Fusion Drive Upgrade to Internal/External SSD or build my own NVMe SSD?

Which SSD upgrade option to choose?

  • Build my own NVMe SSD with a Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 Enclosure to also be used as External SSD Drive

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Purchase a compatible 3rd Party NVMe SSD called Feather SSD M13 made by Fledging from HatSSD on Ebay

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    6

nemoryoliver

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 9, 2013
86
21
Philippines
Hi everyone! I recently purchased a 2019 iMac 27” with 1TB Fusion Drive and I made a huge mistake by choosing the 1TB Fusion Drive option. I chose Fusion because I knew I can just purchase and use a SATA based SSD as a replacement. But what I didn’t know before is that Apple’s Proprietary NVMe PCIe based SSD’s can run so much faster than SATA based SSD. And I believe there’s no way to go to an apple store or reseller and tell them I want to buy their SSD and then they can upgrade it themselves. So I’ve done my own research and I need your opinions which of these options would you choose to upgrade the fusion to a faster SSD.
  1. Use a Samsung X5 External SSD (via Thunderbolt 3) as the primary drive for everything and still use the Fusion as a backup
  2. Build my own NVMe SSD with a Thunderbolt or USB 3.1 Enclosure to also be used as External SSD Drive
  3. Purchase a used Genuine Apple Blade SSD from Ebay and replace the internal Fusion Drive
  4. Purchase a compatible 3rd Party NVMe SSD called Feather SSD M13 made by Fledging from HatSSD on Ebay
  5. Purchase the Samsung 970 EVO or WD BLACK SN750 with Sintech NGFF M.2 nVME SSD Adapter Card
  6. Install a 3rd Party NVMe PCIe SSD from OWC called Aura Pro X2
I would appreciate any inputs on this to help me decide. Thanks a lot!
 
Last edited:

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
326
95
To get performance like the internal solid state you’ll need to get a NVMe solution working over T3 (not USB3.1) or internal replacement options. You can boot fine from them. See my other posts as I just tested a NVMe drive (not a Samsung X5 but a TEKQ Rapide, same idea bit cheaper). Personally I wouldn’t mess with opening up the iMAc still under warranty but plenty of people do. Are you out of the period to return it though?
 

Khaleal

macrumors regular
Aug 24, 2013
170
67
If you're not willing to open your iMac then a SAMSUNG X5 SSD via Thunderbolt 3 is your best bet, but if you don't mind opening the iMac then option 3 is the best (if money isn't an issue, as original apple ssds go for much higher than 3rd party SSDs), you won't have any issues with sleep/hibernation (a problem that you might face when using 3rd party SSDs with an adapter), and will get BootROM updates normally
 

nemoryoliver

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 9, 2013
86
21
Philippines
To get performance like the internal solid state you’ll need to get a NVMe solution working over T3 (not USB3.1) or internal replacement options. You can boot fine from them. See my other posts as I just tested a NVMe drive (not a Samsung X5 but a TEKQ Rapide, same idea bit cheaper). Personally I wouldn’t mess with opening up the iMAc still under warranty but plenty of people do. Are you out of the period to return it though?
I would happily return it if I was in the US. But I'm here in the Philippines I ordered from a reseller and their policy is no returns/exchange :(

So this is why I'm looking for my final solution based on other's opinions.

Thanks for your opinion using an external ssd. But my question is: does it work well? I know it's fast, but is it also reliable? Do you experience any issues using it as the primary and boot drive?
[doublepost=1562338582][/doublepost]
If you're not willing to open your iMac then a SAMSUNG X5 SSD via Thunderbolt 3 is your best bet, but if you don't mind opening the iMac then option 3 is the best (if money isn't an issue, as original apple ssds go for much higher than 3rd party SSDs), you won't have any issues with sleep/hibernation (a problem that you might face when using 3rd party SSDs with an adapter), and will get BootROM updates normally
Thanks a lot. I'm not sure yet if all 3rd party adapters have these wake/sleep issues. If there's one that perfectly works then I might be going that route so I get the fastest performance possible.

Do you currently use an external ssd as primary and boot drive or have you experienced? Is it reliable without issues?
 

Khaleal

macrumors regular
Aug 24, 2013
170
67
I would happily return it if I was in the US. But I'm here in the Philippines I ordered from a reseller and their policy is no returns/exchange :(

So this is why I'm looking for my final solution based on other's opinions.

Thanks for your opinion using an external ssd. But my question is: does it work well? I know it's fast, but is it also reliable? Do you experience any issues using it as the primary and boot drive?
[doublepost=1562338582][/doublepost]
Thanks a lot. I'm not sure yet if all 3rd party adapters have these wake/sleep issues. If there's one that perfectly works then I might be going that route so I get the fastest performance possible.

Do you currently use an external ssd as primary and boot drive or have you experienced? Is it reliable without issues?
While adapters might contribute to the problem, adapters aren't the main cause of sleep/hibernation issues, it's the NVMe protocol. Fortunately, your iMac - theoretically- can handle NVMe drives without a problem (and I've seen one report of successful installation in a 2019 iMac), but it's still not clear if the 3rd-party NVMe would prevent the iMac from updating its BootROM (as it does to other Macs). We also don't know how future macOS software would affect the 3rd-party SSD in terms of support, power management, etc..

I don't have any experience with running macOS off an external drive as I don't like the idea of having the SSD always connected to the iMac via a USB port, which isn't the most reliable connection (and certainly has it's overhead), as it might disconnect in the most inappropriate moment (especially if you have children)
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
326
95
I would happily return it if I was in the US. But I'm here in the Philippines I ordered from a reseller and their policy is no returns/exchange :(

So this is why I'm looking for my final solution based on other's opinions.

Thanks for your opinion using an external ssd. But my question is: does it work well? I know it's fast, but is it also reliable? Do you experience any issues using it as the primary and boot drive?
What does well and reliable mean for you / your uses?

The TEKQ Rapide is very fast yes (see my benchmark post in Mac Accessories). Is it reliable? Time will tell I’ve only had it a month. Still working... Generally solid state I would expect is more reliable than HDD due to lack of moving parts, but they do wear out eventually and are less good for long term storage archiving. I don’t use the TEKQ as my boot drive - as I have internal 1TB SSD - but I use it for Lightroom work and Virtual Machines. I did test it as a boot drive and it looked like it worked fine, in fact booted up a bit faster than the internal drive bizarrely (Mojave). Hope that helps.
 

mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,600
390
The Sillie Con Valley
I'm not sure yet if all 3rd party adapters have these wake/sleep issues.
The Sintech does not. There's a big sticky on this in the MBP section. The 2013–14 iMac does have an issue unrelated to the adapter and there's a terminal command workaround.
So just to be clear, the general consensus is that an external Thunderbolt 3-connected NVME-based SSD is only slightly worse or about equal (depending on use case and storage sizes) to the internal drives from Apple's systems, right?
2017–19 iMac excluding the iMac Pro
That could certainly be good cause to go with the lowest storage option when updating systems, and put the money into an enclosure with a larger storage size instead.
Not quite but you're on the right track. You are not factoring another possibility.

A Samsung X5 2TB costs just under $1,000. It houses the OE equivalent of the Samsung 970 EVO. The blade by itself is just under $500 plus the $14 Sintech adapter. Labor runs around $75 here in the Silicon Valley plus whatever is charged for the tape kit. If you do it yourself, you'll need a few inexpensive tools and a USB OS installer in lieu of the labor charge.

Apple uses a different Samsung blade with a proprietary pin-out that does not require the Sintech adapter. The only other difference is that the 970 EVO does not support Internet Recovery. Having the OS installer on a USB stick is a good thing to keep in a drawer.
 

Coconutcreampie

Suspended
Aug 31, 2016
143
73
NY America
To the thread creator, if you plan on going inside the iMac yourself consider that you'll be losing your Apple warranty. Also, getting inside a current generation iMac (slim model) is also not as easy as most tutorials make it out to be, and that's coming from someone with plenty of experience of inside them.

All tutorials I have seen, even the best, leave out important steps, or details of steps, that could cause you to damage your iMac. I'd be glad to help you along but I only recommend doing the job only if you are very patient, have very steady hands and fingers and are very careful and methodical. I'm used to working with modern electronics with their tiny and delicate connectors so it's no big deal for me, but it will be for most people without proper instructions. I also recommend for such people an assistant to hold the display as needed.
 
  • Like
Reactions: wardie

nemoryoliver

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 9, 2013
86
21
Philippines
To the thread creator, if you plan on going inside the iMac yourself consider that you'll be losing your Apple warranty. Also, getting inside a current generation iMac (slim model) is also not as easy as most tutorials make it out to be, and that's coming from someone with plenty of experience of inside them.

All tutorials I have seen, even the best, leave out important steps, or details of steps, that could cause you to damage your iMac. I'd be glad to help you along but I only recommend doing the job only if you are very patient, have very steady hands and fingers and are very careful and methodical. I'm used to working with modern electronics with their tiny and delicate connectors so it's no big deal for me, but it will be for most people without proper instructions. I also recommend for such people an assistant to hold the display as needed.
There's a local shop here who is an Apple Reseller as well as an Apple Service Center. If ever I need to open my iMac I would need their help to do it for me. But I'm also afraid if they break it then I'll have to wait months for a part they can damage. Also I wouldn't risk to open the iMac myself. Thanks a lot for the tip.
[doublepost=1562417574][/doublepost]
While adapters might contribute to the problem, adapters aren't the main cause of sleep/hibernation issues, it's the NVMe protocol. Fortunately, your iMac - theoretically- can handle NVMe drives without a problem (and I've seen one report of successful installation in a 2019 iMac), but it's still not clear if the 3rd-party NVMe would prevent the iMac from updating its BootROM (as it does to other Macs). We also don't know how future macOS software would affect the 3rd-party SSD in terms of support, power management, etc..

I don't have any experience with running macOS off an external drive as I don't like the idea of having the SSD always connected to the iMac via a USB port, which isn't the most reliable connection (and certainly has it's overhead), as it might disconnect in the most inappropriate moment (especially if you have children)
Thanks for clarifying what causes the wake/sleep issue. Also, it's a little hard to find people who successfully installed a 3rd Party NVMe SSD to their 2019 iMac.
[doublepost=1562417695][/doublepost]
What does well and reliable mean for you / your uses?

The TEKQ Rapide is very fast yes (see my benchmark post in Mac Accessories). Is it reliable? Time will tell I’ve only had it a month. Still working... Generally solid state I would expect is more reliable than HDD due to lack of moving parts, but they do wear out eventually and are less good for long term storage archiving. I don’t use the TEKQ as my boot drive - as I have internal 1TB SSD - but I use it for Lightroom work and Virtual Machines. I did test it as a boot drive and it looked like it worked fine, in fact booted up a bit faster than the internal drive bizarrely (Mojave). Hope that helps.
Someone recommended the TEKQ Rapide as well since it's cheaper but still very fast. If ever I go the external SSD Route I might choose this TEKQ or Samsung X5 then make it my boot drive and still be able to use the Fusion Drive as a backup drive incase the SSD breaks.
 

nemoryoliver

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 9, 2013
86
21
Philippines
The Sintech does not. There's a big sticky on this in the MBP section. The 2013–14 iMac does have an issue unrelated to the adapter and there's a terminal command workaround.
2017–19 iMac excluding the iMac Pro
Not quite but you're on the right track. You are not factoring another possibility.

A Samsung X5 2TB costs just under $1,000. It houses the OE equivalent of the Samsung 970 EVO. The blade by itself is just under $500 plus the $14 Sintech adapter. Labor runs around $75 here in the Silicon Valley plus whatever is charged for the tape kit. If you do it yourself, you'll need a few inexpensive tools and a USB OS installer in lieu of the labor charge.

Apple uses a different Samsung blade with a proprietary pin-out that does not require the Sintech adapter. The only other difference is that the 970 EVO does not support Internet Recovery. Having the OS installer on a USB stick is a good thing to keep in a drawer.
I wish I could find some people who successfully used a Sintech + NVMe SSD on their 2019 iMac as well if it works fine and reliable without issues.

I think the easiest solution is the external ssd but the price though. I would love to use a NVMe SSD + Sintech but still have to confirm it works for the 2019 iMac.
 

Fishrrman

macrumors P6
Feb 20, 2009
17,216
5,558
OP:
Choice #1 in your original post is "the correct answer".


The X5 will run as fast as would Apple's own internally-installed SSD.
It will run FAR FAR FAR faster than ANY OTHER 2.5" SSD you could install.

And you won't ruin your warranty (and possibly the iMac itself) by prying open the case.

You DON'T have to buy "the largest" X5.
500gb-1tb is fine.
Even just 500gb.
Use the internal fusion drive for file storage -- your media libraries.

Keep the SSD relatively "lean and clean", and it will always perform at its best.
 
  • Like
Reactions: nemoryoliver

nemoryoliver

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 9, 2013
86
21
Philippines
OP:
Choice #1 in your original post is "the correct answer".


The X5 will run as fast as would Apple's own internally-installed SSD.
It will run FAR FAR FAR faster than ANY OTHER 2.5" SSD you could install.

And you won't ruin your warranty (and possibly the iMac itself) by prying open the case.

You DON'T have to buy "the largest" X5.
500gb-1tb is fine.
Even just 500gb.
Use the internal fusion drive for file storage -- your media libraries.

Keep the SSD relatively "lean and clean", and it will always perform at its best.
Thanks a lot for your suggestion... It's very tempting to just use a Thunderbolt 3 SSD so I don't have to open my iMac and so I cannot void the warranty as well and I can still make use of my Fusion Drive. Only problem is the price. But there are cheaper Thunderbolt 3 SSD alternatives though.
 

mikehalloran

macrumors 68000
Oct 14, 2018
1,600
390
The Sillie Con Valley
OP:
Choice #1 in your original post is "the correct answer".


The X5 will run as fast as would Apple's own internally-installed SSD.
It will run FAR FAR FAR faster than ANY OTHER 2.5" SSD you could install.
Since an X5 is not a 2.5" SSD, true.

And you won't ruin your warranty (and possibly the iMac itself) by prying open the case.

You DON'T have to buy "the largest" X5.
500gb-1tb is fine.
Even just 500gb.
Use the internal fusion drive for file storage -- your media libraries.

Keep the SSD relatively "lean and clean", and it will always perform at its best.
"Best" is a matter of opinion. It's certainly not "Best" performance with many applications.

For the cost of an X5, you can install a 970 EVO, uninstall it if there's a warranty issue and pocket the change which would be considerable.
 

AlexMaximus

macrumors 6502a
Aug 15, 2006
824
233
A400M Base
Thanks a lot for your suggestion... It's very tempting to just use a Thunderbolt 3 SSD so I don't have to open my iMac and so I cannot void the warranty as well and I can still make use of my Fusion Drive. Only problem is the price. But there are cheaper Thunderbolt 3 SSD alternatives though.
Regardless of which external SSD you will use, another important question will be how to mount it, - since it will be.. ahem.. permanent.

Here are some holder solutions...

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/best-way-to-mount-external-hard-drive-onto-the-back-of-imac.1992112/
 

nemoryoliver

macrumors member
Original poster
Apr 9, 2013
86
21
Philippines
Since an X5 is not a 2.5" SSD, true.


"Best" is a matter of opinion. It's certainly not "Best" performance with many applications.

For the cost of an X5, you can install a 970 EVO, uninstall it if there's a warranty issue and pocket the change which would be considerable.
Thanks a lot.. I might consider an internal ssd upgrade using the samsung 970 evo + sintech adapter but hopefully it works fine in the long run... do you currently have this kind of upgrade?
[doublepost=1562625862][/doublepost]
Regardless of which external SSD you will use, another important question will be how to mount it, - since it will be.. ahem.. permanent.

Here are some holder solutions...

https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/best-way-to-mount-external-hard-drive-onto-the-back-of-imac.1992112/
Thanks for the tip! A double-sided tape solution would be clean.
 

wardie

macrumors 6502
Aug 18, 2008
326
95
Thanks a lot.. I might consider an internal ssd upgrade using the samsung 970 evo + sintech adapter but hopefully it works fine in the long run... do you currently have this kind of upgrade?
[doublepost=1562625862][/doublepost]
Thanks for the tip! A double-sided tape solution would be clean.
They can get quite hot - think about best placement for heat dissipation...