Real-world speed differences between Fusion drive and SSD on latest iMac 27"

Discussion in 'iMac' started by twilexia, Nov 1, 2015.

  1. twilexia, Nov 1, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2015

    twilexia macrumors 6502

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    #1
    I want to forget about the questions of reliability, heat, sound, outdated technology, benchmarks, and start a discussion about the difference between SSD and Fusion Drive from a real-world user's perspective. As every user is different, I wanted to categorize each user and have everyone discuss which one is more suitable for each.

    1. Casual User - Web browsing, watch movies/youtube, listen to iTunes
    2. Casual Gamer - play games such as WoW, LoL, CS:GO, Rocket League, SC2, etc.
    3. Hardcore Gamer - play games such as FFXIV, Crysis, Battlefield, Call of Duty, etc.
    4. Audio Producer - produce music using Logic, Protools, Cubase, Sibelius, etc.
    5. Amateur video producer/editor - produce youtube videos, homemade videos, not very long.
    6. Professional video producer/editor - produce 4k videos, feature length films
    7. Web designer
    8. Graphic Designer - uses Photoshop/Lightroom extensively
    9. Software engineer - Mac/iOS app coding in Xcode

    Who amongst these categories of users would see a significant, measurable difference in SSD over Fusion, and why? Assume cost is not an issue and that no external drives are being used. Assume 3TB Fusion drive (with 128GB SSD) vs. 1TB SSD.

    The reason I want to ignore cost is because too often advice is given "If your budget allows for it, get the SSD, otherwise get the Fusion," making it seem like the SSD is 100% the better choice. I don't think this is right, because there are groups of people who can benefit from the extra 2TB in the fusion drive, over the 1TB SSD. However, no one wants to sacrifice real-world performance to get that extra 2TB. So what is being sacrificed?
     
  2. The Doctor11 macrumors 603

    The Doctor11

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    #2
    We should add software engineer to the list - building Mac and iOS apps in Xcode.
     
  3. tillsbury macrumors 65816

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    #3
    I don't know what you're expecting here. The SSD is faster than Fusion, the Fusion is cheaper. Anyone from 1-3 probably won't think the difference is worthwhile. Anyone from 4 upwards is probably earning enough from their use of the imac that it wouldn't be worthwhile not to upgrade (except perhaps 5, which is going to be a personal preference thing).
     
  4. iemcj macrumors 6502

    iemcj

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    #4
    Er, this is setup weird. How can you talk about comparing SSD and Hybrid without mentioning reliability, heat, and outdated tech? That's like saying "hey yall, let's talk about jet engines compared to prop but don't talk about speed, reliability, and outdated technology yolo".

    There are THOUSANDS of places on the web that go over this for you but an SSD is better at everything except cost. It's far more reliable, cooler temps, uses less electricity, and is FAR faster. You can find countless testimonials (myself included) of users who took an older computer with a spinning harddrive and replaced it with an SSD. Breathes new life into older computers so you think it's not going to make a difference on a new one??

    I'm a photographer, 95% of my income comes from me taking pictures and delivering high quality prints to clients. My computer pays my mortgage so reliability is huge to me. I've known too many people who have had harddrives fail (and no, a hybrid drive isn't any more safe than a regular harddrive) to risk it happening to me. My computers all have SSDs on the inside and I use an external RAID storage system consisting of multiple 5tb HDDs for archival purposes.

    To answer your question on real world, here you go.


    1. Casual User - No difference
    2. Casual Gamer - No difference
    3. Hardcore Gamer - No difference
    4. Audio Producer - No difference
    5. Amateur video producer/editor - No difference till you're writing larger files (saving a 12 gb video file will be faster on ssd)
    6. Professional video producer/editor - SSD will be ideal but dear god it's going to get expensive. These guys use external RAID storage bays with multiple drives in sync.
    7. Web designer - pft no difference
    8. Graphic Designer - SSD will be ideal due to nature of how lightroom libraries work. These guys use external RAID storage bays with multiple drives in sync for actual storage.

    When I say no difference, I'm talking real world. Might be a few seconds faster here and there but no actual performance or framerate increase. I know I was talking down to you early on but please understand how silly the premise comes across as lol.
     
  5. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Well, thanks a lot for your thoughts. I understand the premise is a bit ridiculous but honestly this is something I have been thinking about.

    And also, you made the point that the SSD breathes new life into old computers vs HDD, but now you're not comparing SSD to FD. You're comparing to HDD. Fusion drive <> HDD. Fusion has an algorithm that leverages the SSD to the fullest.

    Of course, a 3TB SSD is better than a 3TB Fusion drive. But that's just not a reasonable option. So it's 1TB SSD vs the 3TB fusion, and that's what I wanted people to compare.

    And I didn't want to fall into the trap of discussing reliability because I wanted to focus on transfer speeds and real-world performance. That's it. The minute you start focusing on other things besides real-world performance, the conversation quickly shifts into benchmarks, tests, percentages, a lot of which doesn't affect most people. Also, SSD is far newer tech than HDD which means you can't compare the # of people who have had HDDs fail vs # of people who have had SSDs fail. It's just not an apples to apples comparison, unless the two technologies emerged at the same time.

    I'm curious though why you say 3 and 4 is no difference - wouldn't a hardcore gamer benefit from a SSD if they have multiple games installed that is more than 128GB? And would an audio producer not benefit from the increased speeds of reading sample libraries using an SSD?
     
  6. flyespresso macrumors newbie

    flyespresso

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    Sep 25, 2015
    #6
    I got mine that I just got(27" 5K BTO) with the 3TB fusion and I have no issues, coming from a rMBP with 512 GB SSD, before that a custom built machine with PCIE SSD, before that a 27" iMac with SSD...

    I'll stick to Fusion :D This is someone that has done 1-3, 5-8.

    There is a lot of people that argue that a spinning drive is bad... SSD's have actually been more unreliable for me than traditional drives. Further, I (at least with the late 2015) haven't had any heat issues.

    The ONLY thing I'd rather have the SSD for (and this is only because of the late 2015's speed) is if I was doing some serious 4K RAW video editing. Even then... I'd have it on a NAS or TB array or USB 3 SSD.

    As real world, 1TB wouldn't be enough space if you were actually using it for that scenario. A project may be 2-3 TB's of footage. Only way to make that work is to have the system on an external drive, and use the internal as your working folder... It'd get really messy quickly.

    I rather like how I have 3TB in one spot and it manages for me what is on the SSD. Offload a new shoot, it's on the SSD, offload new footage, it's on the SSD... I don't interact with more than 128GB's of data a week. I just don't! That's the real indicator of which you should go for....! Yet on the flip side if you are working/writing/reading more than 1TB or even 512GB of storage a week; the SSD wouldn't be the most reliable thing either. That's some serious write cycles...!


    Now, most people, like you said say go for the SSD if money is no object... I didn't. I'm not regretting it one bit :) I like having all my stuff internally and no external spinning noisy things..!
     
  7. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #7
    Thanks for your thoughts. Just curious, for you when producing videos, besides your example of 4k editing, was there not a single instance where you wished you had more SSD space, when looking at previews/renders/exports?
     
  8. flyespresso macrumors newbie

    flyespresso

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    Sep 25, 2015
    #8
    Audio wise... It's never limited by storage. You're never accessing that much, audio production hits your CPU and depending on what production suite–RAM. Samples/Tracks, are all tiny. You don't load a whole 2-3GB sample library at once. Just not how things work!
     
  9. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #9
    Most people consider 1TB SSD objectively better than the 3TB Fusion drive - and with good reason, when looking at it from the benchmarks/speed/stress tests perspective. But when looking at it from a real-world perspective, is there no advantage at all in having the 2 extra TB storage in the FD? So it becomes a question of, real-world wise, would users see a performance increase significant enough to negate the advantage of an extra 2 TB storage? (and again, ignoring cost as an issue, because it's too easy to just say "if you have the money go for the SSD")
     
  10. flyespresso macrumors newbie

    flyespresso

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    #10
    Nope.

    Exporting (I assume you mean converting): CPU and GPU
    Preview/Rendering: CPU, GPU and RAM

    Again, you have to me accessing multi GB files SIMULTANEOUSLY. So you're talking how many MB/s each video stream is. That's the limiting factor. With a read speed of 1.8 GB/s you could handle 4 or so 4K uncompressed streams (If your GPU and CPU can process that).

    I've never worked with layering that many things! The armchair experts in this forum are... special. It's almost as bad as high end audio. :rolleyes:
     
  11. iemcj macrumors 6502

    iemcj

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    Oct 31, 2015
    #11
    Also, you made the point that the SSD breathes new life into old computers vs HDD, but now you're not comparing SSD to FD. You're comparing to HDD. Fusion drive <> HDD. Fusion has an algorithm that leverages the SSD to the fullest.

    True. But the majority of the data is still on a spinning disc drive, it's just as failure prone as a regular disc drive. That's my main point

    Also, SSD is far newer tech than HDD which means you can't compare the # of people who have had HDDs fail vs # of people who have had SSDs fail. It's just not an apples to apples comparison, unless the two technologies emerged at the same time.

    Oh my not true. There have been a LOT of tests on this, stress testing hdds and SSDs for YEARS on end to establish the failure rates. SSDs are much more reliable long term. Think I'm wrong? Look up a ssd on amazon, then look up a hdd, compare warranties, that'll tell you a great deal how much faith companies have in it.

    I'm curious though why you say 3 and 4 is no difference - wouldn't a hardcore gamer benefit from a SSD if they have multiple games installed that is more than 128GB? And would an audio producer not benefit from the increased speeds of reading sample libraries using an SSD?

    A lot of people have tested this over the years, I've looked into it and the difference on a hyrbid drive (or apples fancily named "fusion" drive) is negligible. Map load times are occasionally a little quicker but it in no way translates to framerates. Gamers love to spend money so manufacturers have come up with marketing for "gaming SSDs" but shaving a second off here and there when loading up a game isn't going to be worth the money.

    Audio? Not at all. Even the highest bitrate audio files require a fairly low read/write speed. It's nice to have but for audio work, having a SSD compared to a fusion or hybrid drive isn't a big deal. If they're a pro they're setup with an SSD on their computer and have the majority of their work stored externally. Same thing for video guys, I can stream 4k video just fine through the thunderbolt port from my current external bays, a friend of mine is a wedding videographer and he does exactly as I said, SSD on his computer, then the vast majority of files are in external drives.


    Here's my shortest answer. For a consumer, just get a big hybrid drive and be happy knowing you're never going to fill that 3tb drive unless you start ripping tons of blu rays onto it. For a pro or prosumer or someone who uses it for business, get the SSD in the 256 or 500 gig size. That will be enough for your programs and working space for years to come and as you go you can in half a second swap out to a larger external storage system. Does that help?
     
  12. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #12
    Again, thanks for your thoughts. What about 4 streams of 1080p video, how would a fusion drive handle that vs. an SSD? Would it depend on the size of the videos being streamed?
     
  13. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #13

    Everything you say helps. Despite your obvious irritation, your answers and thoughts have been extremely helpful.

    So do you think a 1TB SSD is a bit unnecessary then? As in, for consumers it wouldn't be as good as a 3TB SSD (because of storage), and for pros/prosumers a 512TB SSD is more than enough?
     
  14. flyespresso macrumors newbie

    flyespresso

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    #14
    The reason for the difference in warranties is because a spinning drive is prone to issues caused by motion. As long as you're not flailing your iMac around, while on, or even off... It's no different than an SSD--maybe safer.

    So as a big company, of course your warranty is better on SSD's. Less moving parts = less issues from movement.

    There are spinning HD's in space and in critical applications all over the world. Desktop = Not as much of an issue. Laptop = SSD every time.
     
  15. iemcj macrumors 6502

    iemcj

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    Oct 31, 2015
    #15
    Lol no prob man. Was annoyed at the way it was presented, not at you. Happy to help though. Are you wondering what to buy for yourself or just wanted a discussion?
     
  16. flyespresso macrumors newbie

    flyespresso

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    #16
    1080P uncompressed semi-worst case 10-Bit color YUV 4:4:4 is... 194.4 MB/s That's... 9 streams. You'll be hitting other performance walls way before then.
     
  17. twilexia, Nov 1, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015

    twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #17
    I wanted a discussion mainly, and have this thread be helpful to users who are potentially choosing between the two options. I genuinely wanted to focus on real world performance because too often the discussion of SSD vs FD quickly becomes "FD is outdated technology, transitional, unreliable, loud, spinning." All of these are valid points of course, but then no one talks about real-world performance which is what a lot of people (including myself) care about.
     
  18. twilexia, Nov 1, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2015

    twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #18
    Thanks. Really appreciate your answers on this thread!
     
  19. magbarn macrumors 68000

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    #19
    Umm noo. The first few generations of SSDs (especially crappy sandforce drives) had poor reliability in comparison to today's SSD's. Mechanical HDD will always be less reliable than a modern day SSD which hardly every fail. I've used SSD's for over 4 years now so I've had a bit of experience with the different generations, (I remember paying $600 for a 128gb back in the day - YUCK) Movement while running can easily damage desktop HDD, laptop HDD can stand a bit more even while on. The very fact that a mechanical hard drive is mechanical is why it will always have a higher failure rate than a SSD. The only advantage of a HDD is you can sometimes recover some of the lost data at an expensive Data recovery service center while a SSD failure is usual total with no way to recover the data (my 2 failed Sandforce SSDs failed just like this)

    Back to the OP, if what you're doing isn't going to move more than 100+ gb of data around at a time, you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference.

    Contrary to what has been said above a hard core gamer would BENEFIT from a pure SSD as a hardcore gamer isn't going to be using OSX (in fact all imacs are mediocre for 'hard core gaming') and will be going to bootcamp to extract 20+% more performance. A fusion drive is just as slow as the HDD as the SSD has no role in a bootcamp partition.
     
  20. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #20
    Ok good point, bootcamp is a separate issue and definitely is a good reason to stick with SSD. But for the purposes of this discussion I'd like to stick to OSX
     
  21. OSB macrumors member

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    #21
    I think the point is that the premise is flawed; the number of people willing to spring for the 1TB SSD because of its particular advantages, but who don't already have and aren't willing to add relatively fast and cheap external storage, is likely vanishingly small. It isn't that their workflows don't benefit from more storage, it's that sufficiently large storage is a solved problem, and what they want/need is to maximize the amount of very fast storage.
     
  22. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #22
    I think there are a number of people like myself who could swing either way. The point is to ask, how much of a real-world performance benefit is one getting with the 1TB SSD for real world functions (gaming, audio/video production, graphic design, photography, coding, etc)? And is it worth it to be limited to 1TB when you could have 3TB of extra storage that you don't need an external drive for?
     
  23. magbarn macrumors 68000

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    Oct 25, 2008
    #23
    I've lived with a fusion drive for 3 years in my 2012 iMac. Fyi my next 5k iMac is going to have a ssd in it. It's so much easier adding an external hdd will we just as fast as an internal hdd Ina fusion setup when the ssd is saturated. Otoh an external ssd will always be blown away by the super fast nvme pcie ssd that the iMac now uses.
     
  24. twilexia thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Oct 16, 2015
    #24
    That's an interesting idea as something I haven't thought of before. An SSD plus external HD to create a fusion setup, I didn't know that was possible. Do you have any idea how this would be setup?
     
  25. Wallabe, Nov 1, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2015

    Wallabe macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    I'm a hardcore gamer (battlefield), and I think the iMac fusion drive speed is more than enough for most users. (Sure, I'd love to have a 2TB pure SSD for the same cost as the 2TB fusion drive. I'll take that any day.)

    My gaming machine is a custom built Windows machine. The SSD in it is a Crucial M4, with read and write speed of about 500MB/s.

    The 2TB fusion drive in my 5K iMac writes at more than 600MB/s, and reads at more than 1800MB/s, that's much faster than the (pure) SSD on my Windows machine.

    About a week before I bought this iMac, I had online order placed, upgrading it to 512GB SSD. Eventually I canceled it and went to Best Buy to buy a stock model. From reading around the forum, I learned that the 2TB fusion had 128GB SSD in it, and not to buy the 1TB one that has a much smaller SSD. I was happy to see the fusion drive benchmark faster than my Windows gaming PC.

    I wish this iMac had target display mode, I would have find a way to connect it to my 980 GTX. Played a bit of Starcraft 2 on medium settings at full 5K resolution (adjusted in the graphic settings), the graphics is very sharp, I don't even need to turn on AA, and but the polygon lines are very smooth, no pixelated/jagged lines.

    Even with the SSD on my Windows machine slower than the iMac, all the games and maps load very quickly. I'm glad I went with the fusion drive. It's basically 256GB SSD versus the 2TB (128GB SSD + 2TB HDD) for the same price. For those who complain about "What if the drive fails?", get an external backup, whether it's pure SSD, fusion, or just plain HDD (21 inch 4K iMac). Most users won't even notice the speed difference. The fusion drive is +600MB/s write, +1800MB/s read. The pure SSD is +1100MB/s write, but about the same +1800MB/s read.

    Software engineers don't need that, codes don't write that fast. Audio producers don't need that. Casual and hardcore gamers don't really need it. A typical PCIe SSD (about 500 to 700MB read/write) will be more than enough, their main concern is GPU power, since CPU power isn't much of a problem these days. Amature video makers probably won't really care. They don't make it either professionally or as frequently. When it comes time to export the video after their editing is finalized, just click export and get a cup of coffee. They don't do it often enough to care if it finishes slightly faster or slower. It may be helpful, but it's not a critical dealbreaker.

    The only ones who may require it are people who product 4K content professionally and need the fast write time, especially if they record 4K directly to the computer from the cameras, where they capture raw 4K streaming data directly from the camera. Or if they are rendering and encoding videos that have high bitrate. Perhaps they used to RAID to get the write speed they need, and now they could just use a single SSD.

    Unless you are constantly writing and transferring large files back and forth a lot, you won't see much difference in your daily tasks. Your apps will load just as fast, and the websites will show up in your browsers just as fast.

    Here is my fusion drive speed:

    [​IMG]

    And here is someone's SSD speed:

     

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