2015 iMac SSD + external USB vs Fusion

Discussion in 'iMac' started by -pete-, Dec 3, 2015.

  1. -pete- macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm in the market for a new 27" iMac to replace my 2011 model for work and I'm somewhat torn between getting an SSD for applications and using my 1TB external USB drive for files or just getting the 1TB Fusion drive.

    I do web design and development so I have quite a lot of files from clients sitting on my machine so I'm going to mostly be spending my time using PHPStorm (a PHP IDE for website development) with either MAMP or Vagrant and Photoshop and Lightroom for managing client photos etc.

    Does anyone have experience in both drives? I've read reviews saying that the SSD cache on the Fusion drive isn't as big as it used to be (24Gb now)? I'm not sure we can spring for the 512Gb SSD so I think we would be on the 256Gb model if that would be a factor.

    Any thoughts / opinions would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #2
    The 1TB Fusion drive is supposedly Apples soft spot in the iMac line. Given that it's a sealed system, any spinning platter drive is an accident waiting to happen to be matter of fact. I had a 240 SSD in my MacBook Pro and it ran the Adobe suite and Aperture with no space issues. USB 3 should be fast enough for your external file storage but a Thunderbolt enclosure that you could swap drives out of would give you more speed and flexibility.

    I will be replacing my computer with something like this in the Spring.

    Dale
     
  3. ScorpionT16, Dec 3, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015

    ScorpionT16 macrumors member

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    Toronto, Canada
    #3
    I was in a similar situation a few weeks back, went with the 256GB SSD and am very glad I did!

    I'm a designer, and use Photoshop, Illustrator and CAD programs mostly. With all design software installed, and 90GB dedicated to windows 10 Bootcamp, I still have 114GB free space on the OSX side.

    I couldn't afford the 512GB at the time, so saved up and picked a 500GB Samsung SSD for $200 Cad(half what apple was charging to go from 256-512) and now have 756GB in SSD space, the external is hooked up via USB 3.0 and feels just as quick as the internal.

    Photoshop opens so quick, I can't even see the loading screen, within 2-3 secs, and I have a bunch of fonts, brushes, etc... You'll love it as a designer. I use an external 1TB HDD as-well, its works fine, but is a 5400rpm drive so loads fairly slow in comparison. The external SSD is much much quicker...

    Your 1TB external, with a 256GB SSD Internal would be a better solution than a 1TB fusion and a 1TB external IMO.
     
  4. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #4
    I debated this option prior to ordering my computer.
    I too was displeased about seeing the flash storage drop from 128GB to 24GB on the 1TB drive, with that said, I've been using a MacBook Pro with 256GB of storage and I needed to store much of my data on a drobo DAS. I honestly grew tired of that arrangement and decided to go the Fusion route. I went with the 2TB fusion drive, solely because it offers 128GB of flash storage.


    I disagree, I think there's so much evidence that hard drives provide a long term stable storage solution. While the iMac is sealed, if it fails, Apple will fix it. I recommend apple care to extend the warranty to 3 years. While in a perfect world, I'd be able to easily access the hard drive OR select the larger SSD without paying an arm and leg but that's not the case. Still, I think having a spinning hard drive in the mac is not the end of the world.
     
  5. twilexia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2015
    #5
    I would go with the SSD for sure. The fusion drive may have similar transfer speeds (up to 4GB cache) but in terms of pure I/O power it cannot match up to the SSD. http://www.thessdreview.com/featured/ssd-throughput-latency-iopsexplained/

    If you go with the fusion drive, regardless of what model, you have no control over which portions of your files are in the HDD portion vs the SSD portion. Some files will be extremely fast while some files will be very slow, and your experience will be uneven. With the 256GB SSD you are ensured that any file you put on the drive will reap the I/O benefits of the SSD.

    Personally I have used both the fusion and SSD on the new iMac and while simple tasks like web surfing/document editing/gaming are the same between both, once I start doing video/audio editing I start seeing benefits right away.
     
  6. ScorpionT16, Dec 3, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2015

    ScorpionT16 macrumors member

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    Dec 1, 2015
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    Toronto, Canada
    #6
    It is a shame they dropped to 24Gb SSD for the fusion drive, probably an attempt to push people toward the 2TB or go pure flash...:rolleyes:

    As for the inconvenience, I've had a 256 GB internal SSD plus portable external 1TB HDD setup that I used with my laptop for over 4 years, never found it inconvenient, just 1 extra click to get to the HDD, and everything else was linked to it. Now I have a 500GB SSD external (even smaller, and quicker) which works out well.

    Although I do agree about the hard drive stability you mentioned, I've been unfortunate to have spinning drives fail on me, including my sisters. I do also enjoy the way an SSD works, in terms of read and write cycles, the fact that you never need to defrag and such... Though I have heard of SSD failing in rare cases compared to spinning disks, when they do, unlike spinning disks which go with warning over time, SSDs go kaput instantly.

    As a designer, I move back and forth between files, folders, and programs alot, the SSD makes a big difference. Toward the end of my studies, it was the difference between the end of the world lol. My laptop HDD died, luckily it was easy to open, added an SSD, I was able to finish work much quicker, and move from photoshop>illustrator>CAD and vise versa in seconds. That move lead me to never use HDDs again. My drive died after 4 years, so even if it was a mac with apple care, It may have cost me a lot of time and money, an possibly my final project.

    just my 2 cents...
     
  7. AppleHater macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2010
    #7
    SSD + external expansion is what I chose. Even at 1TB, it's not big enough to hold all my data. Plus, I don't want another mechanical drive in my computer, although I'm using USB HDD. In a year or two, I'll get 2TB external SSD when the price comes down to below $500 mark. Between the Thunderbolt and USB, I can add and swap out my storage at will. I would've considered the fusion drive it if came with 256+ SSD section.
     
  8. twilexia macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #8
    I'm just wondering, do you really hate apple?
     
  9. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    Boston
    #9
    Given that the 2TB Fusion drive comes with 128GB of flash storage, I found that to be a decent balance between fast storage, slow storage (using a mechanical hard drive) and price.

    I don't think there's any right or wrong answer, but rather what works best for you and your budget.
     
  10. -pete- thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2011
    #10
    Alright, the 128GB cache on the 2TB drive makes that much more appealing. I'm going to try not to spring for a thunderbolt enclosure and will be just running a 54000rpm USB 3.0 external drive instead, would this be OK to sit alongside it or would a faster drive be a worthwhile upgrade?
     
  11. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #11
    I'd suggest the 2tb fusion.
    It has a 128gb SSD and 2tb HDD inside.

    You could then choose to run it as a "fusion" drive, or.... split the fusion apart and use the two drives as "standalones".

    I'd keep the OS, apps, and the core of my accounts on the SSD portion, and keep client files on the HDD portion.

    Then, attach a 2tb USB3 drive as an external backup for BOTH internal drives.

    Personal observation:
    My "boot" volume (on SSD) uses only about 41gb out of 160gb.
    All my "working data" is kept on OTHER volumes.
    Unless you have really REALLY large apps, I would predict that a 128gb SSD is "large enough" for your OS, apps, and user accounts with "working room" to spare (so long as you don't store huge libraries of music, photos or videos on it)
     
  12. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #12
    Like Fishrrman implys, it's not a cache SSD/HDD like the hybrid drives introduced by aftermarket companies a while ago. A Fusion drive is two physical drives run as one by software. The SSD is in a PCIe slot and the HDD is in a SATA slot.

    Deleting or splitting the Fusion drive isn't point and click.
    Link:http://macs.about.com/od/diyguidesprojects/ss/Split-Your-Fusion-Drive-Apart.htm

    Dale
     
  13. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #13
    This is the least efficient way to use the two drives.
     
  14. twilexia macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #14
    I disagree with that. There are many reasons for splitting the fusion and I think one could realize numerous I/O benefits from being able to control what's on one's SSD vs HDD. Furthermore since the OSX and important apps are all on the SSD, leveraging the HDD as a storage drive is the best way to guarantee that the files and apps that one *needs* will be on the SSD. Furthermore, one can now run bootcamp now on the SSD.
     
  15. TrenttonY macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2012
    #15
    I'm too having trouble deciding. Should I get 256GB SSD iMac with a 5TB External HDD, or a 2TB Fusion Drive? Currently I have a rMBP with 256GB SSD and I only use around 50GB of that, so the 128GB of SDD that is included, would be enough. But I'm having trouble understanding, would my iTunes files automatically go to the HDD even if only use 50GBs of SSD, or would it fill the SSD first then the HDD?

    Both would be the same price*
     
  16. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2015
    #16
    No one but Apple can answer that question at this point.

    I would be surprised if the Fusion algorithm didn't filter out media files, sending them to the hard drive, giving priority to system files and application files necessary for speed. There is also a 4GB cache built into the system.
     
  17. TrenttonY macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 14, 2012
    #17
    I like the simplicity of the Fushion Drive, but they could at least gives us a optionally advanced options.
     
  18. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #18
    I see that, but SSD space would most likely be used inefficiently, the user filling up space with files unnecessary for speed.

    Splitting in the scenario you are talking about is a very specialized situation with a specific premeditated plan. More than just I think I can do a better job.
     
  19. bent christian Suspended

    bent christian

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    Nov 5, 2015
    #19
    That would be nice. Priority options!

    It's all a software function, so it can potentially be tweaked with updates/mods/hacks.
     
  20. v.i.p.e.r macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2012
    #20
    Most cacheing algorithm work pretty much the same.

    At first all data were stored on the fast drive - why should they be stored on the slow drive if enough space is available?
    If the cache is getting full, the "cold" data was moved to slow drive in the background. New data were stored on the ssd if it is not so big. And so on ...
     
  21. twilexia macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #21
    One of the things I would have liked is the option to tweak the write buffer in the fusion drive. 4GB was probably enough 2-3 years ago, but in the era of 4k and 5k videos and 24-bit audio files, it doesn't make sense to have such a low buffer range.

    Oh and of course to increase the size of the SSD in the first place. I would gladly have paid 200$ more for a 500GB SSD in a 3TB fusion setup.
     
  22. laragheast macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2015
    #22
    Hi
    I have a 1 TB late 2014 iMac 5k fusion drive and I also wanted to split the fusion but did not want to chance it, so I think I worked away around it (I think ) I only had 32 GB on the system and I read some were that OS X fills the Ssd part first and leaves 4 GB Free and then the hdd so I partitioned the the fusion drive in disk utility leaveing the first part 120 Gb and named it Ssd and then the remainder 1tb hdd, I then copied over my sons cartoons about 200 GB on to the hdd side and left all the apps on the ssd side . I would rather it this way unless someone tells I am silly and that this is not possible . I ran blackmagic on the both the Ssd and hdd and the Ssd has read around 600 read and write around 300 the hdd has around 200 read and write .
     
  23. ScorpionT16 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2015
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    #23
    Just ran this test on my iMac with a 256gb SSD.

    Got around 1200MB/s for write and 1800MB/s for read. A good comparison, and shows the real-life difference. Also no software in the background deciding what goes on what hard drive, everything just pure flash, less is more ;)
     
  24. twilexia macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #24
    If you got the fusion you can always split it. Plus, internal HDD is always faster than external HDD.
     
  25. ScorpionT16 macrumors member

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    Dec 1, 2015
    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    #25
    Lets say you get the 1TB fusion, can you split the SSD side and use it? I was under the assumption the fusion software dictates this, Also, lets say your fusion drives HDD portion fails, can you still boot OSX if its loaded on the SSD or is the drive always considered one?

    and if OSX determines what goes on fusion and what goes on SSD, is it constantly doing this, taking up ram or CPU usage slightly in the background processing? just some questions, Ive only been using OSX for 3 weeks now (only owned windows before).
     

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