2019 iMac Fusion drive - am I mad to consider one?

familychoice

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 5, 2015
44
3
I'm looking to replace my 9 year old Windows desktop with a 27" iMac. Funds are tight, so I'm considering the entry level options:

3.0GHz 6-core 8th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
8GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
Radeon Pro 570X with 4GB of GDDR5 memory
1TB Fusion Drive storage
£1,749.00

I'd be using it for web and light graphic work, though I have a bootable 500gb external USB SSD with music (hobby) software I'm currently using with my 2012 non-SSD Macbook Pro, which works really nicely. I also have a second 500gb external USB SSD I use for storage.

I'd upgrade the RAM myself at a later date.

I realise the Fusion drive is going to be a bit of a bottleneck - but my queries are:

Is the 27" 1TB Fusion Drive 5400, or 7200? I've read conflicting reports, and I'm guessing this would have an effect on how much a bottleneck it'll be.

Would there be much difference in speed using an external Samsung Evo drive, compared to an internal Apple SSD?

I've read on here about bootable external SSD's 'degrading' - is this a common issue?

I realise I'm going to get laughed at for even considering the 1TB Fusion Drive, but I'm wondering if it's really that bad - or if I could live with it. Bearing in mind I'm using a 9 year old Dell that's on it's last legs.

My affordable upgrade options are:

Another £90 for the 256 SSD, or purchasing an external Samsung SSD (internal drive inside a third-party case). These are incredibly good value - last one I bought in an Amazon sale and for 500gb it was around £70 including a case. In an ideal world I'd opt for the 500gb SSD upgrade but it's another £270 and I can't afford it.

So with the 256 SSD upgrade I'd boot from that, and use an external drive for storage, or if I went for the Fusion Drive I could boot from an external SSD, and use the Fusion for storage.

Or if the Fusion drive really wasn't that bad...and maybe improved a bit since the 2017 model...and maybe it's a 7200 in this model...maybe I could grit my teeth and live with it.

Any feedback welcome - but please be gentle with me!
 

familychoice

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 5, 2015
44
3
It’s a 7200rpm drive but personally I pay the extra for a SSD
Ah ok, thanks for the confirmation...that's better than the 5400 at least.

I'm definitely considering the 256SSD upgrade, but just concerned how much I'd get on there. There'd be the OS, plus Email, and graphic apps (Affinity stuff), but I'd store all my files on an external drive.
 

propower

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2010
719
112
A tough call if budget is really tight. Personally I would never buy a Fusion because **NOTE** turns out I was wrong on this point! "it is already unsupported on the current APFS file system". Also it puts the most likely to fail thing (HDD) in a sealed box. 256G SSD far better option (IMO). That said if you need the space and fusion speeds will do - it is a reasonable choice. Down the road something like the 500GB Samsing X5 ($250 today) could become your system drive at 90% the speed of the Apple internal SSD.
 
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ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTVWXYZ

macrumors newbie
Feb 6, 2019
25
0
now that i look at the apple store prices, i could have sworn the 1TB Fusion to 2TB Fusion used to be cheaper. normally i'd recommend the 2TB fusion drive as the best budget option because it has 128gb SSD whereas the 1TB Fusion only has 32gb SSD, but now looking at these prices, i think the best option would be go to for the 256gb SSD. i don't believe that web or graphic work requires much hard drive power, so you should also buy a WD 8tb external for about $130 and turn it into a fusion drive, or just keep it as a storage drive
 

B.A.T

macrumors 6502a
Oct 16, 2009
625
322
Idaho
I had a fusion drive. It worked great until I upgraded to Mojave when it crashed. I put in a ssd and will never look back. my opinion is stay away from fusion. Get the ssd and when funds are not so tight get some external storage. FWIW my iMac is 5 years old and going strong.
 

nambuccaheadsau

macrumors 68000
Oct 19, 2007
1,751
409
Nambucca Heads Australia
Not mad but maybe unwise.

You will not be happy with a 1TB Fusion Drive with only a minuscule sized PCI-e Blade Drive. Fusion Drives, like SHDDs, were at best a 'fill in' when SSDs were very much dearer.

Best option would be a 512GB SSD and then go with an USB3 external for backups etc.,
 

iTurbo

macrumors 6502
Sep 9, 2008
303
357
I would get the 256GB SSD at least.

BUT, I am using a late 2012 27" iMac right now with 1TB Fusion drive, 10.4.2 and APFS. It's always worked fine for me. I know it's not nearly as fast Apple's latest internal SSDs, but it's always worked for me even 7 years out.
 
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imaccooper

macrumors 6502
May 29, 2014
305
97
North Carolina
I wouldn’t get a fusion drive personally. I really like the iMac with an ssd and would recommend it if budget allows, but if money is a concern then you could go with a new mini and a 27in monitor. You could get the mini for at or less than $1000 and a good 27in monitor for $400 or less.

Again, I’m not saying I would pick this option over the iMac with an ssd on pure performance or screen quality, but I would absolutely pick it over getting a fusion drive iMac.
 
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EPHS612

macrumors newbie
Mar 23, 2019
11
6
Just save up and wait a little longer to be able to buy one with 500GB SSD drive. Remember this 2019 iMac will last you for 8 years so be patient to save for one that will be useful in 2027.
 
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vertical smile

macrumors 601
Sep 23, 2014
4,018
5,215
Is the 27" 1TB Fusion Drive 5400, or 7200?
It’s a 7200rpm drive but personally I pay the extra for a SSD
that's better than the 5400 at least.
This really shouldn't matter. I know a lot of people complain about the Apple using 5400 RPM drives, but RPM alone doesn't mean one drive is faster than the other.

Now, if all else about the drives are equal, then RPM would matter.

The real complaint should be that Apple is still using spinning drives.
[doublepost=1553460515][/doublepost]
Or if the Fusion drive really wasn't that bad...and maybe improved a bit since the 2017 model...and maybe it's a 7200 in this model...maybe I could grit my teeth and live with it.
The 1TB Fusion Drive isn't worth it. It has a tiny 32GB SSD. The original 1TB Fusion Drive, while much older now was a lot better because it came with a 128GB SSD. Apple has since nerfed the 1TB Fusion Drive to a point that makes it almost pointless.

The 2TB Fusion Drive is better because it comes with the 128GB SSD.

But, it actually costs more than the 256GB SSD upgrade, so I would just go with the 256GB SSD, and use an external for more storage if needed.

I would get the 256GB SSD at least.

BUT, I am using a late 2012 27" iMac right now with 1TB Fusion drive, 10.4.2 and APFS. It's always worked fine for me. I know it's not nearly as fast Apple's latest internal SSDs, but it's always worked for me even 7 years out.
While the SSD is faster in today's iMacs, the 1TB Fusion Drive now has a tiny SSD (32GB) versus the 1TB Fusion in your 2012 iMac.

Not that it is a choice, but I would much rather have the slower 2012 1TB Fusion Drive than the faster SSD in the 2019 1TB Fusion Drive. Because the SSD in the 2019 will fill up so quick, it would make it almost useless.
 

partsofspeech

macrumors regular
Apr 6, 2018
233
253
To balance cost, storage need, and convenience, I decide that the 3T fusion is the best option for me. With that I can put all my files and data inside the iMac, far more accessible than external storage. SSD 500gb is too expensive and too small. Going that direction means I still need to put an external storage on the desk, which defeats the purpose of getting an All in One solution.
 

Nerdyaf

macrumors member
Mar 18, 2019
72
11
beyond what is mentioned above, spinning disks fail much faster than flash drives. it's upfront cost vs longevity too, although it's hard say how much longer can your computer last, because other parts may fail first.
 
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iTurbo

macrumors 6502
Sep 9, 2008
303
357
Seems like the Samsung external T5 and X5 SSDs are popular here. I myself have a 500GB T5. It's great for the price.
 
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macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
10,571
14,064
Central U.S.
One of the biggest differences I noticed when going from a 2012 iMac fusion at work to a 2017 iMac SSD at my old job was the speed of things with the SSD. It can be less convenient to have extra files on an external but my work budget only allowed for 512GB which was plenty for the OS, apps and current/recent projects. Then I would offload things to the external drives as needed. A bit more management but it was worth it for the extra speed. For my personal machine I just upgraded I went a little crazy with the 2TB SSD because I’ve been saving up since I last bought a Mac in 2012 and still had room in my budget.
 

iTurbo

macrumors 6502
Sep 9, 2008
303
357
One thing I will point out with an external SSD is that they are surprisingly small and light. Heck, I could stick some velcro stickers on the back of my Samsung T5 and attach it to the back of my iMac and you'd never know it was there. So...basically going external doesn't exactly defeat the purpose of an all-in-one like some think. Just food for thought.
 
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macduke

macrumors G4
Jun 27, 2007
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One thing I will point out with an external SSD is that they are surprisingly small and light. Heck, I could stick some velcro stickers on the back of my Samsung T5 and attach it to the back of my iMac and you'd never know it was there. So...basically going external doesn't exactly defeat the purpose of an all-in-one like some think. Just food for thought.
That’s actually not a bad idea. Maybe I should do this with my T5s as well! Then I could easily detach and stick it to the Velcro insides of my MBP/camera bag.
 

russofris

macrumors regular
Mar 20, 2012
160
58
So with the 256 SSD upgrade I'd boot from that, and use an external drive for storage, or if I went for the Fusion Drive I could boot from an external SSD, and use the Fusion for storage.

Or if the Fusion drive really wasn't that bad...and maybe improved a bit since the 2017 model...and maybe it's a 7200 in this model...maybe I could grit my teeth and live with it.

Any feedback welcome - but please be gentle with me!
Gently put:

You want an iMac that is affordable and reaches its performance potential. Base model with a 512GB SSD (+$300 option).

You want big, safe, redundant, dumb storage for archives and cold/warm storage. A crappy-NAS with two mirrored 4TB drives.

In my workflow, I record/mix/master multitrack audio. When I'm finished a project, I drag it onto my BDD (Big Dumb Drive) and make room for the next project. Best of both worlds.

FWIW, I had a 1TB fusion on a Late 2012 and it wasn't a horrible experience, though its limitations were apparent.
 

Gizmotoy

macrumors 65816
Nov 6, 2003
1,081
118
Of the last three iMacs I've purchased, all had spinning drives. All of them had drive failures within their useful lifetime. Two of them currently have SSDs strapped to their backs via USB3 as boot drives to avoid the complexity and cost of drive replacement. I'd never consider spending money on another machine with a spinning drive.

Strapping an SSD to the back does work, but it permanently sucks up one of your limited ports, will crash the machine if you accidentally unplug it, and generally feels like a flimsy solution.

It'll definitely work: I've been doing it for years, but I don't think I'd make a purchase today with the expectation of needing to do that.
 
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jinnyman

macrumors regular
Sep 2, 2011
247
329
Lincolnshire, IL
I used to own the very first iMac 5k with 1TB Fusion. After several years of use, I sold it due to lacking in performance. Anyhow, after the usage, I've decided that I'd never use fusion drive again.

If I were going iMac, I'd definitly go SSD. If you need pure storage, I would consider External HDD or external TB3 SSD later on.
 

rbart

macrumors 6502
Nov 3, 2013
369
167
France
A tough call if budget is really tight. Personally I would never buy a Fusion because it is already unsupported on the current APFS file system. Also it puts the most likely to fail thing (HDD) in a sealed box. 256G SSD far better option (IMO). That said if you need the space and fusion speeds will do - it is a reasonable choice. Down the road something like the 500GB Samsing X5 ($250 today) could become your system drive at 90% the speed of the Apple internal SSD.
Fusion Drive IS supported by APFS on Mojave.
And it works great
 

familychoice

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 5, 2015
44
3
Thanks for the replies guys, really appreciate all your feedback. Just to comment on a couple:

I wouldn’t get a fusion drive personally. I really like the iMac with an ssd and would recommend it if budget allows, but if money is a concern then you could go with a new mini and a 27in monitor. You could get the mini for at or less than $1000 and a good 27in monitor for $400 or less.

Again, I’m not saying I would pick this option over the iMac with an ssd on pure performance or screen quality, but I would absolutely pick it over getting a fusion drive iMac.
Hmm..yeah I'm coming to the same conclusion, though plan A would be the iMac with the 512 SSD.

While the SSD is faster in today's iMacs, the 1TB Fusion Drive now has a tiny SSD (32GB) versus the 1TB Fusion in your 2012 iMac.

Not that it is a choice, but I would much rather have the slower 2012 1TB Fusion Drive than the faster SSD in the 2019 1TB Fusion Drive. Because the SSD in the 2019 will fill up so quick, it would make it almost useless.
Just annoying that Apple would reduce the SSD component by 75% in an upgrade. If they'd left it at 128, with the faster SSD the Fusion drive might have been a workable option for me, at least for a couple of years.

Of the last three iMacs I've purchased, all had spinning drives. All of them had drive failures within their useful lifetime. Two of them currently have SSDs strapped to their backs via USB3 as boot drives to avoid the complexity and cost of drive replacement. I'd never consider spending money on another machine with a spinning drive.
That's worrying, and not a good advertisment for a machine that's nearly £2k.

Seems that the sensible option is to go for the 512 SSD upgrade. I can probably cope with the slower speed of the Fusion drive for now, but it seems many have had reliability issues, which is a concern. Also previous experience with my Macbook Pro, is that OS updates invariably slow things down, so while I might be able to cope with the Fusion speed for now, after a few updates it could become less bearable.

I'll have to see if I can come up with the extra £270, or go for plan B which would be a Mac Mini. I'd go for the 3.0GHz 6‑core 8th‑generation Intel Core i5 option with 8GB RAM and the 512GB SSD upgrade. £1279 is a bit easier to cope with than over £2k. I'd be using my old monitor, keyboard and mouse. It'd do the job, but my monitor can't compete with the iMac screen, but at least I can upgrade that at a later date.

£2019 vs £1279 really gives the Mini the edge, but I wouldn't have that lovely screen (or the extra grunt from the GPU), and I'd have to put up with reported audio glitches when using my USB audio interfaces with the T2.