External drives for 4K editing: SSD USB-C Gen 2 vs. HDD Thunderbolt 3

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by karmalp, Oct 31, 2017.

  1. karmalp macrumors newbie


    Oct 31, 2017
    Hey guys,

    I am looking for a bigger external hard drive for my new 27" iMac (3.8GHz, 40GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Radeon Pro 580 8GB video memory) where I can edit my 4K video material straight from it without transferring to my internal SSD first.
    The biggest video files I work with is 4K RED footage with 200-300fps.

    So my general question for this matter is: Is the type of the drive (SSD vs HDD) more relevant than the available ports (USB-C Gen 2 vs. Thunderbolt 3) regarding speed? If this is a yes or no question at all.

    At the moment I use a LaCie rugged T2 drive which is plugged to the Thunderbolt 3 port from the iMac via USB-C to T2 adapter. Would the Samsung T5 SSD be an upgrade regarding 4K editing speed in this case regardless of its slower USB-C gen 2 port?

    Also, are external hard drives with T3 connection such as the newest G-Drive or the LaCie d2 Thunderbolt 3 any faster in the actual editing speed than the Samsung T5 since they are "only" HHD drives?

    Hope you guys will help me clear my head regarding this. :)

    Thanks a lot in advance.

  2. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    The drive type is by far more important. If you are shooting 4K RED at high frame rates, that's a lot of data. E.g, the spec for the RAVEN says 4.5K at 120 fps using 15:1 REDCODE compression equates to about 120 megabytes/sec. But you can create proxies for this which will greatly lower the data rate requirement. However this is typically done after making some initial RAW adjustments, otherwise the out-of-camera look gets baked into the proxies. So even though proxies lower the I/O requirement you still must go through a phase before that where you need high I/O capacity. The overall workflow is discussed here: https://support.apple.com/kb/PH12755?locale=en_US&viewlocale=en_US

    It's easy to say "just use SSD" -- provided you aren't the one paying for it. However ProRes or REDCODE acquisition can consume immense amounts of disk space -- often more than is economically affordable for SSD storage.

    You know your own budget and shooting ratio, so can best estimate the storage required and affordability. This should not only include media storage but storage for proxies, transcoded optimized media (if needed), render files, scratch files, etc.

    Also, whatever you get must normally be backed up, whether SSD, RAID, etc. So in many cases multiplying your storage and cost requirements by a factor of 2x gives a closer real-world picture of what you'll actually need. That said you can probably back up SSD on an HDD drive or RAID array. If you don't need rapid recoverability you could even back it up on less-expensive "archive" HDDs such as this Seagate 8TB unit: http://a.co/8NJTKOk

    This OWC Thunderbolt dock lets you plug in bare drives, so in the long run can be cheaper for archival use than buying packaged drives or RAID boxes for archive: http://a.co/f7lceQG

    There are much less expensive USB 3 two-drive docks and they probably don't make much difference in performance vs Thunderbolt. However if you're making a bootable clone backup (not just data backup) there may be some limitations when booting from certain USB configurations. Those should be investigated before relying on them.
  3. karmalp thread starter macrumors newbie


    Oct 31, 2017
    Thanks for all the useful information, this is definitely helping! It seems that I will go for the Samsung T5 to use it as an extension to my internal SSD. Since I have switched from MacBook Pro to a desktop Mac it's always good to have a small portable drive in case of an emergency.

    Archive-wise I will need to go for a less expensive HDD drive solution since I have been pushing my budget limits at the moment. :) But also realistically, only on rare occasions do I need to access to finished projects.

    Regarding your Seagate 8TB suggestion, can you also recommend a specific dock for it?

    Many thanks!
  4. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    I use the OWC Thunderbolt dock, mainly because I already have so many Thunderbolt arrays. Re a USB 3 dock, I've used several but not extensively. The main "gotcha" with USB is certain drives (esp RAID) may not work as a bootable clone. If you say "nobody should plan on booting from a RAID drive", some drives like the G-Tech G-RAID look like a single drive but they are internally RAID-0, so you might not even know. In these cases you could back up with Carbon Copy, assume you can boot from it but it won't work.

    Formerly an excellent backup drive was the USB 3 bus-powered 4TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast. It was internally RAID-0, so was the fastest bus-powered portable drive. Unfortunately it's out of production and to my knowledge there is no equivalent available: http://a.co/1kkf1wH
  5. campyguy macrumors 68040

    Mar 21, 2014
    +1 on the T5, my GF has two 500GB units and loves their performance; I use a 512GB Sammy EVO in a USB 3.1 Gen2 enclosure. RE a hard drive for archives I'll suggest the dark horse secret - Best Buy's WD easystore 8TB, it's gotta be the 8TB unit which is regularly on sale.

    The 8TB model uses a special version of WD's Red drive, with a 256MB cache instead of the normal drive's 128MB cache. This easystore goes on sale for $160-$180 regularly, as much as $80 less than the bare drive - I have several, they're all Reds and there's plenty of videos on YouTube about this very special deal. With the bigger cache, they're pretty zippy too.
  6. Heruhur, Nov 1, 2017
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2017

    Heruhur macrumors member


    Apr 4, 2017
    If it's raw speed that you want, a tb3 nvme drive would be your best bet.
    Something like this http://www.sonnettech.com/product/fusiontb3pcieflashdrive.html
    In essence, it will be as fast as your Mac SSD.
    Not a cheap solution, but hey neither is a RED camera or an iMac . . . .

    I use a sharkoon usb-c case, you can put any sata-SSD in it.

    And as stated, do not forget the backup drive and do not forget the second backup drive . . . . .
  7. seagate_surfer macrumors newbie


    Mar 31, 2017
    Cupertino, CA
    Hi there. Lots of good information has been shared here. Until Thunderbolt 3, the port was the limiting factor. After Thunderbolt 3, the limiting factor is the drive; SSD being faster than HDD.

    As @joema2 pointed out, the right mix of affordability and requirements should guide your workflow.

    As you research, check out the fastest desktop storage anywhere in the LaCie Bolt3.

    Let us know if you have any questions on Seagate or LaCie storage solutions, and always back up your data. Good luck!

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