Synology DS1512+ VS. Drobo 5N – Head to Head

Putting Drobo and Synology to the Test

How do the Synology DS1512+ and Drobo 5N compare in a head to head data storage and protection competition, filled with the same kind of drives and handling the same kinds of data? We put them to the test to find out.

Synology Advantages

The Synology 1512+ holds several distinct advantages over the Drobo 5N.
It’s faster.
It has a LOT of apps.
It allows for extreme customization.

Drobo Advantages

Meanwhile the Drobo 5N has several distinct advantages over the Synology 1512+.
It’s completely automated.
It’s far easier to expand and repair.
It costs less, uses less power and takes up less space.

The Bottom Line

Both machines have distinct advantages in different areas. Which one is best for you will depend on what you find most important and how you plan to use it.

For the full rundown and all the details, check out my article comparing the Synology DS1512+ and Drobo 5N.


  1. says

    hi john. you also dont tell about the possibility to use the 2 LAN-Ports with Link Aggregation. If you use the nas together with some others, maybe in a office you will feel the difference well. does drobo support Link Aggregation?…

    regards from switzerland

  2. says

    Hi John P! You missed this in your video review: What if the Drobo unit or the Synology unit fails in some way (not any of the hard drives)? What does it take to read your fully functional hard drives and what is the cost / investment if this happens. And yes – unit fails!!!

  3. Jon Anthes says

    Hi John, I don’t think you dropped the ball on this one. But I do hope you slipped up when you said 90 megabits. Performance is important to me and my customers and a little more time could have been spent on this subject. A typical hard drive can copy data at 110 megabytes. I would assume multiple big drives, buffer/catch and a $600 price tag it would perform better. Maybe use real world testing? Drop a large file on the box and time it.

    • Profile photo of John P. says

      Hey Jon, you’re right. I misspoke when I said Megabits. That’s what happens when you’re freestyling on video instead of reading a script! 😉 Those speeds should have been MegaBYTES… Obviously 8X faster!

      So, each of these NAS devices is performing at almost the same rate as an internal drive, which is pretty darn good considering that just a couple of years ago we’d have been looking at 1/3 to 1/2 this level of speed.


      John P.

  4. jim de leon says

    wow John, sorry man but you really dropped the ball on this one. make me wonder how many other reviews you have done this for?

    • Profile photo of John P. says

      Care to be specific Jim? Did you even read the complete review I posted on my blog which is linked to above?

      John P.

      • jim de leon says

        Hi John,
        Also been a fan of geakbeat BUT:

        1. a lot of the problems/errors were already pointed out in the post before mine. you left out functionality of what the Synology can do (you can use different drives, you dont need to buy a whole new box when swapping out a hd, etc….)
        2. you asked if i read the blog, my comment i was based off your video review. A LOT of people will only watch the video and not read the blog review so you’ve already skewed their decisions. (Yes, they should read the blog post but the video is goint to reach more people).
        3. Drobo sponsors some episode, and for that reason it made all those things you missed about Synology a bit more questionable

        • Profile photo of John P. says

          Fair comments Jim. As has been discussed multiple times, there are some claims that Synology makes which are not clear. For example with Hybrid RAID, yes it will do it. But ONLY if you choose that option during initial setup, which 99% of people are going to miss or not understand, effectively rendering the feature false since you can never go back and change it. This is not a problem the Drobo file system has. You can swap at will between single or dual drive redundancy and also larger drives in and out at any time all automatically with no user intervention. This is clearly the strong suit of Drobo and Synology absolutely doesn’t match it, so although this feature was pointed out to me after the review, and I did acknowledge it and make adjustments, in my heart I still don’t believe this feature is real since I already got screwed out of using it when I didn’t know about it during the initial setup. Others will feel the same way.

          As far as the video review is concerned, I did indeed leave a lot of information out of it. But the video is already a whopping 22 minutes long!!! This is WAY longer than any other video review we’ve ever done, and well beyond most people’s attention span. So I simply could never have covered every detail or feature of either of these systems. The funny thing is, I haven’t heard a single complaint from a Drobo fan anywhere about leaving off features or details (which I did). Only the Synology fans seem upset that I didn’t go over every single feature – which makes sense because people buy the Synology units exactly for those features!

          So yes, I don’t mind people scrutinizing my review whether or not a product comes from a sponsor (which actually forced me to be MORE hard on them than I normally would be), but what I don’t understand is that I clearly recommended Synology on a number of counts – and yet people want more!

          The bottom line is, Synology is a TERRIBLE, DISASTEROUS choice for anyone who needs a lot of hand holding with storage. They might struggle a little with the initial setup, but god help them if something happens like a hard drive failure. Without automation they may not even be able to repair the drive themselves. This automation is where Drobo shines as a storage platform.

          Likewise, Drobo would be a HORRIFIC choice for anyone who wants to essentially replace a few dedicated machines with a single server that can run a whole host of apps while squeezing every ounce of performance out of the platform. They NEED a Synology, or QNap, or other such device.

          Why is it that the Synology supporters can’t seem to admit that there is a very clear and necessicary space for Drobo in the market, despite the fact that Drobo has a quarter million customers?


          John P.

  5. Stephen Malkinson says

    Hi John, loved your review. Did you try the iSCSI mode on the Synology to see how performance compared to the NAS? I am trying to determine if iSCSI is a better attachment method than NAS for my massive iPhoto libraries.

    • Profile photo of John P. says

      I did NOT yet test that! But I do need to do that. Next week I’ll set it up and run those tests so I can give an update.

      I actually expect that iSCSI should be the fastest, most reliable connect method. Just need to give it a shot…

    • William says

      I can completely understand performing the tests without utilizing iSCSI mode as it would invalidate the overall comparison. Since the Drobo 5N does not utilize iSCSI the test would be an apples to oranges comparison instead of apples to apples. As for jumbo frames and I am curious to see what the difference for each system would be. Although my WNDR4500 doesn’t support jumbo frames, if the difference were high enough I might switch to a different router.

      I do have an additional question though. Did you have an mSATA drive in the 5N for the speed test?

  6. says

    My now very old Infrant ReadyNas NV+ (now offered by Netgear) also auto-scales when you drop in new drives. So it’s not _that_ unique of a feature. It can run apps, will e-mail me when there’s an issue, etc. And it does jumbo frames. And this was before Drobo really caught on in the market.

  7. Andrew Flatters says

    Not sure if was a oversight or they removed the feature but I personally have a older synology and the big selling point was the hybrid raid mode. This mode said it was compatible with random size drives but in your review it said they had to be the same so not too sure on this. Would love a confirmation either way as thinking of upgrading my older one.

    • Profile photo of John P. says

      I should have been more clear about it. Here is a more detailed explanation of what I meant…

      You can indeed use LARGER drives in the Synology when you are adding one to it. That said, it is not going to give you the full additional size of the larger drive. So if you have like three 3TB drives in it and you add a 4TB drive – as I understand it – its only going to format and use 3TB of the drive.

      This is pretty standard with normal RAID arrays. But Drobo handles it differently so you can take advantage of the additional expansion of larger drives as you put them in.

      If you already have an older Synology then you can definitely add drives to it if you have room, and I’d recommend that as opposed to buying something new! But if you need lots of expansion you can’t just start swapping the drives and having them auto-adjust the way a Drobo does.

      Does that help?

      • Alex R. says

        Some oversights on the review:

        Expandability: If you want to use that scenario you need to add at least two drives of the larger capacity (see: As soon as you add the second drive and run through the expansion wizard it’ll let you use the full capacity of those drives. This is indeed possible via SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid).

        Replacing drives with larger capacity drives on the synology is not automagical I’ll give you that, but it isn’t such a brain teaser as you make it (

        Finding the synology device on the network: you don’t need to know the IP address to navigate to the web interface (and actually you can have status info on your Windows/Mac/Linux machine without having to use the browser) -> Synology offers the Synology Assistant app on the install cd and on their website:

        You can also find and access the NAS’s features via a set of free iOS apps that synology offers:

        Also something you forgot to mention is that the Drobo uses a proprietary format (if the drobo dies you have no way of retrieving the data without having another drobo). The synology on the other hand, uses software raid through mdadm (Linux standard raid software).

        Notice: No association with Synology, just a happy user of a DS2413+ :)

      • Beamish says

        Sorry John but I believe you are completely wrong.

        I have had both a Drobo and a Synology DS1512+. The Synology Hybrid Raid acts very much like the Drobo system when multiple sized drives are installed. With single drive redundancy, if you increase only a single drive among five the same size you will not see storage increase but if you increase TWO of them then it will increase the overall storage.

        Whereas the Drobo shows X.X GB reserved for future expansion with only a single larger drive, the Synology shows nothing which may be the source of the confusion. Both of them need at least two drives of the largest size or else a single larger drive is essential defaulted to the next size down installed in the array for functional space.

        Since you must use space on the other drives to duplicate data it is impossible to spread the extra space from a single larger drive over the remaining smaller drives with any appreciable redundancy, Build arrays in both of them using a single 4 TB to replace one 3 TB (as I have done) and see what you get.

        Another error: You do not need to know your Synology DiskStation’s network IP address. You just run the provided Synology Assistant program to identify the DiskStations on your network and launch the browser interface from there.

        (Admitting my potential bias: I had a disastrous experience with two original Drobos and a Drobo S, twice losing almost all my data. Their customer service was excellent but their products failed me. I moved on to Synology three years ago and have never regretted it.)

        Also – could you expand the review to include web access from remote locations? The Synology is quite powerful at that work but I do not know how the current Drobo handles it.

        • Profile photo of John P. says

          Thanks for the insight. There seems to be enough confusion about this point that I’m going to reach out to both Synology and Drobo to have each of them give clarification. As soon as I hear back from them I’ll share the results…

          As far as remote access to info is concerned, that is an area I forgot to mention because I don’t tend to use it. But good point. Let me work on that and give an update after the holiday…

          John P.

          • david doyle says

            The 1512+ can configure the drives in several different raid types, with the hybrid RAID option supporting different drive sizes. The synology will allow upgrading to larger drives with a similar approach as the drobo (replacing existing drives with higher capacity ones)- or you can go the expansion cabinet route if you want to keep the existing drives and add capacity beyond the 5 bays.

            The Synology device is aimed at a slightly higher tier than the Drobo – you missed the dual Ethernet ports and iSCSI support. Drobo has other NAS devices with similar features – with prices more in line with the 1512+.

            On comparing the speed of the two devices you neglected to take into account the extra services (like antivirus) which you had running during the speed test, the Synology speed would have been even higher with the services turned off.