Do I really need the Fusion drive?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by jojofromkokomo, Feb 27, 2016.

  1. jojofromkokomo macrumors newbie

    jojofromkokomo

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2016
    #1
    I'm looking into getting a Mac Mini. I don't want an iMac because I want two monitors and can't afford to spend an extra grand on a monitor (and I need to have the monitors uniform because of aesthetics and I'm a little neurotic like that). The Mac Pro is way more than I need. I'm looking at the 1TB Mac Mini, upgraded to i7 and 16gb RAM, and am deciding between the 1TB HD or the 1TB Fusion. Do I really need the Fusion? Here is what I'll be using my computer for...

    I work in Web content management, so occasionally I'll be working from home, working primarily through Chrome, logged into our CMS, via VPN (Cisco AnyConnect) to my business's network, and I usually also have Adobe Dreamweaver open for more efficient code editing.

    I also write creatively. I use Microsoft Word, sometimes I use the desktop version and sometimes I just use 0365. I also write technical documents, very infrequently, using Adobe InDesign.

    Photography is a hobby, but not a career, so I have occasional bouts of photo editing and manipulation sessions using Adobe PS, Lightroom, Affinity Photo, and a Wacom tablet. I store the majority of my photos on an external HD and keep only the current projects on my Mac.

    I am currently using a mid-2012 Macbook Pro 13" with i7, 750GB hard drive, and 8GB RAM. I don't intend to get rid of this computer, but would like to keep it "on call," if you will. I typically prefer a desktop setup, particularly with dual monitors, but I'll keep the Macbook as a portable option to use when needed. Also, I don't want to rely too heavily on my Macbook anymore as it's a few years old and I've had to wipe it and reinstall OSX multiple times after installing Parallels a few years ago since I needed to run a Windows program for ONE THING (dang it) and it apparently corrupted something deep in my drive. The Macbook crashes basically every time I upgrade to whatever new OSX is released.

    So, with all of that in mind, do I really need the Fusion drive or would the standard 1TB drive be sufficient (with the 16gb RAM and i7 core)?

    Or should I reconsider the Mac Mini altogether and just replace my MBpro with a new 15", buy two monitors and dock them together with http://hengedocks.com/products/vertical-dock-macbook-pro-retina?

    I appreciate any input. Thanks!
     
  2. Fishrrman macrumors G5

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #2
    OP wrote:
    "I'm looking at the 1TB Mac Mini, upgraded to i7 and 16gb RAM, and am deciding between the 1TB HD or the 1TB Fusion. Do I really need the Fusion? Here is what I'll be using my computer for..."

    YES, you DO need the fusion.

    If you buy the Mini with the platter-based hard drive in it, it will run, but the overall user experience you receive will feel more like "walking", (or "crawling") than "running".

    Before long, you'll be right back here, asking, "how can I make this thing go faster?"

    The reality is that recent versions of OS X just run better on a Mac with an SSD or a fusion drive setup (which combines both an SSD -and- an HDD).

    The SSD portion of the fusion drive in the 2014 Mini is PCIe-based, and quite fast. I sense you'll be very pleased with its performance.

    It's WORTH spending the $$$ up-front for this, because of the difficulty of adding it later (probably cost as much or more).

    I'll -guess- that a Mini with 8gb of RAM would do well enough for the tasks you'll be using it for. Are you running tight on RAM in MacBook Pro now?

    Something important to be aware of:
    Are you going to want 4k in the future? If so, be aware that the current version of the Mini doesn't yet support 4k properly (by "properly", I mean at 60hz).
    It looks like the NEXT version of the Mini will have full 4k support, but it's not out yet and we can only hope it will arrive before the end of the year.

    The newest rMBPro 15" models should support 4k on an external display if you need it.

    Maybe you ought to re-examine your perceptions of "aesthetics", and take a really good look at the 5k iMacs. They're great. (And I write this as a Mac Mini fan).

    If it's a Mini that you want, I would recommend the current "high-end" model.
    It comes with 8gb of RAM standard, best CPU, IRIS graphics, and a 1tb fusion drive (128gb SSD portion + 1tb HDD portion).
     
  3. ApfelKuchen macrumors 68030

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2012
    Location:
    Between the coasts
    #3
    Does anybody "need" anything? However, I'd strongly recommend Fusion; it dramatically changes the performance of your computer, for nearly anything you do with it. You'll have a 1 TB HDD that performs nearly as well as a 1 TB SSD. For your kind of usage it's a far better investment than going from 8 GB to 16 GB of RAM. In your case, 8 GB will usually be sufficient - the only thing the additional 8 GB of RAM will be is "swap insurance," and swapping to cache will probably not be that frequent. You can test that now on your 8 GB MBP by running Activity Monitor > Memory and watching Memory Pressure - if it stays in the green, you're good. (It's not to say that OS X won't fill all 16 GB of RAM if you have it - that's the way it manages memory - nothing is flushed from RAM until something else needs the space.)

    Here's the thing. If you do get a new 15" MBP, it's going to have all-Flash storage. It'll run circles around your old MBP (or a new Mini with HDD). But you'd be spending a lot to have as much internal storage as you have right now - more likely you'll have to work from external HDD for data and spend even more time moving files from external to internal to get the benefit of Flash speed. Fusion on that Mini will give you nearly the same performance at a much lower price, with none of the data-moving headaches.
     
  4. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #4
    Basically, a Fusion drive will give you an SSD, and what an SSD gives you is speed; SSDs are much faster than magnetic HDs (for certain types of use, incredibly faster than HDs). Because the Fusion drive combines an SSD with a HD, the speed improvement will be diluted somewhat, but is still appreciable.

    On the downside, however, that is all you get from an SSD: speed. And that speed is only in comparison to an HD; if you're doing work that doesn't constantly hit the hard drive, you really won't notice the advantages of an SSD at all.

    Definitely, when you're using your machine as a remote terminal, you won't be hitting your local long-term storage much. Dreamweaver, however, might see some advantage from an SSD, particularly if you are caching all your artwork locally. I think Word and InDesign can fit themselves within 16GB of RAM, so I would expect that the advantages of an SSD would be minimal with them.

    Photo libraries are one place where SSDs shine! But, only if you store all your photos on the SSD itself; if you keep them on an external HD, the SSD won't provide any help.

    So, in summary: the Fusion drive will give you some speed, but I don't think that you can't live without one. :)

    Honestly, Apple always ensures that the Mac Mini hardware is inferior to the MBpro hardware, and such is the case today; the latest MBpro has better CPUs, better GPUs, better ports, and has only SSDs. So, you'll definitely be taking a step up if you go that route...
     
  5. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2012
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    #5
    Whatever you do, do not buy a new computer of any kind with only a spinning hard drive.

    SSD cache, or even better, full SSD is the single biggest "general usage" performance speed up I've seen in the industry in decades.

    Buying a new machine without some form of SSD or SSD cache is going to cripple the machine so much in general use.

    If you have the choice between CPU upgrades or SSD/Fusion upgrade, go for the fusion or SSD upgrade unless you know you have some very specific workload that is entirely CPU bound. For the vast, vast majority of people that simply is not the case.
     
  6. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #6
    Love to see some documentation on that. The vast, vast majority of people I know are not technophiles, and use their machines mainly for e-mail, web, or games. None of these tasks really hit the SSD hard.

    Even for the much more technical and work-intense tasks described by the OP, I'm not entirely sure that an SSD would be all that amazing. Sure, the machine will boot up in a snap, and apps will load immediately; but, after that, just how often do you need to hit the HD/SSD while you are working?

    (And really, my guess is that a lot of folks on this forum who have seen a huge improvement with an SSD, have done so because they are severely overloading the amount of RAM in their machine and are spending all day swapping. In these cases, upgrading the RAM would provide an even greater improvement in performance than switching to an SSD...)
     
  7. treekram, Feb 27, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2016

    treekram macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2015
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    Honolulu HI
    #7
    Given what the OP has stated, it looks like at least some of the applications would access the drive for tasks other than the initial loading and saving. So I think there's a good case for an SSD of some sort. For me, I think getting as much capacity on the Apple SSD is advisable since an PCIe SSD upgrade is so expensive (Apple uses a proprietary PCIe SSD neither they nor other vendors sell new as an after-market option). In other words, since they're the same price, I would go for a 256GB SSD and then use an internal or external HDD for extra storage vs. the Apple-supplied fusion drive. I know that's an option you weren't looking at, but there it is.

    I have a 2014 Mini 2.6Ghz used as my DVR computer (not my main computer). It has the stock HDD for the OS and an external Thunderbolt SSD for storing videos for my DVR app (the SSD really helps with editing, once that's done the video is moved to an HDD). So it's not like I'm an HDD xenophobe.

    Speaking of advice you weren't looking for, I want to mention that the $200 upgrade for the i7 is pricey. If you feel that your current computer is not too slow, you might just want to stick with the 2.8Ghz model. According to Geekbench, the i7 3.0 Ghz is about 3-4% faster than the i5 2.8 Ghz model. Compared to your current machine, the Mini i7 is about 6-7% faster, the i5 is about 2-4% faster.

    https://browser.primatelabs.com/mac-benchmarks

    If you actually want to wade through the numbers at the above link, it's easier if you search "3520M" for the 2012 MBP i7, "4308U" for the Mini i5 and "4578U" for the Mini i7.

    As mentioned by one of the other posters, the 2014 Mini *officially* supports up to two 2560x1600 monitors, if you're looking for higher-resolution monitors, then consider the MBP, which has much better support (official and otherwise) for them.
     
  8. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2012
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    #8
    Difference between about 40 seconds to boot, and 10 on my MacBooks.

    Difference between instant wake when opening the lid, and waiting for the password box to respond.

    I have both, the SSD equipped machine has a slower CPU and the same ram and the difference is night and day in general use including the tasks you list.

    Have you owned an SSD equipped machine?
     
  9. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #9
    Absolutely, a wonderful speedup in starting up a machine! If you only use a machine for a few minutes at a time, and then close it or turn it off again, this can be a lifesaver. However, if you're going to be spending your work day (or your entire evening) using the machine, does this really make a huge difference? Thirty seconds out of multiple hours of use doesn't seem all that significant to me.

    (And for myself, I have most of my machines doing server duties of one sort or another. Thus, I never turn them off, nor allow them to sleep. So I almost never see this delay.)

    At the moment, I only have one, my one current portable computer. And yes, I do only use that one for short periods, and yes, the startup speed is nice. (And I also appreciate the much greater durability of solid-state devices over spinning platters for mobile computers! I've had too many HDs fail on laptops in the past...) But yeah, I haven't yet bothered to get SSDs for my desktop machines; the speed advantage just hasn't outweighed the extra cost per MB for me yet.
     
  10. Retromac2008 macrumors regular

    Retromac2008

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    Oct 9, 2015
  11. throAU macrumors 601

    throAU

    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2012
    Location:
    Perth, Western Australia
    #11
    The difference it makes to the "annoyance" factor or the "nice to use" factor is huge.

    The two bottlenecks the typical general internet user waits on, all the time are storage and networking.

    For most people CPUs have been more than fast enough for a decade. For most people, bumping CPU speed grade 1-2 grades will get them basically nothing for 99.9% of the time they are using the machine.

    More RAM will help sure, when they are pushing the machine.

    SSD will help from startup. On sleep. On Wake. More reliable. On application start. Will enable recording of HD video. Will handle disk IO contention from multiple applications running at the same time far better.

    I've got machines with spinners in them and machines with SSD, and its no contest in general use. All you need to do to bring a machine with a spinning disk in it to its knees is say, run two file copies on the same machine at the same time.
     
  12. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #12
    Er, what??? Networking sure, but I can't see someone who spends hours on Facebook even touching the long-term storage at all...

    Yes, definitely faster startup. Sleep, who the heck cares? It's not like you have to babysit the machine while it prepares for sleep mode. Wake, sure; but again, startup and wake are only of significance if your most frequent use of a machine is turning it off and on. I don't personally care to spend hundreds of dollars to get 30 seconds more computer time per day.

    More reliable, sure -- for mobile machines! On my desktop machines, I have had a total of 2 HD failures, out of dozens of drives over the last 30 years or so. (It is true that I've used few drives longer than a decade at a time, as I'll generally have replaced them by that point.) If you're in a situation where your drive will be shaken, bounced, or dropped, yes, get an SSD! But if your drive is going to just sit there, a platter drive should last just as long as an SSD will.

    Application start -- I've gotta ask, everyone seems to bring this up. Please tell me, are you shutting down one app and starting up another every minute or two? Is that what normal folks do? Maybe I'm odd, but when I start my machine, I tend to start up my e-mail, my browser, and my IDE -- the three apps I tend to use all day. And I don't close them. Ever.

    Recording of HD video. Ok, you've got me. I don't record HD video, none of my friends record HD video, heck, nobody I know actually records HD video. But I guess the most common use of PCs in this forum is to record HD video? Because that particular usage seems to come up every time this subject appears in this forum. Sure, I'll grant that SSDs do this job better...

    I/O contention from multiple apps -- sure, if you've got multiple I/O bound apps running simultaneously (which, again, I am dubious is a common real-world situation), SSDs will help, because SSDs are faster. But I've gotta wonder exactly what you are doing if you run into this problem frequently. (My business side would say, "if you've got two mission-critical applications contending with one another for the same resources on the same machine, then migrate one of those apps to a different machine...")

    Hmm. I do file copies all the time on my spinner-based machines. In fact, I do file copies that take HOURS to complete on my machines (I've got multiple multi-terabyte drives, and I do tend to fill them up with stuff). There are some days when my machines are doing file copies all the day long.

    But that all happens in the background. I've got plenty of RAM to cache the data, and I/O operations barely even touch the CPU, so I don't even notice the overhead in my foreground apps. I can still browse the web, edit and compile code, or do other stuff while a copy is going on. If a file copy is running your machine into the ground, I would submit that there's a problem somewhere else than in the long-term storage hardware...
     
  13. SpinalTap macrumors regular

    SpinalTap

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Location:
    Bournville, UK
    #13
    As an existing Mac Mini (2012) owner who upgraded the HDD to SSD, my advice is...

    ...to initially upgrade your existing MBP with an SSD. This is what I did with my daughter's (2011) MBP. It was a substantive transformation. It is a very simple process to replace the drive in a MBP. You can then make an informed decision on whether to spend serious money on a Mac Mini plus monitor.

    A cloning docking device will easily copy your old HDD contents into the new SSD - http://www.amazon.com/Sabrent-Exter...UTF8&qid=1456683293&sr=8-11&keywords=HDD+copy

    As for Windows, I installed CrossOver on my daughter's MBP: no WindowsOS required.
     
  14. treekram, Feb 28, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016

    treekram macrumors 65816

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    #14
    I was the one that brought up video recording, but it was in the context of how I still use a HDD for everything on my 2014 Mini but storing video that my DVR application produces. Actually, if you record 1080i off of the component output of a cable box, it produces 2MB/sec., which even my 2009 Mini with an HDD was able to handle. It's the editing (there is no transcoding as part of the editing) and more so any file operations associated with editing that was painful with an HDD.

    So as I said, I still use an HDD for the most part on my 2014 Mini so obviously I haven't yet seen it necessary to upgrade to the SSD for the OS. But, there are things that annoy me at how slow the HDD is. For example, on the 2014 Mini (El Capitan) when I open System Preferences, a lot of time it takes 5 or more seconds to open. On my 2012 Mini with an SSD, it's instantaneous. On my 2009 Mini (Snow Leopard) with a HDD, which has just as much stuff in the System Preferences panes, it's pretty much instantaneous as well. I think Text Edit is another example where this happens. On the DVR application, at times switching to the TV schedule window can take 10 seconds or so whereas that was not the case on my 2009 Mini. I have tried changing the disk sleep settings but it doesn't make much of a difference. My feeling is that El Capitan was optimized for SSD's, not HDD's. Now, the differences between the HDD and the SSD from computer to computer and the importance of the differences will vary from user to user. So my recommendation to go for the SSD either using fusion or not is not based on a preference for using SSD in all cases, it's based on what the OP has listed as what applications are being used, what the OP seems willing to pay and what my experience is with using both storage types on a daily basis. Also, if El Capitan worked as well with HDD's as Snow Leopard did, my recommendation would probably change.

    If I had to do it over again, would I have ordered a 2014 with the SSD? No, because I think Apple charges too much and because I can deal with the different non-Apple alternatives (internal SATA, external USB or Thunderbolt, etc.). Will I upgrade to an SSD for the OS at some point. Probably. For this OP, considering their situation, I think getting the SSD is not a bad idea. Better certainly, than the 3.0Ghz i7 upgrade.
     
  15. EightyTwenty macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2015
    #15

    There is absolutely nothing that improves general performance like a solid state drive.

    You start up your computer? You open files? You close files? You look at pictures? You search? Then you would benefit from a solid state drive.
     
  16. Meister Suspended

    Meister

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2013
    #16
    I'd also strongly recommend fusion/ssd.

    With 16gb ram you can somewhat compensate for the slow hdd, by always keeping all the apps open, but everytime you have to load something up, it's painful.

    I run a '12 mini i5 and 16gb ram and the stock 500gb hdd. I always leave everything open.
     
  17. varian55zx macrumors 6502a

    varian55zx

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    San Francisco
    #17
    I'd go for an i5 with fusion/SSD over an i7 with an HDD.
     
  18. iceman42 macrumors regular

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    Nov 12, 2012
    #18
    just remember if you get a fusion drive any any one of the drives dies the whole thing is dead
     
  19. jpietrzak8 macrumors 65816

    jpietrzak8

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    Feb 16, 2010
    Location:
    Dayton, Ohio
    #19
    Actually, the way Apple is going (soldered RAM, hard-to-reach drives, no user-serviceable parts at all), when you purchase any type of Mac today, if anything goes wrong, the whole thing is dead. :(

    Apple is creating a world of disposable computers.
     
  20. iceman42 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2012
    #20
    if you don't need a lot of room on ur hard drive i would just get the 256gb ssd drive and if you need space i would just get the 1tb hhd.i have no problems with the 5400prm hard drive in my mac mini.
     
  21. r6mile macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2010
    Location:
    London, UK
    #21
    I second what others have said - much more important to get a Fusion than the i7 upgrade, which will only give you a minimal speed increase (given that both the i5 and the i7 are dual-core). If you must choose, get Fusion over the i5 a million times. Even if you can afford it, I would just get the i5 anyway and spend what you've saved on something else (maybe an SSD for your MBP as well).
     
  22. bplein macrumors 6502

    bplein

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2007
    Location:
    Austin, TX USA
    #22
    How much capacity do you need? You mentioned that your bulk photo storage is external. If you do not need a lot of internal storage, I would go with the 256GB SSD instead of the 1TB Fusion, personally. If you do plan on filling up the internal drive, the next choice would be the 1TB Fusion.
     

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