with only the FireWire 800 cable. If you want to use it with a FireWire 400, you will need a separate cable that links the Drobo's FireWire 800 port to the computer's FireWire 400 port. The addition of these ports make the device even more Mac-friendly and work much better with bandwidth intensive applications such as Final Cut Pro, Photoshop, and Logic Studio.
Secondly, the Drobo FireWire Edition comes with a processor that allows faster throughput speed, especially when using the FireWire 800 connection. The faster processor also makes it less time-consuming when the drive needs to rebuild one of its hard drives in case of hard drive failure.
Lastly, the new Drobo has a better ventilation system that helps it work cooler and quietly. Nonetheless, I tried out the product and its fan does produce relatively noticeable noise to those who stand nearby.
Other than that, the Drobo FireWire Edition functions exactly the same as the original Drobo and, still, it's not cheap. With no hard drive included, the new Drobo is priced at the same as that of the original a year ago. It also comes in 2TB (2x1TB drives) and 4TB (4x1TB drives) versions that cost $899 and $1,299 respectively. Make sure you check back at CNET.com for the in-depth review before making a purchase. In the meantime, the original USB 2.0-only Drobo, will still be available for a limited time at the discounted price of $349, with no hard drive included.