Brilliantly Simple, Fast, and Big: the Drobo 8D 8-Bay Thunderbolt™ 3 Enclosure


Every creative’s favorite subject is storage, right? Well, even if it’s not, it is still extraordinarily important, because our livelihoods now rely on secure, safe, and reliable solutions to handle our digital workflows. Drobo is a well-known member of the storage community and has been creating reliable multi-drive backup solutions for many years. Just recently, it unveiled the Drobo 8D, a large, eight-bay direct-attached storage option that is, perhaps, the best enclosure Drobo has created so far.

Make no mistake—this is a large device and will take up a great deal of space on your desk or shelf. It is also very heavy when loaded with drives. In our test, we configured it just like the base array with 24TB, comprising six 4TB Seagate Barracuda Pro HDDs. This is just barely scratching the surface of what the 8D is capable of since it can create volumes as large as 128TB. The other key piece of tech is its two Thunderbolt™ 3 connections, delivering outstanding speed and allowing multiple devices, including 4K and 5K monitors, to be daisy-chained.*

Beyond those key specs, the Drobo 8D features BeyondRAID. This is Drobo’s hallmark function and is what makes setup and expansion a breeze with its storage. You can pop in drives, hot-swap drives, and protect against either a single- or dual-drive failure. This is, in my opinion, the coolest part of Drobo’s systems: you don’t really have to think about how everything is going to work if you decide to make a change. It is also a huge part of the 8D’s success. If you decide to purchase the empty enclosure, you can always start with just a couple of drives and then expand as you need to, over time, by just adding another drive. This is helped by a fairly intuitive Drobo Dashboard software. Basically, BeyondRAID does all the annoying work for RAID setups without you even needing to think about it.

In terms of physical setup, the 8D is very well designed. The front cover is magnetic for easy on/off, and reveals eight bays into which you can quickly slide drives without need for a carrier. The slots feel satisfying when you slide a drive home, and there are large release levers at the bottom that also host the status lights. Once all the drives were seated, I plugged the Drobo 8D into my MacBook Pro and the software quickly recognized it. A format later, I was ready to go with single-drive protection. I only set it up as a single volume, but the software makes it easy to control up to 16 volumes due to Intelligent Volume Management.

One handy feature of this device is its ability to support acceleration through the addition of SSDs to the array. The rear sports a dedicated Accelerator Bay for 2.5" SSD Hot Data Caching; essentially just moving your common and recently used files to this drive for dramatically improved speeds. Otherwise, with just the six 4TB HDDs I was hitting read speeds of around 750 MB/s and write speeds of 375 MB/s. An SSD for caching can make a huge difference for those navigating large photo libraries or working with high-resolution video. SSDs can be used in any of the front slots for improved read and write speeds thanks to Data-Aware Tiering where certain data is moved to the faster drives for overall performance boosts.

A key to the Drobo 8D is data protection, so it makes sense that this offers enhanced Time Machine support on Mac computers. You can set up a dedicated volume for Time Machine backups and easily configure the size. Again, the simplicity of this setup is quite appealing. Another way the 8D keeps your data safe is through power protection. It features an internal battery that will help prevent sudden shut-offs in the event of a power outage, and this recharges itself during normal use. I did appreciate that the power supply is integrated into the unit and only requires a standard power cable to run from the unit. If I had one complaint, it is that it only supports 15W of power delivery over the Thunderbolt™ 3 port, so it won’t charge a MacBook Pro while you are using it.

This drive is perfect for freelancers or small businesses because you can start where you need to and expand as needed to incredible capacities. This will help keep startup costs down, while leaving plenty of room to grow as your business needs demand. The only thing you need to think about is where you are going to keep it, since it is a decently sized device, and a bunch of spinning drives isn’t going to be 100% silent. The 8D is simple, intuitive, and highly capable.

What do you think of the Drobo 8D and its expandability? Are you already a fan of Drobo products? Share your thoughts in the Comments section, below!

*The TB3 connection only works with Macs at this time, though Drobo is planning to release a Windows-compatible version later this year.