2TB fusion or 512 GB SSD (Lightroom and programming)

Discussion in 'iMac' started by sbn, Dec 5, 2015.

?

What would you prefer?

  1. 2 TB Fusion drive, a clean desk and 500$ in your hand

    19.5%
  2. 512 GB SSD and a 2 TB thunderbolt HDD on your desk

    80.5%
  1. sbn, Dec 5, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2015

    sbn macrumors newbie

    sbn

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    #1
    Hello

    I'm hooked on the 5K 2015 iMac (M395 with 4.0 GHz i7) and really in doubt when it comes to the storage options.
    My only realistic choices seem to be the 512 GB SSD or 2TB fusion drive.

    I'll use the machine for editing raw photos (24 MP) in Adobe Lightroom, programming (web development, iOS with Xcode etc) and usual every day stuff. I might go into video or music stuff at some time, but I'm not sure at all.

    I have a NAS where my entire photos library is stored, but I prefer to have the collections that I'm working on, stored locally. (And synced using Synology Cloudstation)

    Currently I use a late 2013 15" rMBP with 512 GB SSD.

    I know that I can always add more external thunderbolt drives if needed, but that's not an elegant solution for me...

    I read a lot of other threads about the subject and while a lot of people are happy with Fusion, some people talk about performance issues when editing videos etc.

    http://barefeats.com/imac5k12.html
    According to this test, it seems like the difference is pretty small except from writing huge amounts of data, and the Fusion drive on 2015 models seems to write almost as fast as the SSD on 2014 iMac and 2013 MP.

    But honestly, I rarely have to write more than the 4 GB (which Fusion is buffering on SSD) at once. And when I do, the data source will either be the NAS (via 1Gbps LAN) or the SD Card, both of which are WAY slower than the HDD.

    Anyway, here's my pros/cons. Do you have anything to add? Or can you tell me if some of these points are more important than others? Thanks in advance!

    512 GB SSD
    Pros:
    • Consistent fast performance of all 512 GB of data
    • Only one point of failure (a fusion volume dies if either the SSD or HDD dies)
    Cons:
    • Pricey: 250$ more than the 2 TB fusion (Denmark prices)
    • I'm already struggling getting enough free space on my 512 GB rMBP, so this might be insufficient
    • I plan to use this machine for a long time (maybe 5 years) and then, 512 GB might be way too little, if I also want to backup my iPhone/iPad. OS and apps grow constantly...
    • Because of that, I might spend another 250$ on an external 2GB Thunderbolt drive to match the 2TB fusion capacity
    • Then I'd have more stuff on my desk, more cables etc.
    • And I'd have to manually manage what data to store on SSD and HDD
    • It just feels SOO STUPID to have an external disk on my table, while wasting the iMac's built in 3.5" HDD slot (but I know that it's not trival to install storage in an iMac)
    2 TB fusion
    Pros:
    • Cheapest option
    • No worries about where to put save which files
    • No need for external drives on my desk
    • Enough space for the next 5 years
    • If I need more SSD space, an external Thunderbolt SSD might be less bulky than an external HDD?
    Cons:
    • Performance might be unstable
    • Two storage devices to fail.
     
  2. MadDane macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2015
    #2
    Everything you mention seems to point towards the Fusion Drive being the better option. Except for one thing:
    As I have mentioned in other posts, I have experienced the HDD fail in two different iMacs (late 2009 and late 2012). And while it is possible to replace the HDD, it is no trivial task. For the single reason that you plan on using it for 5 years, to me it sounds like SSD is the only right option of those two. Also, you will see no gain in performance from choosing the (expensive) Thunderbolt over a USB 3 drive. Both standards can transfer files much faster than the HDD in the enclosure. So you might as well save some money and get a USB 3 drive instead and maybe install it under your desk instead of on top of it.

    However, there is one more option as I see it. Get the Fusion Drive now and if/when the HDD fails you can always un-fuse the Fusion Drive and have the 128GB SSD still working inside the machine. By the time it might fail, SSD prices are most likely much cheaper and you can either choose to get a large external SSD (this time Thunderbolt will definitely make sense, especially since it also supports TRIM), or you can replace the internal HDD with either a new HDD or a SSD either by yourself or get someone else to do it (I recall FONA wanting somewhere between 2-3000 kr. for this on a late 2012 plus the cost of the drive).

    I am also from Denmark and I find the prices to be extremely high. And I can completely understand your concern about spending too much money with the prices they charge. Are you eligible for either a student discount or company discount? That might help you save a bit.
     
  3. twilexia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2015
    #3
    As someone who has the 3TB fusion drive, I would 100% get the SSD if you're going to do it for media production purposes. The fusion drive may give you similar transfer speeds (up to 4GB) but in terms of IOPS and latency (two other huge factors that most people don't even mention when discussing storage), the SSD will destroy the fusion drive every time. When I try editing videos off the fusion drive, I get lags and stutters, basically the same as if I edit them off of a 7200 RPM external drive.

    http://www.thessdreview.com/featured/ssd-throughput-latency-iopsexplained/

    I wouldn't think of the SSD as just a storage/transfer component while the CPU/RAM/GPU do all the work. The SSD is just as important a working part of the computer system as the other 3 components, and in fact it is at times even more important simply because it is frequently the bottleneck. I'd much rather have a pure SSD in my computer driving everything than having a weaker HDD storage unit. Once you begin to fill up an HDD (in a fusion configuration or not) random seeks become much slower.

    As MadDane stated you can always split open your fusion drive if you feel like the FD isn't giving you enough I/O power, but that only gives you a 128 GB SSD to work with and every time you're going to be dealing with a 7200 RPM HD when working from project to project.
     
  4. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    May 3, 2009
    Location:
    Boston
    #4
    I'm happy with the 2TB setup, hard drives are very stable these days and so you should get a long life out it.
    The upside of the Fusion drive, is you get lots of storage and in most cases near SSD speeds.

    My 2012 rMBP had only a 256GB SSD in it, and so much of my stuff and to be on an external drive, and I quickly tired of dealing with that. For instance If the external drive wasn't turned on when I used iTunes, the configuration would reset itself back to the internal drive.

    Overall, if you don't like the idea of external drives (and I don't blame you), and the SSD options are not viable solutions either financially or capacity wise, then the Fusion drive is the best bet imo.

    I got the exact model you're looking at, and I'm extremely happy with it. The M395 has a decent dGPU, gobs of storage for a (relatively speaking) decent price.
     
  5. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a

    Sirmausalot

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2007
    #5
    Having an external connected to a laptop is very, very different than having an external connected to a desktop. Connected to a desktop, it is nearly invisible -- physically it is behind the machine where you can't see it and digitally, it is just another click to get to your photos (make a shortcut on your sidebar and it's the same). A bus powered solution goes on (and off) when you turn on the machine. So you can work with your files directly from an external that is actually faster than the spinning portion of the fusion and the 128Gb will fill up pretty fast, even with smart management behind the scenes. (I recommend the Seagate 4Tb RAID backup Fast which is tiny compared to most external drives and fast compared to anything but an SSD, but more than fast enough to open RAW photos nearly instantaneously). But you should still get the 512 NVRAM drive and not the 256. If price is an issue, I'm not sure how much you need the i7 over the i5 -- but I understand it does help lightroom out a bit in some instances.
     
  6. twilexia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2015
    #6
    You are absolutely right. Before I got my iMac I had a rMBPro and absolutely hated externals connected to a laptop. Now with the iMac I have 3 externals connected at any given time, I don't even realize it. Since the iMac takes up quite a bit of space on the desk (both length-wise and width-wise) there's plenty of space to put externals and not feel like you are wasting valuable desk space.

    The seagate solution is brilliant, makes you wonder "why didn't anyone think of this before?" Instead of selling a gigantic 4TB HDD you just RAID 0 the two 2TBs and market it as a faster 4TB drive. Brilliant.
     
  7. sasasule macrumors member

    sasasule

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2011
    Location:
    Netherlands
    #7
    You may want also to consider to just go for 1TB Flash drive...then you are cover both performance and space vise...and if you still need to add external...Well in that case Fusion 2TB/3TB was actual correct choice in the first place.

    Very hard to predict the future, if i could oh boy oh boy...
     
  8. Max(IT) Suspended

    Max(IT)

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2009
    Location:
    Italy
    #8
    No doubts: SSD internal and all the space you can afford externally connected.
    I wouldn't buy an internal spinner in 2015. Not even a Fusion Drive .
     
  9. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    Boston
    #9
    my issue with the 1TB Fusion drive is the paltry 24GB flash storage. I went with the 2TB fusion drive just for that reason, plus 2TB should set me up for a long time.
     
  10. AlexisV macrumors 68000

    AlexisV

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    Mar 12, 2007
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    #10
    No need for a thunderbolt external HD. £120 will get you a 2Tb external USB 3 drive which is plenty fast enough.
     
  11. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

    Staff Member

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    Boston
    #11
    TB is still better and depending on the usage scenario, the faster bandwidth is a plus.
     
  12. sbn thread starter macrumors newbie

    sbn

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2015
    #12
    It seems like most people lean towards the pure SSD solution, and some of you even gave me good reasons

    The IOPS is a very valid point, and it's hard to find any tests with SSD vs Fusion that measures the IOPS - then seem really bandwidth-focused. On top of that, there's the obvious ones like extra noise from the HDD an extra point of failure, and a more complex storage setup than a single SSD.

    I have a couple of questions though:

    Used market price?
    What's easiest to sell, 512 GB SSD or 2 TB fusion drive? Let's say that I choose to have this iMac for 2 years and then sell it to buy the recent model every 2 years. Do any of you have an overview of the market for used iMac and see how the storage affects the price? I have an idea that people buying used iMacs are not so tech-savvy, so 2 TB looks better to them, than 0,5 GB (SSD) - which means that you pay extra for an SSD that results in a lower reselling price. Or am I totally wrong on that one? Let me know!

    Adding a HDD later?
    If it was an option, I would have ordered it with 512 GB SSD and 2 TB HDD from the start.

    According to iFixit.com, it seems to be a realistic operation to change the HDD of a 5K iMac. This would make it an option to buy the 512 SSD and later install a HDD when I might run out of space - and then I can avoid having a disk on my table and extra air inside the iMac.

    BUT: Will the SSD-only iMac have the required cables and brackets for an HDD? If not, is it possible to buy such installation kits? And I also heard about fan-speed issues with non-apple-firmware harddrives. Is that a common issue? Are there any known fixes? That would be a showstopper for me if a new HDD causes trouble.

    External SSD through TB?
    If a fusion drive becomes too slow after being filled, I guess it might be an option to add an external SSD for my high-performance data through thunderbolt - with 20 Gbps speed, it should be enough for getting the same speed of the current 2GB/s SSDs. And an external SSD take up less space and make less noise than a spinning HDD on my desk?

    Number of thunderbolt ports
    I have a 27" Cinema display that I plan to use for 2nd monitor on the iMac, so it will take up one thunderbolt port, leaving only one port for other peripherals. Is it a standard feature on TB disk enclosures with two TB ports so thay can be daisy-chained, and how will that affect the performance? It's hard to predict how many TB devices that I might need.

    Thanks for your answers!

    So your only resason to recommend the SSD over FD is that the HDD mihgt fail? I had a failing SSD in my first Macbook Pro, but not failed HDDs in macs yet.

    Even though USB3 is fast enough for a spinning HDD, it might consume a lot more CPU cycles compare to the TB interface which has better memory access and a shorter chain of controllers...
     
  13. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    Boston
    #13
    Its possible to be sure, but when you need special tools to separate the body from the display, and then special double sided tape, I find myself rather hesitant to undertake such an operation.

    Perhaps an authorized apple repair shop (other then the apple store) will be open to "upgrading" the iMac to a pure SSD setup.

    Overall, I understand the arguments against the Fusion drive, but my real world experience has been positive.
     
  14. alexxk macrumors 6502

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    Jul 29, 2010
    #14
    I got 512 SSD and 4TB USB 3.0. Im very happy...
     
  15. MadDane macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2015
    #15
    That conclusion is taken out of context. If you look at your original post you have a long list of cons for the SSD and a long list of pros for the FusionDrive. I was simply stating the conclusion that it seems like you had already come to in your original post. I just tried to add another point to that list that you had not already touched upon (other than 2 vs. 1 drive).

    Yes, I know SSD's can fail. However, the chances for them to fail compared to a HDD is, AFAIK, very small. Personally I will never buy a new computer that has a spinning drive inside. They are simply too slow. I have used all SSD computers since 2010 and there is no going back for me. The speed at which these things run at is very addictive. Furthermore, the highly increased speed of the SSD's in the late 2015 iMacs is more than enough reason for me to choose that any day.
     
  16. twilexia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2015
    #16
    The fusion drive in my opinion. I think for the average layman (the type of person who typically would buy used gear) wouldn't appreciate the differences between SSD and Fusion Drive and go for the Fusion Drive. Anyone who is tech-savvy would 100% go for a pure-SSD solution especially in 2-3 years when it becomes the norm. However, these people also care more about their tech and are unlikely to go for used gear.

    I would have loved the option to order it with 512 GB SSD + 2TB HDD. Unfuse the two drives and use the 2TB as an internal backup, perfect. Unfortunately apple didn't offer us that option.

    The HDD is easier than the SSD to replace, that I agree with fully. But still it requires special tools and you have to reseal the iMac yourself. If you have experience tinkering with computers I think it's doable but if you're planning on taking to a computer repair store, I don't think anyone would do it for less than 200$. Replacing the HDD portion of the fusion drive with a 1TB SSD is going to be expensive as well, and in that case you're still getting SATA speeds vs PCIe speeds, which are far superior.

    I've been looking into this as well and currently I can't find a single solution that gives one the advantages of internal PCIe x4. Current PCIe to Thunderbolt 2 enclosures out there typically do not take full advantage of the speeds that the top SSDs on the market can produce. Some people have mentioned the external drives become almost invisible when in a desktop configuration.
     
  17. shaunp macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2010
    #17
    How much is an external 1TB USB HDD? Not much. so get the 512GB SDD, that you know you want else you wouldn't have bothered posting, and then add and external disk. Have both of them. If it means you need to save a bit longer than do that rather than compromising and regretting it later.
     
  18. fathergll macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 3, 2014
    #18

    This part is almost never brought up by people.
     
  19. fathergll macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 3, 2014
    #19

    Easiest to sell at what price? The iMacs in question are not priced the same to begin with.

    The general idea is that you will not recoup the $250 difference in the used market. This gets worse the older the computer gets since the value of the computer drops. l
     
  20. sbn thread starter macrumors newbie

    sbn

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    Dec 5, 2015
    #20
    Easiest to sell at the highest price of course. As some other guys are pointing out, buyers of used macs may be more focused on numbers like terabytes than whether the disk is an SSD or HDD.

    I'm not asking whether I can get the price difference back later, I know that I can't.

    But if the 512 GB model might actually be less attractive on the market for used macs, let's say it's sold $250 cheaper than the 2tb fusion model, then it changes the equation and the ownership cost of the SSD model is 500$ more than the FD model (plus the external drive cost)

    Where are people usually selling their old macs in US? The Danish market is too small to get any overview of the price differences...
     
  21. Sirmausalot macrumors 6502a

    Sirmausalot

    Joined:
    Sep 1, 2007
    #21
    Worrying about potential resale years down the road is not a way to make a decision. The problem you're having is that most of us here recommend the 512 NV RAM drive and you want the 2TB Fusion as you've determined it's the best for your needs. When in doubt, go with your gut instinct. It's still a great choice and most people here love the fusion drives. You can always add more solid state storage externally later. Order it and be done.

     
  22. AlexisV macrumors 68000

    AlexisV

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    Mar 12, 2007
    Location:
    Manchester, UK
    #22
    Just explain in the ebay description that the drive is a superfast equivalent of the storage in an iPhone or something.

    Even if 75% of people aren't au fait, iMacs sell so well on eBay anyway that you'll still have enough savvy customers.
     
  23. twilexia macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2015
    #23
    Gut instinct is frequently wrong, however. I went with the fusion against many people here's advice and regretted it within 2 weeks. External solid state storage is never going to be as good as the internal SSD (especially since Apple's current flash is literally the top of the market with almost 0 competition). Fortunately there's an extended holiday return period.

    Recommendation to OP is, get the fusion if that's what your gut is telling you, see if you can break it (i.e. try out your maximum workload). If the fusion drive breaks under the amount of usage you put on it, return it and get the pure ssd. I didn't even try to break mine, I just went about doing my normal tasks (editing audio/video on logic/premiere) and ran into numerous problems with the fusion drive.
     
  24. AlexisV macrumors 68000

    AlexisV

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    #24
    Yes, but we're talking about an external platter HD here, not SSD.
     
  25. fathergll macrumors 6502a

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    Sep 3, 2014
    #25
    512 SSD will sell higher of course.


    I'm questioning you because what you are asking doesn't make much sense. Its like asking if a 1TB SSD will be easier to sell at a higher price than a 2TB Fusion drive. The answer is also yes, but financially speaking you come out a loser since the computer depreciates at a much higher rate.
     

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