iMac 5k: 3tb Fusion VS 1tb Flash?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by KorraSpirit, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. KorraSpirit macrumors newbie

    Sep 11, 2014
    I'm going to purchase the iMac with 5K display and I dont know which drive to purchase.

    I'm edging towards the 3tb fusion due to the fact that I'd prefer the extra space.

    Will there be any noticeable speed difference between that and the 1tb flash? Will either of them give me any noticeable advantages over the other?

    The price difference isn't an issue for me, I'm just unsure which one to purchase.

    I read once that the flash drive will give my iMac a longer lifespan & stay at top speed for longer than the fusion, is this true?
  2. steve23094 macrumors 68030


    Apr 23, 2013
    If cost is no issue I would go with the SSD, you can always add extra external storage. However if you need to weigh up the money then all bets are off. I am in the same boat and I don't think I can spring for the 1TB SSD, and for me the 256 or 512 would be too small.
  3. apunkrockmonk macrumors 6502a


    Nov 20, 2005
    Rochester, NY
    I agree, if money is no issue go with the flash.

    If you were willing to open the machine to add your own 3TB or larger HD in the future you could roll your own Fusion Drive that would be a far better performer in the long run.

    To date all Fusion Drives from Apple have been 128GB of Flash + Hard Drive. Assuming that hasn't changed (and if it has changed I doubt they went past 256GB of Flash) you'd have the following options:

    4TB Fusion Drive (1TB Flash + 3TB HD)
    7TB Fusion Drive (1TB Flash + 6TB HD)

    and all of the capacities in-between, even larger if you wait awhile before purchasing the HD and adding it to the iMac.

    In all cases your personally made Fusion Drive would be superior to Apple's because of the 1TB of Flash. You'd also have the option to not combine your Flash and Hard Drive into a Fusion Drive and run them separately.

    Also the speed of Flash usually rises as the capacity grows longer. However I'm not sure if this applies to Apple's PCIe Flash SSDs.
  4. acantril macrumors member

    Apr 2, 2011
    Get the 1TB SSD and a external USB3 HD (which will run at native speed)
  5. pasadena macrumors 6502a


    Sep 12, 2012
    Seattle, WA
    The fusion drive has one and only one advantage : $/Mb, i.e. storage vs price.

    That's it.

    It also has the disadvantages of a spin disk : noise (though they're not nearly as noisy as they used to be), higher failure rate, read and write speed.

    So if money is not an issue, go with the SSD. It's a total no-brainer. Someone who needs 3TB of disk space probably needs a more elaborate setup than one internal drive.
  6. dagamer34 macrumors 65816


    May 1, 2007
    Houston, TX
    Most people should get the 512GB flash option. No one should get the 256GB SSD option because if you are considering spending $2500+ on a computer, that's a bad way to "save" money. 1TB SSD option only if the extra $500 doesn't mean much to you. I see no reason to get a fusion drive, since you only get 128GB SSD storage, and SSD speed increases a bit as you increase in chip density (diminishing returns vs. cost past 512GB).

    512GB SSD now + 512GB - 1TB Thunderbolt SSD 1-2 years from now when they are cheaper. That's a better long term plan vs 1TB SSD now.
  7. smartbot macrumors regular


    Jun 15, 2009
    If you really need the space get the Fusion drive. I personally don't like having an external HDD attached to my all-in-one. It kind of defeats the purpose of having an all-in-one...
  8. tillsbury macrumors 65816

    Dec 24, 2007
    It depends on what you have and what you use. What's your existing computer need? How much room do you have?

    I went for the 768Gb flash two years ago because I was tight on the 512Gb SSD my previous computer had as its main drive. I am now up on the limit of that (run at about 60-80Gb free) and have to think about where I store larger items, so for me I always knew that my next computer had to have an absolute minimum of 1Tb as its primary SSD.

    I haven't had a spinning disk inside a computer for six years and I'm not about to start again now with such ancient technology, especially one that is locked inside a computer. Longer-term storage of video projects, music, videos and so on are on a 4-bay NAS running RAID 5. My main machine backs up via Time Machine on to a local USB3 3Tb drive and the NAS (alternately), and the NAS backs up onto old external USB2 drives less often.

    When I move I might change the layout, and get a smaller Raid-0 TB external drive for the iMac (say a pair of 3Tb drives to give a reasonable speed), and have both the internal SSD and this RAID external storage back up to the NAS. The NAS can separately store things such as my movie and CD rips accessible to the rest of the network and will be primary storage for an array of PoE HD CCTVs that the new place has set up, using Synology's internal software.
  9. icemantx macrumors regular

    Mar 16, 2009
    Still stuck deciding on SSD vs Fusion for iPhoto/iMovie

    So I have an aging 2009 iMac 24" that has been hacked to have a 2TB Fusion Drive by replacing the Superdrive with a 256GB Crucial SSD. It still works ok, but man iPhoto and iMovie are now a bear to work with using 20MP photos and HD video respectively - it is beach ball heaven.

    What I am stuck on is how much of an advantage is the 512GB or 1TB Flash would be over the 3TB Fusion Drive when working with iPhoto or iMovie?

    I like the idea of getting all Flash storage, but the premium for the 512 or even more 1TB Flash storage over the 3TB Fusion has me hesitating somewhat. My concern with 512GB is that it is not enough to support the long term increase of my iPhoto library size (already at 250GB). All Flash storage would jump me up even more for 1Tb.

    So my choices are:

    Base Model 5k Retina with 3Tb SSD: $2649
    Base Model 5k Retina with 512Gb Flash: $2799
    Base Model 5k Retina with 1TB Flash: $3299

    Being that I will likely keep this iMac for 5-6 years like I have for my last 4 computers, I want to be sure I am making the best long term decision.

  10. Georgio macrumors 6502


    Apr 30, 2008
    Essex, UK
    1TB of flash all the way with external TB drives if necessary.
    What you pay in dollars, we pay in UK pounds so roughly $900 for the same drive and yet through a third party they're half the price for better SSD's, way to go Apple.
    It makes you want to order with the 256MB to ensure the connection, then crack that open and stick a 1TB SSD of your own.
  11. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    I doubt you'd generally see a major performance difference between SSD and FD for iMovie or iPhoto. The issue is not how fast the I/O is, but whether it's the slowest link, in conjunction with CPU and GPU. Once above a certain threshold, further speed I/O speed increases won't make overall application performance any faster.

    In either case, whether SSD or FD, a 2014 iMac would be hugely faster than your current machine. So you'll be very happy no matter what you get, the question is how to best optimize the configuration for your current and projected workflow, and within your budget.

    Re long term growth over 5-6 years, if you shoot raw stills (or may ever do this in the future) this takes a huge amount of storage. Each raw photo from a Nikon D800 is 40 megabytes. My small photo crew often shoots 100 gigabytes per *day* of raw stills.

    While it seems you'd want to sacrifice everything for faster I/O, there is a cost and penalty to each decision. If you watch Activity Monitor or iStat Menus while LightRoom is building 1:1 previews on a big import, it is largely CPU-bound, not I/O bound. An infinitely fast SSD wouldn't make it much faster. It's the same with FCP X for many operations.

    You want fast I/O -- but only to the point where that majorly benefits your *application workflow*. Beyond that, you're paying money to produce higher benchmark numbers, which means you're *not* paying for other beneficial improvements.

    If you have no financial limit, just get the highest-end retina iMac with 1TB SSD and a big Thunderbolt SSD RAID.

    If you do have financial limits, you must consider tradeoffs. E.g, your above-listed base 5K retina iMac with 1TB SSD is $3299. For less than that you can get a similar retina iMac with 3TB FD, *plus* 4Ghz i7, *plus* 4GB M295X GPU. In most cases I'd argue the latter machine is a better long-term match for your stated work. You can always upgrade the memory later.

    Another option is getting a 256GB SSD retina base iMac and a lower-cost Thunderbolt RAID drive for all your data. That would be less than a 1TB SSD iMac, but it would lack the 4Ghz i7 CPU and the M295X GPU, both of which cannot be upgraded.

    A 256GB SSD retina iMac with 4Ghz CPU and M295X is $2,999, so that plus a 4TB GTech GRaid would be about $3,450, total. However that would be RAID 0 so you'd definitely want that backed up. But really everything should be backed up whether SSD internal or RAID 5 external.
  12. robgendreau macrumors 68040

    Jul 13, 2008
    he only 3TB option that I have seen is a Fusion drive, i.e. corestorage combo of 128MB flash and 3TB HDD; I assume that's what you mean in your first item.

    As others have noted, HDDs stink. Most all the Macs I've owned or maintained had HDDs as their Achilles' heel; and unless you're on AppleCare or had an older, serviceable one, it meant the death of the machine. Lame IMHO, but we're stuck with it. I think the biggest SSD you can afford is better.

    I have thousands and thousands of photos as well, and store them on internal SATA III HDDs. No reason you couldn't do so on external drives. It just requires some photo management; I leave the ones I currently work on on the SSD along with the catalog and previews; I have a 512 GB SSD with tons of software and it is nowhere near full. You rarely use many photos at a time, so having them all on a fast SSD is a waste of space. Using sometime besides iPhoto, BTW, might make this a lot easier and faster.

    And Apple's prices for the extra flash storage are pretty huge; consider whether an external Thunderbolt SSD might be a better choice. I'm actually thinking of going SMALLER than my current 512 SSD; right now I'm only using 360GB, of which almost half is media files, which could be moved off to an external SSD with very very little performance loss, or even a HDD.
  13. metanoiapi macrumors member

    Oct 16, 2014
    You won't notice a performance hit until you either a) fill up the SSD portion of the Fusion drive or b) move a large file

    Barefoot did a performance review of this.

    Thought of getting a BTO option for all Flash but spent the funds on a Capsule instead.

    So it really depends on use cases. And if money is no object why not wait until they come out with the Rev B Retina iMac w/ 24k gold case, just like they are going to do with the Watch next year.
  14. Picturepro macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2014
    lots of good reading.

    I'm in a similar cross road. This January my iMac 27" 2.93 will be 4 years old

    I do lots of photoshop files in RAW, convert to jpg for client to proof
    The heat from the my current machine is bothersome, have a 12 fan blowing all the time. iStat says heat sink 153˚ and fan on 122˚.

    Money is a limiting factor, there is not that much profit in this field any longer.

    Retna looks nice but how will that be to retouch and correct for the monitor and go to print and say WTF happen

    My photo lab said he has several Retna mac book pro, and clients they all say the display in nice but lag in speed to keep up with internet browser and scrolling across a image while retouching.

    Seem the Retna, 512 with Tunderbolt2 is a good answer
  15. thedeske macrumors 6502a

    Feb 17, 2013
    You left out HEAT ;)

    I know it's just me, but get those spinners outside the box!
  16. Picturepro macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2014
    Yes the heat also iStat says 153˚ heatsink and diode and with my small fan blowing the back of computer 122˚ and I have my brightness turned away down 3 of 16 steps

  17. pprofpopp macrumors newbie

    Oct 1, 2009
    3TB fusion vs 1TB flash - thanks

    Thanks everyone for THE most helpful post on this anywhere on the net.

    I'm in same boat and need to upgrade my old 2008 iMac which is getting really slow so it's definitely the new iMac retina.

    I was going for 3TB fusion with faster processor and graphics just to try to make 'everything' on the mac work faster (I don't do games but often have many, many apps and progs running at once.

    I'm now convinced to spring for the 1TB Flash. It's flash in my macbook air and I love its speed.

    Thing is, I have a 4TB Synology NAS connected that I never use for anything other than my iTunes library and Sonos speakers (I find its use complex and hateful) so maybe I should make more use of that as my external/backup HD.

    thanks for all the great info and advice


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16 October 16, 2014