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pento

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 4, 2008
78
44
Hey all!

Ive been reading through all of the related storage threads but I’m struggling to determine what the best SSD drive + PCI adapter card combo to get. I would love to get some recommendations from anyone that has researched or purchased this sort of setup.

My setup is a 12-core 2019 Mac Pro(7,1) with a 2TB built-in SSD, and a Pegasus J2i cage with two 8 TB spinning disks for backup purposes. I want to add another internal SSD to hold all of my family photos/videos that are pushing 3TB. A 4TB drive should give me enough headroom for a couple years until prices drop some more.

I don’t want to go over 4TB for cost reasons, and I think I’d prefer a single drive and adapter card for simplicity’s sake. I’m tempted by a NVMe solution, but am not sure if the extra cost is truly worth it.

Anyway, any thoughts or recommendations would be appreciated!
 

Theophilos

macrumors regular
Jul 29, 2015
163
174
California
Although you’d like a single drive solution for now, it may be worthwhile to consider something like the Sonnet 4x4 m.2 sled for future expandability. You can, for example, add only two 2 TB drives and RAID them together for now, but later on, you can add more as the prices drop. I have two of these units with 8 total m.2 SSDs on them. They are solid and quiet.
 

LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
I agree with above. I initially purchased a single M.2 SSD on a PCIE adapter knowing I will be expanding in the future. After a few short months, I did want to finally expand as footage files were coming in bigger than I thought.

So I finally got the Sonnet M.2 4x4 Silent and stuck in 4 x 2TB sticks to be done with it. Still using the single stick on the PCIE card, but as my scratch disk.

Just get that Sonnet, add a set of 2 x 2TB stick for now and keep on adding as you decide to expand versus a single PCIE card occupying a slot with no expansion capability.

I'd also be careful with a single 4TB stick like the Sabrent Rocket if you care about longevity of your data. To achieve the speed, price point, and capacity - it uses TLC which means faster degradation.

Which is the reason why I choose Samsung 970 Evo Plus for all my M.2 SSD sticks. It uses MLC which the best of both worlds in terms of speed and longevity. Plus by configuring these as 2 x 2TB RAID 0, you are commanding faster transfer speeds and effectively doubling the longevity further by allowing half read/write activity per stick.
 

tsialex

macrumors G3
Jun 13, 2016
9,712
10,446
Which is the reason why I choose Samsung 970 Evo Plus for all my M.2 SSD sticks. It uses MLC which the best of both worlds in terms of speed and longevity.
You are mistaken, mixing 970 PRO with EVO+

Only 970 PRO still uses 64-layer MLC NAND memory:
Screen Shot 2020-10-25 at 14.07.48.png


970 EVO+ uses 92-layer TLC NAND memory:
Screen Shot 2020-10-25 at 14.06.31.png


Old 970 EVO uses TLC 64-layer NAND memory:
Screen Shot 2020-10-25 at 14.07.30.png
 

LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
I did mistake in my research for selecting the correct drives. No wonder the 970 Evo Plus are a bit faster than the Pro.

Thanks for pointing out. I guess RAID will help give me the longevity I was looking for than single TLC.

This is from Amazon when I was checking what to buy. I presumed the 970 Evo Plus is the same as all these, just improved transfer speed.

Screen Shot 2020-10-25 at 10.23.00 AM.png
 
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LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
Okay, I see now where I was mis-lead reading into thinking it's an MLC versus a TLC. Marketing materials said MLC which isn't technically incorrect as it's "multi-level" indeed. But as for actual 2-bit MLC versus 3-bit TLC, it's only when you realize what they meant. That was definitely shady.

"So is it TLC or MLC NAND?

Samsung refers to this as MLC VNAND for the EVO line which is confusing and shady, it really is TLC but .. Triple-level cells (TLC) and future quad-level cells (QLC) are versions of MLC memory, which can store 3 and 4 bits per cell, respectively. Note that due to the convention, the name "multi-level cell" is sometimes used specifically to refer to the "two-level cell", which is slightly confusing. Overall, the memories are named as follows:

  1. SLC (1 bit per cell) - fastest, highest cost
  2. MLC (2 bits per cell)
  3. TLC (3 bits per cell)
  4. QLC (4 bits per cell) - slowest, least cost"
Screen Shot 2020-10-25 at 10.30.40 AM.png


Source: https://www.guru3d.com/articles-pages/samsung-970-evo-plus-nvme-m-2-(1tb)-ssd-review,2.html
 
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tsialex

macrumors G3
Jun 13, 2016
9,712
10,446
Okay, I see now where I was mis-lead reading into thinking it's an MLC versus a TLC. Marketing materials said MLC which isn't technically incorrect as it's "multi-level" indeed. But as for actual 2-bit MLC versus 3-bit TLC, it's only when you realize what they meant. That was definitely shady.

"So is it TLC or MLC NAND?

Samsung refers to this as MLC VNAND for the EVO line which is confusing and shady, it really is TLC but .. Triple-level cells (TLC) and future quad-level cells (QLC) are versions of MLC memory, which can store 3 and 4 bits per cell, respectively. Note that due to the convention, the name "multi-level cell" is sometimes used specifically to refer to the "two-level cell", which is slightly confusing. Overall, the memories are named as follows:

  1. SLC (1 bit per cell) - fastest, highest cost
  2. MLC (2 bits per cell)
  3. TLC (3 bits per cell)
  4. QLC (4 bits per cell) - slowest, least cost"
View attachment 974007

Source: https://www.guru3d.com/articles-pages/samsung-970-evo-plus-nvme-m-2-(1tb)-ssd-review,2.html
3-bit MLC is a clever way that marketing uses to deceive.

Anyway, forget marketing tricks, the 1-bit (SLC) and 2-bit (MLC) NAND are the ones you look for longevity and 4-bit (QLC) is the one to avoid at all costs unless your data is disposable.
 

LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
Clever indeed. I was duped into thinking I was investing into true MLC drives. I mean I now have 5 of those 970 Evo Plus in the Mac.

Thanks for pointing it out again. Now I am more aware on what drives I have.

This further reading has brought me into knowing more about Intel Optane drives for my future replacement which is not a NAND but operates like an SLC.
 

IA64

macrumors 6502a
Nov 8, 2013
549
63
If I were you, I'd go for an optane drive in a heartbeat... Forget everything else, no matter what you use, RAID0 and primary drive is a no go for me. I'd use RAID for pure storage if anything but it's just me.
 

tsialex

macrumors G3
Jun 13, 2016
9,712
10,446
If I were you, I'd go for an optane drive in a heartbeat... Forget everything else, no matter what you use, RAID0 and primary drive is a no go for me. I'd use RAID for pure storage if anything but it's just me.
Optane is very good for some use cases, but this week Intel sold the all flash and storage business except 3D Xpoint/Optane to SK Hynix for $9bi. The NAND IP, wafer tech, a NAND factory in China and all of the SSD business will be owned by SK Hynix, even the employees will be transferred.

I don't doubt that Intel will probably divest from the rest of consumer storage business sooner than later.
 
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Average Pro

macrumors 6502
Jul 16, 2013
422
176
Cali
I checked Amazon and B&H, but neither has the Samsung 970 PRO (2TB) or Sonnet M.2 4x4 PCIe - Thunderbolt Compatible (MFR# FUS-SSD-4X4-E3). I did find the 970 PRO 1TB (MFR #MZ-V7P1T0BW) ($349.00). Any further recommendations on where to acquire? If anyone has the MFR# for the 970 PRO 2TB, please post. And if I referenced the incorrect MFR# for any of the items I listed, please highlight and correct.
 

LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
I never saw a Samsung 970 Pro 2TB which I assume is due to it's density to house 2-bit versus the EVO Plus' 3-bit, as I have discovered.

Here is the official Samsung site showing no 2TB option:


As for Sonnet, why don't you buy directly from their website store?

 
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tsialex

macrumors G3
Jun 13, 2016
9,712
10,446
Btw: is It possible to mix 2 evos with 2 Evo plus without issues?
Mix how? While you can do an array with different drives, it's not the best/recommendable way to do it. Will work fine for JBOD or 2 different arrays.
 

chfilm

macrumors 68040
Nov 15, 2012
3,010
1,735
Berlin
Mix how? While you can do an array with different drives, it's not the best/recommendable way to do it. Will work fine for JBOD or 2 different arrays.
Yea I thought so... mixing them in a raid 0 was my question about.
 

pento

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 4, 2008
78
44
Thanks for all the great feedback. I've been stewing on all of this for a while(while looking for deals!). I think I'm going to purchase 2 x 2TB NVMe sticks and and RAID 0 them. I've been going back and forth between the Sonnet 4x4 card and just purchasing a couple of cheap adapters. I was originally thinking the Sonnet card was so pricey partially because it had hardware RAID, and was leaning towards that, but after digging into it a bit more, it looks like it's just using software RAID. I assume it's pricey because it has to handle the PCI lane bifurcation?

Anyway, I'm having a tough time convincing myself it's worth $400 for a card when the adapters are so cheap, and I have a bunch of open PCI slots. The only reason to purchase a card like this is to free up your PCI slots, right?

The alternative to the Sonnet card I was considering is the Sabrent NVMe M.2 SSD to PCIe X16/X8/X4 Card with Aluminum Heat Sink (EC-PCIE)
 
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IA64

macrumors 6502a
Nov 8, 2013
549
63
So, I was really close to buying the Sonnet 4x4, when a friend asked if I'd considered something like the Sabrent NVMe M.2 SSD to PCIe X16/X8/X4 Card with Aluminum Heat Sink (EC-PCIE). I was originally thinking the Sonnet card was so pricey partially because it had hardware RAID, but I no longer believe that to be the case(it looks like it relies on macOS software RAID). I assume it's pricey because it has to handle the PCI lane bifurcation?

Has anyone else used something like the above linked NVMe M.2 to PCIe adapter? I have a bunch of open slots, and these adapters are super cheap. It seems like I could just get a couple of those, and then in the future if I find I do need to free up slots, I could consider purchasing something like the Sonnet at that point.

Tested for compatibility with Mac Pro https://www.amazon.com/Aquacomputer...coding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=T311SSS81Q23VGEWGFCZ
 

pento

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 4, 2008
78
44
Whelp, finally, done! I installed two Samsung EVO Plus NVMe SSD’s on the Sabrent PCI adapters I mentioned earlier. Working great, and so fast! Thanks to everyone for all of the great info you provided.

1607032733971.jpeg
 
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LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
Looks great.

Depending on what kind of work you do with the drives, my only concern is thermal throttling. As a video editor, this is the reason why I had to invest in cards with heatsinks.
 

pento

macrumors member
Original poster
Mar 4, 2008
78
44
Looks great.

Depending on what kind of work you do with the drives, my only concern is thermal throttling. As a video editor, this is the reason why I had to invest in cards with heatsinks.
Good point. These SSDs are primarily for storage of home media. I had previously planned on storing all of my media on a spinning disk, but found the performance frustrating. Transferring several terabytes from a spinning disk to these new SSDs was probably the most they'll ever be pushed to their limits. They're probably overkill for my needs, but buying SATA based SSDs just seemed wrong. 😂

The little Sabrent PCI adapters did come with heatsinks, and thermal pads, but I opted not to use them after reading some support articles and forum threads about them. Supposedly I would need to remove the thin little heatsink/sticker that they come with which will void the warranty. I monitored the temperatures while doing all of my transfers, and when they were idle, and they were within their operational thermal range(which doesn't mean they weren't throttling of course).
 
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LeonPro

macrumors 6502a
Jul 23, 2002
735
363
Fair enough. And I agree, SATA SSDs are a buzzkill to what SSDs are capable of. :)
 

Gr1f

macrumors regular
Oct 1, 2009
133
19
Thanks for all the great feedback. I've been stewing on all of this for a while(while looking for deals!). I think I'm going to purchase 2 x 2TB NVMe sticks and and RAID 0 them. I've been going back and forth between the Sonnet 4x4 card and just purchasing a couple of cheap adapters. I was originally thinking the Sonnet card was so pricey partially because it had hardware RAID, and was leaning towards that, but after digging into it a bit more, it looks like it's just using software RAID. I assume it's pricey because it has to handle the PCI lane bifurcation?

Anyway, I'm having a tough time convincing myself it's worth $400 for a card when the adapters are so cheap, and I have a bunch of open PCI slots. The only reason to purchase a card like this is to free up your PCI slots, right?

The alternative to the Sonnet card I was considering is the Sabrent NVMe M.2 SSD to PCIe X16/X8/X4 Card with Aluminum Heat Sink (EC-PCIE)
Hi,
Could you post some read/write speeds? They might work out as a cheapo intermediate solution for me too. Have 2 x Sabrent Rocket Q 1T drives to put into my 7,1 one it arrives. Might allow me to hold off making a decision on the Sonnet, Hightpoint or Amelftec cards.
 

Gr1f

macrumors regular
Oct 1, 2009
133
19
Hi,
Could you post some read/write speeds? They might work out as a cheapo intermediate solution for me too. Have 2 x Sabrent Rocket Q 1T drives to put into my 7,1 one it arrives. Might allow me to hold off making a decision on the Sonnet, Hightpoint or Amelftec cards.
Got a coupe of them myself....
 

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