2013 nMP External Storage SSDs

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Selsk, Oct 20, 2018.

  1. Selsk macrumors member

    Mar 18, 2017
    Hello. I'm trying to upgrade my external storage for my Lightroom Catalog. Right now I am just using a single USB 3.0 Seagate 5TB drive and it is nearly full of medium format DNGs. It works ok for lightroom editing...a bit better than I would expect. AJA speed test shows a write/read of 120/89mb/sec.

    I only recently learned that the USB 3 performance on the nMP is pretty dismal. I have a usb3 card reader and when I try to import a full 64gb card onto the usb3 HD library it can take a looooooong time. Lately I have been copying my files from the card to my desktop, and then moving the folder to the external after and it is much quicker. But I only have a 250gb internal drive in my mac and half is partitioned to windows so space is very limited.

    Anyway. I want to take advantage of the thunderbolt 2 ports. So far I am only using one with a displayport for my Eizo monitor. I am weighing my options and just want to open dialog with your advice and opinions.

    I want to keep things as cost effective as possible. I know I could just purchase a huge crazy drobo raid whatever but I just had my first kid and I'm trying to keep the budget low as possible. My never ending computer upgrade is not the most popular subject with the wife if you know what I mean.

    So far my options that I have researched:

    1. Upgrade my internal SSD. Put a Samsung EVO Pro NVME drive in the trashcan with an adapter. This seems cool...but I would still be limited to about 1 tb to remain cost effective. I think it would be great for my most recent projects catalog but I could eat up that storage pretty quick. Also, I do like the idea of having bootcamp to play games once in a while. I know things get tricky with bootcamp on new NVME drives etc.

    2. Sonnet Echo Express SE1 Thunderbolt 2 Expansion Chassis (ECHO-EXP-SE1) - Looks interesting @ $200. I'm not exactly sure but I think I could then put a HD controller PCIE card in this with a large SSD. Or possibly 2 NVME drives? I'm not entirely sure what the speeds would be. I know they would most likely be quicker than my current usb 3.0 setup but not as fast as an internal NVME. I like how this box is up-gradable to thunderbolt 3 in case there is ever a new Mac Pro in 2019 etc.

    3. Delock 42510 Thunderbolt External Enclosure for SATA 6Gb/s 2.5-inch SSD and HDD. I read about this from another post. Looks most cost effective @ $80. Can put a large SSD inside. Benchmarks don't look so amazing for some reason. With an Intel SSD 335mb/sec Write / 97mb/sec Read.

    I'm not sure what other options would be better. Thunderbolt 2 seems abandoned by everyone already. I still get angry thinking about all the TB2 hype that apple stirred up when the nMP was announced. Then they ditched it almost immediately. wtf.

    Looking forward to your opinions. Thanks for reading.
  2. bookemdano, Oct 20, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018

    bookemdano macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2011
    It isn't what you were asking for (and I've never owned a nMP so can't be of much help there) but it might be worth investigating how many USB3 controllers the nMP has and how many (and which) ports are assigned to each one. When two USB3 devices share a controller, they each get half the available bandwidth. So if the nMP has two USB3 controllers, you'd be able to get the max speed by plugging each USB 3 device into ports assigned to different controllers.

    It could be there's only one USB3 controller on the nMP, in which case never mind. But wanted to throw that out there just in case.

    Edit: Another possibility would be a thunderbolt 2 dock that has USB3 ports. Not sure what kind of bottleneck that presents, if any. But it's another angle to consider.

    Edit: Thunderbolt 3 stuff should be backwards compatible with TB2. So if you do find something TB3 that you want to try, you should be able to use it with this adapter (it's bidirectional so even though its main use is to connect TB and TB2 peripherals to a TB3 Mac, it can be used for the opposite purpose as well). Make sure you read the proviso on that page--you have to be running Sierra or later and the TB3 devices have to be self-powered--most external SSDs aren't.
  3. Selsk thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 18, 2017
    Thanks B
    Thanks Bookemdano. I mentioned the USB performance is pretty dismal...

    "The 2013 Mac Pro also has four USB3 ports which together share a single PCIe 2.0 lane, which means the Mac Pro aggregate USB3 unidirectional bandwidth cannot exceed 500 MB/sec (1000MB/sec in each direction, e.g. read/write). Real-world speeds are always below theoretical.
    The USB3 implementation in the 2013 Mac Pro is not native to the chipset and is handled by a separate controller chip*. Test results show that this controller offers inferior performance to native USB3 on the 2013 MacBook Pro Retina, even setting aside the inherent bandwidth limitations.
    USB3 bandwidth on the Mac Pro is adequate for two fast hard drives used simultaneously. Three fast hard drives will perform well but not quite at unthrottled speed, and even a single SSD will not run beyond about 430 MB/sec.
    If the goal is very high performance, USB3 is a non-starter on the 2013 Mac Pro. For perspective, consider that the internal Mac Pro SSD enjoys reads speeds approaching 1200 MB/sec and that figure is measured result, not a theoretical PCIe lane limit which is never achieved in practice.
    To put this rather disappointing limitation into perspective, the 2013 MacBook Pro USB3 implementation outperforms the 2013 Mac Pro in every way!"

    Also the trashcan only has 4 USB ports and I have two more on my monitor and 4 more on a dock. Most all of them are taken with peripherals. Mini Amplifier, Wacom Tablet, Mouse, Card reader, Keyboard, Monitor Aux, Iphone Cable etc etc.

    But it has 6! TB2 ports.

    So that is the reason I want to use Thunderbolt.

    Yes I was also looking at Thunderbolt 2 Docks. Specifically this IOGear one. (Which I just noticed yesterday it was $115 and today it jumped to $177 wtf) Also this AkiTio one. I was mostly interested in them to plug in my USB card reader as I wondered if that would be any quicker. But yea I'm not sure of the USB drive speeds over thunderbolt for SSDs...

    That cable is interesting and I have thought about TB3. But it just doesn't make sense to me. It looks like it has a Male TB3 plug and a Female TB2 one so how do I plug that into my Mac Pro? How is it bi-directional? Am I missing something?
  4. bookemdano macrumors 65816

    Jul 29, 2011
    Bummer about the nMP's USB3 controller. That definitely seems gimped for a multi-thousand dollar Pro-level desktop. And unlike the cMP it's not like you can throw in an additional USB controller. Apple should have put way more thought into that. Ah well.

    As for the TB3 adapter cable, for the TB2 side you would need to buy a TB->TB cable like this to get it plugged into your nMP. Bidirectional simply refers to it being able to use either side of the adapter as the "head end" electrically.

    I think the TB2 dock idea is probably the best way to go, since you would be able to re-use your USB3 drives. I'm sure if you do some googling for Thunderbolt 2 docks some tech site will have done a roundup of the various models (or search that term on amazon and look through the first few pages of results. I think they really can vary in their performance, and by reading reviews (both pro and user-level) you can probably find commentary on the USB3 speeds people are able to achieve. I mean, technically TB2 has a max throughput of 20Gbps, and USB3.1 tops out at 10 (and never gets anywhere close to that number), so if you can find a dock with a good chipset and implementation, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to achieve better speeds through that than you do on the built-in ports.

    Edit: Have you seen this site yet? They do pretty thorough reviews: https://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-thunderbolt-2-dock/
  5. sbarton, Oct 20, 2018
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2018

    sbarton macrumors regular

    May 4, 2001
    No, USB is not gimped, the 6,1 was designed for TB storage, that's why there are 3 separate TB2 busses and 6 ports.

    I use lightroom also and just went through this. I recommend the Akitio neutrino thunder duo with 2 2.5 drives (either SSD or HD) in RAID 0. I got mine a few weeks ago for about $130. If that sounds expensive then just realize that TB2 never really took off and pretty much everything out there is going to cost more than what you can get for a more modern system.

    Don't worry that it is only TB1, as it is still fast enough for most anything you could stick in the bays. SATA SSDs in high capacities can be found pretty cheap these days. Or you could go for a couple of high capacity 7200rmp platters if you really need the space. I put 2 1TB 860 EVO SSDs in mine and it gets around 650/750 mb/s r/w which is just fine for Lightroom. I leave my catalog on my internal 1TB Apple SSD but I seriously doubt it makes a huge difference. If you use SSDs in the Akitio it is perfectly fine to unplug the little fan which makes it run silent.

    You didn't ask, but these work brilliantly for a TM backup drive over a USB port. Also small and silent and pretty cheap too.
  6. Selsk thread starter macrumors member

    Mar 18, 2017
    Thanks guys. Bookemdano, appreciate the cable lesson...I feel like an idiot ha. Yea I saw that thewirecutters link. I love that site.

    Sbarton. Thanks for the recommendation. I never considered TB1. $130 isn't expensive and it's cool that it holds two drives. Also I've never used timemachine but I will look into it for a backup.
  7. shaunp macrumors 68000

    Nov 5, 2010
    Startech make good TB2 enclosures (https://www.startech.com/HDD/Enclosures/Thunderbolt-Drive-Enclosure-2-bay~S252SMTB3) which you can probably find cheap on ebay, but other enclosures will also exist. I had one of these connected to a nMP with a couple of 1TB SSD's installed and configured them as RAID 1 (mirrored). This will easily be fast enough for your LR catalogue and would cover you if anything fails too.
  8. sbarton macrumors regular

    May 4, 2001
    That's actually a TB1 case and it's identical/re branded version of the Akitio I linked above. The Akitio can usually be found easier and for less.

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7 October 20, 2018