Last Decision Before Pulling the Trigger: 2 TB or 4 TB?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by Bryan Bowler, Mar 9, 2018.

  1. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Ok gang, I need to bounce some ideas off you. After 3 months of patient reading and careful evaluation of real-world results versus my current workload, I’ve decided on an 18-core iMac Pro, 128 GB of RAM, and Vega 64. The last thing I need to decide on before pulling the trigger is a 2 TB or 4 TB SSD. Perhaps your thoughts can help me decide.

    I am a full-time photographer and videographer. Some of the subjects I focus on require me to travel a fair amount, usually 115-145 days a year. When I’m out in the field, I spend the majority of my time shooting, and then I squeeze in time to review, catalog, and cull through my footage while I’m on the road, whether it’s stills or video. Once I get home, the iMac takes over and the editing picks up in earnest from there.

    For stills and video, I currently use two Canon 1D X Mark II’s, one Canon 5DsR, and several small action cameras. I primarily shoot on the Canon 1D X’s and almost always shoot at 4K 60 fps, which uses up a fair amount of storage. Currently, I am not shooting 6K or 8K, but I could see that transition taking place in about 2 years or so.

    For my upcoming iMac Pro, I would like to rely on the internal SSD for all of my current jobs and then once those jobs are complete, I would send them over to my RAID 5 array. I prefer to work on my jobs via the internal SSD due to the sheer speed. (Why chance crippling the 18-core beast with any possible storage bottleneck?) 2 TB should be enough to cover my needs for open jobs during 2018, but I’m not sure if that is enough in the future.

    The obvious approach would be to max out the iMac Pro with 4 TB of SSD storage. However, I am considering ordering the 2 TB SSD in the iMac Pro and then taking the $1,800 saved and applying that towards a 2 TB OWC ThunderBlade 4 or a 2 TB OWC Envoy Pro EX (VE). Both of these excellent externals are nearly as fast as the internal SSD on an iMac Pro and the idea is to use the external SSDs out in the field to work on my media files. Then after I return, I would plug the external SSD (with all my files) into the iMac Pro where I could instantly resume where I left off.

    I’m torn though. Would I regret not getting 4 TB pf premium storage inside the iMac Pro? Or would I be just fine with 2 TB of ultra-fast internal SSD storage and 2 TB of very fast external SSD storage? I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts as I sort through this. I'd like to pull the trigger on my order in the early part of next week.

  2. MadDane macrumors 6502a

    Apr 5, 2015
    It sounds to me like you might regret not getting the 4TB. I can see how getting very fast external SSD's would be nice in the way that it allows you to continue on your work from one machine to the next. But you can always add those later if you find the need to do so. It is harder to add extra internal storage to the iMac Pro.
  3. Bigdog9586 macrumors 6502

    Apr 15, 2015
    I got the $1000 discountedpro which comes with the 1tb ssd. I got this off of amazon because of its excellent reviews and only $399
    Glyph Atom Black, 1TB SSD, USB-C (3.1, Gen 2), USB 3.0, Compatible with Thunderbolt 3
  4. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    I understand your intent but IMO the price and speed of internal SSD is not required. I'm a professional documentary editor and we shoot up to 1TB of 4k H264 per day, plus lots of 42 megapixel raw stills from our Sony A7R2 and R3 cameras. In general most of the workflow tasks are CPU limited or internally bottlenecked on thread synchronization or other inefficiencies within the app. IOW if you examine I/O rates or IOPS rate during typical workflow, it's not that high.

    I have many large Thunderbolt arrays and have tested them vs my SSD RAID-0 Thunderbolt array plus internal SSD on both iMac and iMac Pro. In general I don't see much real-world performance difference due to I/O. This is mostly on FCPX but also I've tested Premiere CC and Lightroom.

    There can be unique cases if an app is issuing lots of small random I/Os. SSD is better at that than even a spinning 4-drive RAID-0 array. An example of this in FCPX is when scrolling down the Event Browser in filmstrip mode and it's building thumbnails. But even in this case I didn't see significant improvement from internal SSD or Thunderbolt SSD RAID-0. It was quieter and felt faster but the stopwatch showed little difference.

    So you can have the *perception* of an I/O slowdown if you're waiting on a task and your spinning RAID array is chugging. But in many cases that task was already bottlenecked somewhere else.

    Going from 2TB SSD to 4TB in the iMP is another $2k. You can get a 32TB RAID-0 Thunderbolt 3 array for that:

    Or you could get an empty OWC Thunderbolt chassis for $500 and populate it with 4 x 2TB SATA SSDs in RAID-0, for a total cost of about $2500. That would give you 8TB SSD at about 1,300 MB/sec.
  5. Arran macrumors 601


    Mar 7, 2008
    Atlanta, USA
    At those price points I'd go for 2TB internal and 2TB external. More flexibility. That, and a disk failure would only eat 2TB:eek:

    Heck, you could even sell the external 2TB to raise emergency funds (if you really, really needed to) without losing your primary work machine.

    Many eggs? Two baskets!
  6. Scary Spice, Mar 10, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2018

    Scary Spice macrumors 6502

    Scary Spice

    Jul 31, 2015
    British Columbia
    I don't think I have ever seen a post like "My Mac is 4 years old and my drive is half empty and faster than I need, next time I will buy the smaller and cheaper storage option."

    With the T2 chip, upgrading is nearly impossible and external storage is at least 50% slower.

    I went with the 2 TB as my projects involve databases up to 1 TB. If I was doing what you are, I wouldn't even hesitate in getting the 4 TB. The hobbyists have a different opinion as they are not doing work on their machines.

    I never scrimp on my tools for work and have no regrets.
  7. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Thanks for the replies everyone! A lot of good points have been made, both for and against. Long day in the field today...I'll give some deeper thought to this tomorrow. Please keep the opinions coming!
  8. flimpy macrumors member

    Dec 21, 2015
    I tried to figure out how to make the storage to be a separate part from the computer, such that when computer ages, you still get to keep the storage.

    I thought that buying 4TB sata SSDs is the way to go - they are reliable and as you buy more of them, you can connect them as RAID 0 (more like RAED 0, lol).

    I have two of them and I already faced several problems:
    1) there are no good thunderbolt 3 enclosures for 2.5" SSDs. By good I mean decent hardware raid + slick design + ability to have at least 4 drives in it. Perhaps with time this issue will resolved.
    2) SATA interface is the bottle neck (limiting read/write speeds to ~500 MB/s), so now I feel like I made a bet on old technology

    Based on this experience, I would advise one of the two:
    A) If you want to build a separate storage for yourself, that you would want to keep as your iMP will age - get 2TB SSD and hold off spending the saved money until you will actually need more storage. Samsung is going to release 8TB SSDs this year... it looks like there would be a big jump in progress with SSD technology availabe to consumers market.
    B) If you do not care about building external storage, that you would like to keep after iMP will age - get 4TB and be done with it :)
  9. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    Get the 4TB TB if you really put a premium on internal storage. Nothing external will be as fast.
    --- Post Merged, Mar 11, 2018 ---
    Without meaning to sound disrespectful, it is a pain to set all that up and perhaps unsightly, depending on the size of your desk.

    If money is not that much of an issue, seems easier to just get 4TB and be done with it.
  10. Macshroomer macrumors 65816


    Dec 6, 2009
    I’d say it all depends on what your current workflow looks like and how adaptable you are willing to be going forward but in a perfect world, you would get both the 4TB internal and the blade array.

    It’s just soooo subjective too, I personally shoot about 80% stills and the rest video so I would be fine with the 2TB internal and would love the Envoy / blade RAID option in the field, both are physically small enough to be roadies. I have the 2TB version and a couple Envoys, plan on getting the blade array in the future.
  11. RootBeerMan macrumors 65816


    Jan 3, 2016
    Frankly, it has always been my opinion, as a computer user and someone who has sold them, that you'll never be disappointed with MORE storage. You will, inevitably be disappointed with too little. If given the choice I would always go with the higher storage option in the initial purchase, if it fits your budget. You'll sleep better at night.
  12. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014

    I would listen to joema2 on this and change how you manage your storage. This will pay dividends for the future.

    If you don't want to do the above and work off the internal then i can't see how you cannot go with anything but the 4TB drive. You are already spending a lot of money of this computer. Gimping the storage even if pricey is not a smart move if this is for work.
  13. joema2, Mar 11, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2018

    joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    He's already got a RAID-5 spinning array on his desk and a 4TB SSD iMP will not eliminate that. He likely has a 2nd drive or array for backing up the RAID-5 array. If it's not backed up that's a bigger issue than what size SSD to get.

    Re "if money is not that much of an issue", the OP said it was an issue. That's why he posted. If it was not an issue whatsoever he'd simply have written a check for a 4TB SSD iMP and there would be no thread to discuss this.

    A 4TB SSD iMP isn't wrong but there's a cost/benefit tradeoff. In most cases the real-world performance difference will not be significant between that and Thunderbolt external SSD.

    Over time storage needs tend to increase beyond what we originally envision. Of course he could get a 4TB iMP now then if he later needs more fast storage, he could then get Thunderbolt external SSD. But it's a price tradeoff. If that external storage is inevitable, he could use the $2k required for an additional 2TB internal and get 8TB external.

    OTOH an 18-core machine is really expensive so an additional $2k for 4TB SSD over 2TB must be viewed in that context. I'm personally glad my last two iMacs were 2TB SSD (vs 1TB) machines and if I got an 18-core iMP I might also consider 4TB. It's not that one or the other approach is wrong, he just needs to be informed of the tradeoffs of each approach.
  14. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    I don’t think he said money was an issue. He talked about savings of
    1,800.00 but he didn’t say money was the deciding factor or even a major factor.

    He can clearly afford both options.

    OP, please let me know if this is incorrect
  15. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Again, thank you everyone for this discussion. It is very helpful to me!

    You are correct. Money is not the absolute deciding factor, however, I want to spend responsibly and not go too far overboard.

    joema2 is correct. I should clarify my situation. I currently work off an OWC 20TB ThunderBay Raid 5 array. That RAID 5 array is backed up onsite to another ThunderBay array of drives. I also maintain two off-site backups located in two different geographical locations.

    My thought process is to maintain all open jobs on the internal SSD in the iMac Pro and work there until the project is complete. At the rate I churn through work and the file sizes of the jobs I typically do, 2TB should be enough. However, things have been rapidly changing for me in the last year and I am doing increasingly more video work, henceforth, the consideration to go with 4TB while keeping the open jobs located internally. (Of course I would back the internal SSD as well.)

    As always, joema2 delivers very sound advice and he has leagues of real-world experience to back it up. He's right...I could equally work off an array of RAID'd SSD drives and get way more SSD storage for nearly the same price. However, and maybe I've got too many stars in my eyes from the iMac Pro, I feel compelled to keep everything internal. I'm really attracted to the blazing speed and I want the iMac Pro to soar unimpeded from any possible slowdowns. But as joema pointed out, the reality is there may not be any slowdown for the types of files I'm processing, which as of now do not exceed 3 multicam streams of Canon 1D X 4K 60 fps streams. I don't see myself moving to RED anytime soon, but I've been surprised before on how quickly I've shifted directions should the need arise.

    This is not as big of a factor, but I do enjoy working in silence, free from fan noise. The pair of OWC ThunderBays I have now are not super loud, but you can absolutely hear them. Working exclusively off an internal SSD in the iMac Pro would allow me to work in silence until it's time to run an intermediate backup.

    I hope I didn't exhaust all of you by typing that out, but I wanted to offer some perspective.

    Right now, I'm leaning towards the internal 4TB solution. I only have 3 trips (26 days) planned in March/April and then my travels should remain slow from May through perhaps going with the internal solution for now and then picking up an ultrafast portable solution mid-summer (or when needed) could be a viable option for me.

    Again, thanks for the discussion. If there are more thoughts floating around, please keep the conversation going! It is super helpful to me and I appreciate everyone's time.
  16. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    I kinda sorta get the feeling you really want and can afford the 4 TB but realize it's a lot of coin to drop and perhaps you'd get more bang for your buck for the 2 TB and some external options.

    I am willing to buy a steak dinner that you absolutely will not regret the 4 TB purchase. If your needs change, you can always add external options. You will be stuck with 2 unless you want to take the machine in and have it cracked open.

    I bought a loaded 2017 5K and ordered a 500 GB SSD. Then I decided to cancel that order and move up to 1 TB, which is a decent chunk of change.

    Less than a year later and despite thinking I would never fill a 500 GB with my needs, I am already over 500 and I am kicking myself for not just biting the bullet and getting 2 TB.

    Life is short---if you have the means, f-it.
  17. Southern_Vet macrumors newbie

    Mar 6, 2018
    Nice brag on all your expensive equipment in post and in signature. You have got to be one incredibly well paid photographer or massively in debt. There’s a better chance of being a Fortune 500 CEO than a well paid photographer.
  18. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000


    Feb 10, 2015
    Chicago, Illinois
    I don't understand the point of this post. The guy is asking for advice. Why would you hate on him or, more accurately, try to shame him for having nice things?

    You don't know his circumstances in life. I certainly don't know yours and wouldn't presume to know.
  19. Bryan Bowler, Mar 11, 2018
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018

    Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    I'm not sure where you got that impression. I'm not bragging at all, not even in the slightest bit. It's quite common to list the gear you use in your signature to save other forum members time when they are analyzing your situation and give you advice. For example, in one glance, joema2 knew that I use a RAID 5 array for storage and he could offer advice accordingly.

    As for the equipment itself, if you process media for a living and more importantly on a tight deadline, you need the right tools for the job. It may seem outlandish to an everyday user for someone to spend $8,000-$12,000 on a computer system, but they are completely worth it if I can save significant time in what is always a very busy day. (If people only knew how non-glamorous this job can be sometimes!)

    Through years and years of hard work and dedication, I've done quite well for myself in photography, but this computer purchase is geared for the video work I've now transitioned into. This computer would be complete overkill for nearly every form of still photography.

    Anyway, I'm a very humble guy that's asking for some thoughts so I can make better purchasing decisions. Cheers and have a good evening.
  20. fathergll macrumors 65816

    Sep 3, 2014

    heh...I'll be willing to bet a steak dinner he'll regret not getting the 4 TB if he's working off the internal drive.

    2 things i've never regretted spending extra on and that is RAM and Storage.
  21. Macshroomer macrumors 65816


    Dec 6, 2009
    Wow, this is really odd and uncalled for. But I do kind of get it, there are a lot people out there that think ( hope ) all photographers are a dying breed and starving, etc.

    Well not all of us are, some of us are doing quite well ( well into the $175K-$300K range ) and make substantial investments in terms of our tools. The OP has been nothing but polite and engaging, so where is this shade you are throwing on him coming from???
  22. Bryan Bowler thread starter macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Great need for a steak dinner! I placed my order a short while ago and I went with the 4TB option, and I can already tell you, I do not have have any more doubts and I certainly do not have any regret. I'm really excited about adding this beastly workhorse to my business and watching it chew up the projects I throw at it.

    I can't give enough thanks to everyone that contributed to this thread! I'll always do my best to pay it forward with good advice for others and if our paths ever cross in real life, beverages of your choice will be on me.

    In the end, the deciding factor that led me to the 4TB option was everyone's made me realize that I could potentially regret getting 2TBs and that's simply not a feeling that I want to have when making a purchase like this. I really, really like the idea of being able to work in a silent environment without the sound of the ThunderBay's fan whirring in the background. I often need to record voice-overs for other projects or speak with clients and now I can do that in relative silence while things are rendering in the background and my footage is located internally within the iMac Pro.

    joema2 is right, you can get a lot of additional state-of-the-art storage with the cost-differential between the 2TB and 4TB SSD...but in the end, I realized that I have other priorities in mind and maxing out the internal storage was more important to me. Again, that realization was achieved thanks to all of you.


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