I can't decide between 256GB SSD or Fusion drive for my Mac mini?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Heinstar, Jan 26, 2013.

  1. Heinstar macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2013
    I'm planning to order a Mid-model Mac mini that has i7 2.6GHz and 4GB RAM.

    I'm going to mostly used it for opening lots of tabs in Google chrome and running Windows 8 Parallel Desktop at the same time. To do this, I need lots of RAM and a SSD.

    I going to order 16GB RAM from either crucial.com or macsales.com and install it myself.

    But I really don't want to deal with unscrewing the Mac mini and installing the SSD myself so I'm going to pay the premium and buy the SSD straight from Apple. So I have two choices:

    #1 Fusion drive(128GB SSD + 1TB HDD)
    #2 256GB SSD

    I've been debating about this a lot and I still haven't come to conclusion as to which option I should go with. Here's the summary of the advantages and disadvantages of both SSD and Fusion drive that I've learnt so far.

    Fusion drive
    - 1TB of SSD like speed
    - I won't have to worry about where to put media files and other large files.

    - 2x failure rate compared to SSD

    256GB SSD
    - double the SSD space than Fusion drive
    - less failure rate

    - I'd have to buy external HDD and manually put all my media files and other large files to it.

    Both SSD and Fusion drive should last me at least 3 years. And I should be doing backups anyway so I'm not sure if Fusion drive's failure rate will become such a problem. The important thing is, I don't want to deal with opening the Mac mini and installing/replacing the SSD or HDD myself anytime soon.

    So which option do you think is better suited for me? I only need the SSD speed boost for faster boot time and quicker Applications like Google chrome and Parallel Desktop. I don't need a fast access to movies, music or pictures.
  2. xlii macrumors 68000


    Sep 19, 2006
    Millis, Massachusetts
    The average failure rate is more than 10+ years either way you go. Fusion really is the best of both worlds so that is what I would chose. If you feel you need the space... go fusion. If you don't need the space... flip a coin.
  3. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    If it were me, I would give the fusion route a wide berth and opt for pure SSD. Since fusion just debuted this year, let the early adopters deal w/ the potential bugs and glitches.

    Also, get the default model and install the RAM and drive yourself to reap the savings. There are plenty of DIY videos out there.
  4. Cheffy Dave macrumors 68030

    Cheffy Dave

    Feb 5, 2007
    Sunny Florida, on the Gulf Coast in Homosassa Fl
    What he said, SSD's rock!
  5. willieva macrumors 6502

    Mar 12, 2010
    The failure rate on the fusion drive is going to be the same as an ssd plus an external drive. And even so, it's still not twice the rate, that's not the way the math works out.

    If you have a need for guaranteed disk performance on more than 128gig of stuff then you need to get the ssd. From what you've said you'll plenty happy with the fusion drive and it's $50 cheaper to boot.
  6. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    it is your money. but why do you need a 2.6 quad?

    fusion is great but you have to build your own.

    apple crippled it with a 128gb ssd. the 128gb ssd to 1000gb hdd ratio is wrong.

    I built a quad 2.3 with a 500 gb ssd and the stock 1tb with 16gb ram. truly outstanding.

    so if I were you I would get a 256gb ssd.

    due to the reluctance to open and add a second drive. breaking stuff is easy so the 256gb is a good choice.
  7. Heinstar thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2013
    So you're saying I should avoid the Fusion drive solely based on potential bugs and glitches? Is Fusion drive that bad?

    Also, please don't recommend me to install the SSD myself. Like I said ealier, I don't want to deal with the hassle of installing the SSD myself so I'm going to pay the premium from Apple.

    So should I go with 256GB SSD or Fusion drive?
  8. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey
    as of today fusion is pretty much flawless.

    the only problem is apple is using a 128gb ssd with a 1tb hdd in mini's.

    a pennywise pound foolish (i prefer "stupid cheap') move.

    It works far better with a big ssd 500gb plus 1tb is great.

    256 gb with 1tb is also very good. It is pretty simple if you do it diy with a big ssd it is worth doing. apples version the ssd is too small.
  9. identity macrumors 6502

    Nov 18, 2011
    Why not do your own fusion drive so you can get a higher capacity SSD?
  10. xbl4814 macrumors newbie

    Jan 27, 2013
    Try Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Thunderbolt Adapter

    We had exactly the same conundrum as we run a range of Parallel Virtual Machines and didn't want to pay crazy money for Apple SSD drives.

    A colleague has a 21" iMac with Fusion and we weren't that convinced with the speed test results. So in the end we found a very neat solution.

    Bought a Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex Thunderbolt External Adapter from Apple Store and use this for the Virtual Machines, iTunes and Aperture Libraries and it is as quick as the internal SSD on 13" MBP Retina, which is what we are using in the office.

    Have tested with BlackMagic speed test and also against the stopwatch and staggered with the performance.

    Also because it is portable we can take it on the road when we are working away from the office.

    We use OCZ Vertex drives, which being black look okay. Also either the adapter is magnetic or the drive so they "click" together nicely. Like the magsafe charge for the MBP.

    We also bought a 500GB portable drive to go with the adapter and popped open the plactic case and swapped the HDD with a 256GB Crucial M4 so we could test the result.

    Only comment is not to go above 256GB drives with this solution as you get connection problems. But 256GB are okay.

    If anyone wants any specific information PM us
  11. designs216 macrumors 65816


    Oct 26, 2009
    Down the rabbit hole
    In that case, opt for an internal 256GB SSD solution from Apple. If you find you need more space, use the TB or USB3 for external overflow.
  12. gigaguy macrumors 65816

    Apr 19, 2010
    Philip, why are you saying the stock apple fusion drive size is bad? Just a size diff, or something else?
    I have the stock fusion and like it a lot. Works fine for my uses, but I've never had any other SSD drives.
  13. niteflyr macrumors 6502a

    Nov 29, 2011
    Southern Cal
    You answered your own question right here. Let these tech heads worry about benchmark tests, etc. Get the fusion, keep good backups, and forget about it.
  14. 53x12 macrumors 68000


    Feb 16, 2009
    The ratio of SSD to mechanical drive is bad (i.e. low). If I did a fusion I would want at least 256GB SSD.
  15. Heinstar thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 14, 2013
    Thanks guys I decided to go with Fusion drive.

    Another question. Between Crucial and OWC for the 16GB RAM, I think I'm going with OWC because they have a $30 discount on Parallels Desktop 8 at macsales.com. http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Parallels/PDFM8XL/

    The description says they'll send Bulk Packed/Install Disc with License* (PDFM8XL-OEM1DVD-EN). Does that mean they'll give you a Installation disk and a License key on a sticker?

    Because Mac mini doesn't have a optical drive, so if I have to activate the License by installing from a disk I wouldn't be able to do so. So I'm hoping that they will provide a License key on a sticker so I can just activate it online.

    Do you know if they will provide a License key on a sticker for Parallels desktop?

    Also, are there any disadvantages in buying OEM version of Parallels Desktop 8 or is it exactly the same as buying from the Parallels website? For example, will I be able to get regular updates and reduced upgrade fee when the next version comes out?
  16. philipma1957 macrumors 603


    Apr 13, 2010
    Howell, New Jersey

    Here is the long answer and it is not complete

    It is a great tech. From now on I will say that the smaller ssd is fine for lite use.

    What happens with me since I tear down rebuild and f with minis a lot is I see the machines from the sellers viewpoint i.e. Apple. Fusion uses the ssd a bit more then keeping the ssd standalone . I know they have the samsung 128gb 830 in the machine

    below is the 128 sammie vs the 256 sammie


    the 256 is better

    here is an article that sums up the good of fusion


    read comments FROM USERS OF DIY FUSION at the end of the article. Myself included.

    Basically fusion is really good but a bigger ssd works better. So my complaint against apples setup is they should have built a 256gb with a 1 tb.
    If you do not fill the machine with a lot of info fusion is fine.

    But once you get to 800gb of info on the 1.128gb fusion more issues occur. especially if you do a long copy to the fusion. Of course if you keep the info lite flooding the ssd is not a problem. The best way to test it is have a file with eyetv recordings lets say 6 recordings of 3 hours with 0 compression. that is about 108 gb of tv. 6 times 18 gb as a 3 hour evytv is 18gb.
    If you move this to your fusion from an external it goes to the ssd first and is off loaded later. If you do this to the standard fusion it will struggle if you do it to a 256gb ssd + 1tb fusion it will not have an issue.

    These issues are easiest to make happen with large video files. Fusion will load to ssd first and an 18gb file will stress a crowded 128gb ssd fusion far easier then a 256gb ssd fusion. Once again this will not bother lots of mac mini users. But since I know that apple could have used 256gb ssd and choose not to I tend to dis the Apple version of Fusion.

    This is the long answer and is still missing info.

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