Lauren Goode

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Drobo Brings Thunderbolt to New Personal Storage Devices

Drobo, which makes storage bays and network-attached storage devices, has introduced two new products that include Intel’s super fast Thunderbolt data transfer technology and solid-state drive support.

Drobo Mini

There’s the Drobo Mini, a four-bay device that boasts more portability than previous Drobos and connects to your computer via either USB or Thunderbolt ports.

While Drobo’s storage bays are generally much heftier — think toaster-sized, more than sandwich-sized — the Drobo Mini is 7.3 inches by 1.8 by 7.1 inches and weighs just a few pounds.

And the Drobo 5D, meanwhile, has a larger form factor and can hold up to five drives with an additional SSD bay, supporting a total of 16 terabytes of data. Like the Mini, it also has USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt ports.

Both the Drobo Mini and the Drobo 5D have an mSATA SSD, which is designed to optimize the transfer and storage of data from device to drive; and something called “data-aware tiering,” a feature available on the giant $11,160 B1200i unit, which moves your most-accessed data to the fastest drive in the Drobo.

Drobo first previewed its Thunderbolt devices at Computex in Taipei earlier this month. Today, the company posted more details on its Web site, but the Drobos won’t hit the market until sometime in August. The Drobo 5D will start at $799, while the Mini will cost $599 — without drives.

Despite the Mini’s compact size, it’s still targeted at the serious media producer or “prosumer,” which makes it sort of a tweener device. Consumers accustomed to spending $600 and up on personal storage are likely: a) used to keeping their toaster-sized NAS devices in the corner and forgetting about them while they stream their media, or b) inclined to buy a cheaper, though less redundant, portable drive, without fancy ports or access via the cloud.

For those looking for more serious storage options, Drobo isn’t the only company adding high-speed Thunderbolt ports to such products. To name just a few: Pegasus offers RAID storage devices with Thunderbolt; LaCie sells the Little Big Disk, which comes with two Thunderbolt ports; and Western Digital has the My Book Thunderbolt Duo.


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