Speediest external drives for 1TB SSD iMac ?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by jennyp, Jan 1, 2016.

  1. jennyp macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #1
    I'm planning to get a new 5K retina iMac (for photographic editing, web development and some video editing) and I think I'll opt for the 1TB SSD storage, since that seems to be the speediest option.

    However I can see myself running out of space at some point, so I'll be needing some sort of external storage.

    What would be the best option for external storage in terms of speed? Thunderbolt SSD? Or some sort of NAS? Perhaps different types would be preferable for different types of media?
     
  2. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2013
    #2
    Hard drives can be either bus-powered or AC-powered. In general USB bus-powered drives aren't that fast, except for a few, including:

    1TB 7200 rpm HGST Touro S: http://www.touropro.com/en/product/touro-s/
    4TB Seagate Backup Plus Fast: http://www.seagate.com/external-hard-drives/portable-hard-drives/performance/backup-plus-fast-hdd/

    If you don't really need portability, an AC-powered USB 3 or Thundebolt external drive might be best. There are several good vendors including:

    G-Technology: http://www.g-technology.com/products#type=Creative-Enthusiast
    Lacie: http://www.lacie.com/
    CalDigit: http://www.caldigit.com/
    Promise Technology: http://www.promise.com/
    OWC: http://www.owcdigital.com/products/external-storage/

    Re external SSD, there are various solutions, the question is do you need the performance at the higher expense and smaller storage size. In general photo editing (even using 40+ megapixel raw stills) and H264 video editing is not sufficiently I/O intensive such that SSD is that beneficial. Anyone who doubts this can examine the I/O rate on their computer using Activity Monitor or iStat Menus when doing common editing operations.

    That said, you don't want a slow hard drive for media editing. I would never use a 5400 rpm bus-powered USB hard drive for this or other external storage with similar performance.

    A key issue is everything you have should be backed up, whether SSD internal, HDD external or SSD external. So it's not just the cost of storage but the cost to back up that storage.
     
  3. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #3
    Thank you for those helpful tips and info links. I had some idea that using an external HD (non-SSD) would slow everything down and take away the benefit of having the internal SSD boot drive, so I thought to use SSD to keep things fast, but perhaps that's wrong.

    Perhaps the hierarchy of external drives in terms of speed is first SSD (but noting the caveat regarding price for only modest performance gains, as you say), then AC-powered USB3/Thunderbolt, then bus-powered USB3/Thunderbolt (noting your 'exceptions'), and remembering HDD spin speeds.

    I take the tip about backup - I have to factor that in as well.

    I'll need to do some careful searching!

    Thanks again.
     
  4. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2013
    #4
    This depends on whether you are running benchmarks or doing real work. A single external HDD is definitely slower than external SSD. The question is does that make an actual difference for your specific workflow. Adding additional I/O performance only helps if your workflow is bottlenecked on I/O. Actual measurements of I/O rate for various operations in LightRoom and FCPX show you are most often waiting on CPU or GPU, not I/O. This includes time-consuming operations like import, 1:1 preview generation, and export -- all mostly CPU limited.

    If you want external SSD, can afford it, and the space is sufficient for your needs -- it's great. It may be quieter than an external HDD, and the reliability may be better, although SSD can still fail and should be backed up as if it were a HDD. Just don't be under the impression that additional I/O performance will produce significantly faster still/video editing response vs a high-performance HDD.

    A key issue is what type of photo/video editing you'll be doing. If you shoot jpgs or raw stills with a lower-resolution camera, it doesn't take up that much space. If you shoot much 4K video or repeated long bursts of raw stills from a 40+ megapixel camera, you can chew up a lot of space quickly.

    If your envisioned near-term storage requirements fit within the 1TB internal SSD with possible later spillage to 1TB external storage, then SSD might be nice -- regardless of whether you need or would noticeably benefit from the performance.

    For professional video editing we usually don't use external SSD because it's just not big enough at an affordable price and the added I/O performance doesn't translate into major real world benefit. Thus most of us doing that type of work usually employ multi-disk Thunderbolt RAID arrays. Eventually SSD will be cheap enough and big enough but with the advent of 4K the storage demands keep going up so keeps pushing out the possible transition to all-SSD storage.
     
  5. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #5
    That's very helpful, thanks.

    The stills that go into Lightroom from the DSLRs are very often ~30MB RAW files, and edits can make that figure jump to ~140MB.

    I guess the take-home message is that using external SSD would be nice, but that because you get only a marginal performance trade-off, plus a higher cost for much-needed space, a fast spinning external disk would be acceptable.
     
  6. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #6
    One thing - how would a NAS connected to the ethernet port of my router compare with some of these other externals?
     
  7. AFEPPL macrumors 68030

    AFEPPL

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Location:
    England
    #7
    USB 3.0 is potentially five times faster than an Ethernet connection (5 Gbps versus 1 Gbps). If you are looking for DAS performance for small files with a NAS then you will struggle. NAS is about scale, easy of use and management, accessibility for many devices. Things like growing out the 1TB SSD to say 4TB on the fly, drive swaps, media serving for large volumes of files and device independence.
     
  8. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #8
    OK, right, I see. So if I use a NAS maybe I'll keep it for iTunes media and stuff like that. But external drives as you describe for photo and video editing.

    Thanks for the helpful info and pointers
     
  9. AFEPPL macrumors 68030

    AFEPPL

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Location:
    England
    #9
    I'm using NAS for all of it. iTunes library and all my photos and movies are on there.
    I get about 100MB/s to the NAS server which is more than enough for me, but I'm not using its 8 hours/day.

    Biggest limiting factor is WiFi,
     
  10. Fishrrman macrumors G3

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #10
    If you're going to be working primarily with photos (not 4k video), you don't need a 1tb SSD -- unless you have a LOT of money to throw around.

    I think you'd do better to get the 2tb fusion drive version instead.
    This contains a 120gb SSD portion, and a 2tb HDD portion.

    This will give you PLENTY of speed for booting and application loading/running.
    It will also give you lots of room for photo storage (which doesn't require speed, but "space" instead).

    If you want even more speed that is guaranteed to be constant, you could "split" the fusion drive into "standalone" 120gb SSD and 2tb HDD drives.
    This will require you to manage where your files go, however.
    But I sense you could adapt to that quickly.

    So -- I say get the 2tb fusion drive, and use the money you saved to buy one or two high-capacity external backup drives as well.
     
  11. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #12
    I recently purchased a 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus for major backup/storage of several computers and then I also purchased the tiny little dynamo Samsung T1 SSD Drive, which plugs into the USB 3 port and has an SSD drive rather than a platter drive. This is the one I will use as a supplementary drive to my new 15" rMBP 2015 which has a 512 GB SSD drive. While right now that internal drive is sufficient for my activities I know that it could fill up quickly and so I'm preparing ahead of time. (I am already regretting that I didn't go with 1 TB SSD internal drive in this machine.) Eventually I'll be getting back into doing more photography again and I am hoping that Samsung will come out with a 2 TB version of their external SSD drive. So far it is fast and works well for my purposes. I don't keep it plugged in all the time, as no need for that; I plug it in as needed.
     
  12. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #13
    I did consider the fusion drive iMacs carefully - there seems to be quite a discussion on here pro and con these machines - but I've bitten the bullet and bought a 1TB SSD version. I thought the fusion drives were a bit of a compromise and I appreciate any speed advantage with intensive image editing.
     
  13. AFEPPL macrumors 68030

    AFEPPL

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Location:
    England
    #14
    Sure you wont regret it.
    I'm not a fan of the fusion drives they are simply a compromise i wouldn't wont to make.
     
  14. jazzer15 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2010
    #15
    I've been watching this thread with some interest as I have had similar questions regarding my recent purchase of a Retina iMac with 512GB SSD. It seems to me that with a 1TB SSD you should have more than enough room to work on your photo editing projects and that after some time, those that aren't active could be transferred to another drive for external storage. At that point, unless I am missing something, speed is not important, so a basic USB 3 HDD with significant space should be fine, no? (I don't know if you do a lot video editing and whether that would change things or not)

    I do (hobby) photo editing of 24 megapixel RAW files that also get quite large, especially when bringing them into a plugin or Photoshop. I use my internal drive for active projects and have a 2TB bus powered Western Digital Passport that I am using for external storage (including my completed images, music library and some other things). I also have a 4TB USB3 bus powered Seagate Backup Slim (not the Fast) that I am using for a backup of the internal and external drives. These USB powered drives aren't the fastest, but I don't think they need to be and have the advantage of not requiring AC power and being small and very quiet. I have considered replacing the Western Digital drive that I use for storage with something faster, but I'm not sure that is necessary

    Is this the bus powered or AC powered/desktop version? If the latter, do you find that it makes a bit of an odd sound when it first starts spinning? I picked up a 5TB desktop Seagate Backup Plus and had intended to use that as my backup drive. It is reasonably fast and pretty quiet except when first starting up (it's not really noisy, but it does make a bit of a brief odd "grinding?" sound as the disk first starts to spin and I was wondering if it is typical of these drives -- there is nothing wrong with the drive.

    The 4TB portable Seagate isn't quite as fast and has a bit less storage, but it is smaller and quieter, so I have been using that and had considered returning the desktop version.
     
  15. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #16
    It is the AC-powered desktop version. No, I haven't noticed any odd sound when it first starts up -- it seems to start up promptly and is fast enough for my purposes (back up/ archiving older files and folders). I have a couple of the 2 TB bus-driven Seagate drives, too, and they work very well, also. They are handy for travel, as will be the new Samsung T1 SSD drive. Next time I fire up the 4 TB Seagate Backup Plus I'll pay particular attention as it is starting up to see if I hear anything unusual. This is my first experience with Seagate; earlier I had used G-Drive external drives for backups and such through the years but reliability started becoming an issue and then I learned that they had been taken over by another company so decided maybe it was time to try something different.
     
  16. jazzer15 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2010
    #17
    Hmm. Thanks. I am pretty sensitive to noise, but I think you would probably notice it if the hard drive is reasonably close to you. The sound isn't very loud and only lasts about a second, but I also have a 2TB Western Digital Firewire 800 drive that used for backup of my previous iMac and there was no distinctive noise at start up - just the normal sound of the hard drive spinning up. I had Time machine backing up to the drive, so I heard it each time the computer came out of sleep mode.
     
  17. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2005
    Location:
    8 miles from the Apple Store at Tysons (VA)
    #18
    Yes, the hard drive is positioned fairly close to me, on the stand which also supports my HP Envy wireless printer. Both are within easy reaching distance (hard drive in order to plug it into whichever machine it needs to be connected to and printer in order to grab the printed material out of it when it's done its thing). I'll be doing some more stuff tomorrow with the backup drive so will make it a point to listen when it first starts up.
     
  18. rkaufmann87 macrumors 68000

    rkaufmann87

    Joined:
    Dec 17, 2009
    Location:
    Folsom, CA
    #19
    Without a doubt the fastest external option is getting one of these and populating it with SSDs of the capacity you desire. You can have up to 8TB of SSD storage at speeds that are almost identical to internal buss speeds.

    http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/Thunderbolt/External-Drive/OWC/ThunderBay-4-mini
     
  19. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #20
    Not completely sure I understand what you mean by them 'not being active'. They're all in Lightroom and I never know when I might go back to edit a shot.

    In a way I guess there is a point about space: if I'm going to end up using external drives, then why not get a smaller internal SSD to begin with? But as I understand it, SSDs are faster when they're larger, and in any case I guess a larger internal space to begin with is just easier.

    Thanks for that link - I'll take a good look
     
  20. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2013
    #21
    Jenny, you are correct. A key purpose of using cataloging software like Lightroom and keywording your photos is to expedite future searches. You obviously can't do that easily if the photos are off line because you selected a small external SSD.

    It is true you can use LR to move photos to a different hard drive, and they stay cataloged. However this is a hassle because LR is not designed as a file manager. IMO it's a headache to keep moving files back and forth because of using too-small SSD storage to obtain questionable real-world performance benefits.

    The key point is whether the additional *benchmark* performance of the smaller, more expensive external SSD storage has any real-world benefit for your workflow. If not then you paid more money for smaller storage and a more complicated workflow without obtaining any improvement.

    Most of the time-consuming actions in H264 video editing and photo editing are not I/O bound but CPU or GPU bound. Infinitely fast I/O will not help because it's already bottlenecked on the CPU or GPU and there's nothing you can do about that. Anyone can see this by monitoring with Activity Monitor or iStat Menus while doing common operations like LR import, 1:1 preview generation, export, or similar video editing tasks.

    Part of this depends on your type of imaging work, budget and current/future space requirements. Using cameras like the Sony A7RII and Nikon D810, my documentary team can easily shoot 100 gigabytes per *day* of raw stills. A significant body of work just won't fit on economically affordable SSDs. If your projected shooting volume is far less, then you can get by with less storage. If you will ever be shooting 4K video, that takes a lot of space.

    I have a 2013 top-spec iMac 27 with 3TB Fusion Drive and a 2015 top-spec iMac 27 with 1TB SSD, both with Thunderbolt RAID arrays. Media is on the external drive and LR/FCPX catalogs are usually on the internal storage. I can't see any significant real-world performance difference attributable to I/O. On the 2015 iMac I could get by with a 512GB SSD but got 1TB just to give more "elbow room" so I didn't have to manage it as closely.

    If you will use Boot Camp or Parallels, that can take up additional space on the system drive, which could argue for a larger SSD boot drive.

    I don't think there is any I/O performance difference between the 512GB and 1TB SSD in a 2015 iMac. That other info does not reflect the 2015 iMac's advanced SSD technology.

    If you can afford it and the space of external SSD fits your needs, there's nothing wrong with that, but you probably won't see real-world performance advantages vs a conventional RAID array. The SSD may be quieter and might have statistically better reliability but SSD can fail and must be backed up just like a HDD.

    From a budgetary standpoint you must remember the need for backup, which scales upward with the storage used. For serious work, two different backup types are best, e.g, Time Machine on a continuously-connected drive, and Carbon Copy clone backups on a periodically-connected drive. Doing that triples the storage requirement.
     
  21. jazzer15 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2010
    #22
    It sounds like your situation is somewhat different from mine. My shooting is sporadic as is volume of images taken. And while I may go back to do some editing on older images from time to time, typically I will edit my images sometime shortly after I have taken them. Also, I am not doing any video editing to speak of.

    I can move my pictures to an external drive after a few months or so and should I need to access something later for a little more editing, the fact that the external drive is slower isn't that big of a deal for me. If you are doing this professionally, in higher volume, accessing older images for further work on a more consistent basis or perhaps just wanting the fastest storage options for whatever reason, I understand why you would be looking at speedier alternatives.
     
  22. jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #23
    So if you could only have one, which would you use, if the 2013 was instead a new one, and assuming parity over other specs?

    You've sown some seeds of doubt now!
     
  23. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2013
    #24

    The 2015 iMac 27 is usefully faster in some cases but there is not a major overall difference in still or video editing performance between the 2013 iMac 27 with 3TB Fusion Drive and 2015 iMac27 with 1TB SSD. You can see a spreadsheet of performance tests I did here: #358

    These focused mostly on video and general GPU/CPU performance, not much on specific Lightroom/Photoshop performance. However on LR, the 2015 is not generally faster and actually a bit slower for some things, maybe due to the high pixel count or poor optimization of Adobe's code.

    I strongly suspect it's a code optimization issue on Adobe's part, because in back-to-back testing on the same 2015 iMac using FCPX and Premiere Pro CC, FCPX was much faster at several common editing tasks. When fast forwarding on an H264 4k timeline, FCPX's screen update rate was about 20x faster. JKL editing response was vastly faster.

    That said, having used both iMac types I would never get a non-retina iMac. The retina screen is so much sharper, it's just a huge difference. It is very apparent even on text sharpness, which we probably use more than graphical objects. There are still some certified refurbished 2013 top-spec iMac 27s floating around and those can be a good deal. However for me the retina screen is so improved it's worth any price.
     
  24. jennyp, Jan 3, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016

    jennyp thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2007
    #25
    Interesting insights - but I guess I meant the difference between a 2015 1TB SSD (with the future externals that will entail) and a 2015 3TB fusion drive
     

Share This Page