Struggling w/2017 i7 storage 1TB SSD vs 3TB Fusion

Discussion in 'iMac' started by snowtrooper1966, Jul 20, 2017.

  1. snowtrooper1966 macrumors regular


    Oct 13, 2011
    Clarksburg, WV
    Pretty well set on the BTO configuration: 27" 580 w/8GB GPU 7, i7 CPU & base 8GB RAM (which I will rectify by purchasing and installing 32GB Crucial kit to save $350), but am having a hell of a time nailing down the final parameter...

    Normal usage, but with an eye towards the mrs getting serious about photography, processing RAW files with Lightroom & Photoshop.
    Our current free space is 644GB on our 1.1TB Fusion, which will be trimmed down likely another 100GB b4 migration....

    I purchased the 1st version 1.1TB (128GB SSD portion) of the Fusion Drive, when I bought the late 2012 Mac Mini. It was a large part of my decision to buy that unit.
    It has performed admirably in the past 5 years, and even survived an apple (really) juice bath from my little one knocking a cup over on the desktop, where the SATA (seen in pic, on top of the Mini with the the protective sleeve peeled away and the connector detached) portion of the Fusion drive was sopping wet and had to be decontaminated.
    I will say, I am really struggling on my new 2017 iMac purchase.
    I want so bad to have the latest and greatest all SSD 1TB drive, that likely will get full quickly as RAW files are stored, necessitating an external drive.
    The Fusion served us so well, even in such adverse usage, and we can get a 3TB version for 500 less than what the all SSD costs, I'm heavily being pulled in the Fusion direction again....

  2. Samuelsan2001 macrumors 604

    Oct 24, 2013
    If it was me I'd go with a 16gb RAM kit for a total of 24gb of RAM and then go with the 1TB SSD and external storage for big media files etc when needed. The SSD will be a big upgrade over fusion on speed and responsiveness not to mention reliability over time.
  3. chicagofan00 macrumors regular

    Apr 4, 2010
    I struggled with the same decision on going SSD or Fusion as I wanted as much onboard storage as possible originally. In the end I decided to order mine with the 512GB SSD for speed and have also purchased a Drobo 5D3 for my additional storage needs and the added redundancy factor. I have well over 17,000 photos that will be stored on the Drobo and that will continue to keep growing as the little kiddos age. My plan is to keep all photos on the Drobo and edit from there with the Lightroom catalog files stored locally on the SSD. I believe this will be the best solution for my personal needs but YMMV of course.

    I also plan on using an external HDD to be used in conjunction with Time Machine to specifically target my photos as a backup as I don't want to trust just one storage solution for what are my most treasured digital files. :)
  4. einbahnstrasse macrumors newbie


    Nov 23, 2004
    With $ being ok: I'd look at it like this: which would you regret more, having to plug in an external to fit more files or wishing your files would load faster?

    If you dont have your own retina MBP to test your files one, get a friends or your local Apple Store. That way you have a better idea on SSD vs fusion
  5. Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2014
    It's an easy choice: 3TB of slow(er) external storage is easily solveable with multiple cheap solutions. But having an ultra fast internal boot SSD is an one-off decision you need to make now. Get the 512 SSD if you want to shave cost.
  6. snowtrooper1966 thread starter macrumors regular


    Oct 13, 2011
    Clarksburg, WV
    Thanks for the thoughts, all

    Ill be selling the old MacMini, so that will subsidize the 32GB DDR4 RAM upgrade, cost savings does not come into the equation here.

    Considering I'm upgrading to a 4.2GHz vs old 2.6GHz and going from 8GB TO 32GB RAM, feel really confident I'll notice a dramatic speed increase regardless of on-board storage I choose. Surprisingly, had really good reliability with my SATA portion of the Fusion, as I discussed above...

    Yea, the goal is to avoid any external drive, but the feeling is creeping in that it's inevitable with the mrs doing photography and RAW file processing.
    Combined, the mrs and I have over 20k family photos & videos from the past 11 years.
    I do use a 3TB Airport Time Capsule for time machine backups, so any external drive would be strictly photo storage.

    Have a pretty specific budget based on $3300 Apple Store credit, so thats what I'm working with for the BTO, RAM upgrade will be subsidized by MacMini sale.

    If i did go 3TB Fusion, I could afford to add AppleCare+ now and an external 4TB for redundancy.

    That's the real dilemma. Coming from 8GB RAM 2.6GHz MacMini, regardless of on-board storage selected I know it will be dramatic improvement, however, in the back of my mind, I'll always be thinking about the possible loss of performance.

    Great suggestion, but live in rural town and closest Apple Store is 2 hours away. No friends with anything that I could do a comparison with...

    Fusion does incorporate 128GB SSD portion for boot, but as I said above, will always wonder about any possible performance loss by NOT getting all SSD internal.
    Coming from 1.1TB internal storage with current setup, I know I could not deal with just 512 SSD, as it would seem like a downgrade, even if I moved all photos to external....
  7. nambuccaheadsau, Jul 20, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2017

    nambuccaheadsau macrumors 65816


    Oct 19, 2007
    Nambucca Heads Australia
  8. snowtrooper1966 thread starter macrumors regular


    Oct 13, 2011
    Clarksburg, WV
  9. CWallace macrumors 603


    Aug 17, 2007
    Seattle, WA
    Since you have direct experience with a 128GB SSD-based Fusion Drive, if it has been performing well for you in a similar role to what you intend to use your new iMac for, then I think the 3TB model could very well be a viable option for you.
  10. cynics macrumors G4

    Jan 8, 2012
    There is certain media I would typically just say, go for the Fusion. Like movies, and video for consumption (not editing). Generally you won't consume media faster then it can be read from a HDD.

    However if there is going to be a lot of editing going on I would opted for the SSD.

    It sounds like you'll eventually be going to external storage anyway.
  11. throAU macrumors 603


    Feb 13, 2012
    Perth, Western Australia
    To echo the above: i'd go for the 1 TB SSD and use external storage for archival. You can either hook up a NAS for bulk storage, or use an external hard drive. Hard drives are not affected to any significant degree by external connnectivity.

    The 1 TB SSD will be far better for working with large files as an actual "work" area than a fusion drive.
  12. cptn.nemo macrumors regular

    Jun 20, 2016
    I'd push for the 1tb ssd if you're doing huge videos. I've personally never seen a 300GB file but they do exist lol, I got the 512 ssd and have around 400 left for working files. Everything I'm not using just goes to an external HDD. You could even get an external 1tb ssd for $300 which will make things faster, that's my next upgrade, just for faster transfer to and from but that doesn't happen often. My external is always connected to my Mac so it's easy to access.
  13. bopajuice Suspended


    Mar 22, 2016
    Dark side of the moon
    This thread and your comment deals with two issues I have at the same time. I have a 2014 mini that came with a 1tb drive. I purchased the internal connector to add an SSD essentially turning it into a fusion drive. I would rather keep the drives as separate drives with the OS and programs on the SSD portion and files on the other 1tb internal drive. Has anyone done it this way? How does it work?

    Second, you said you keep your photos on a separate drive and use Lightroom to catalog the files? Do I understand this correctly? Do you use Photos at all? My biggest issue has been trying to find a way to catalog a TB worth of photos. How do you import?

    Any suggestions or tips would be appreciated.
  14. chicagofan00 macrumors regular

    Apr 4, 2010
    My current situation is that all my photos are on an internal 3TB drive and backed up by Time Machine but once the new iMac arrives I will be moving all my photo storage over to the Drobo 5D3. I'll keep the Lightroom catalog files locally though as I've read that it helps keep Lightroom move a little quicker with the catalog file being local instead of on an external storage solution. Only issue with that would be if you planned on taking your storage solution with you, and editing photos elsewhere, the edits wouldn't move with them if the catalog file is stored locally.

    My intention to move to the Drobo is for the added redundancy as well as being able to have a lot more storage space and being able to expand it on the fly by just swapping out any of the drives to a larger size when needed.

    I do use photos but that is only for my iPhone photos as those are all synced up to iCloud. I have about 11,000 photos stored there currently. Those of course automatically get imported whenever a new photo is taken on the phone and synced to iCloud.

    For my dSLR photos, I import to Lightroom and have various folders in there for organization. I go by year and then event, etc. of course everyone has their own organization style for photos. :)
  15. pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    I just posted a (long) answer to someone's question about SSD size for their new MacBook Pro in another forum and realised this is a similar situation so I'm going to paste it here. Plus, you're a fellow photographer and this may provide another reference angle:

    Traditionally, I urge all budding or professional photographers to consider workflow, budget and also how far ahead into the future you want your hardware to last and making every piece of hardware last as long as it can. Spend as much as you can afford, upgrade every last part of your Apple computing hardware (even if it hurts the wallet - then save a little more until you can!) and eek every last drop out of that hardware before upgrading again:
    1. In my studio, we use Dropbox installed onto internal drives for storage of all our Lightroom Catalog files and Client Imagery to enable every computer synchronised access. Google Drive is used for Accounting, Portfolios (and requisite low-med res JPEG imagery) and misc. purposes.
    2. A lot of our work is regularly shot tethered on location - and quite often with two of us in different countries (hence the need for multiple MacBook Pros)
    3. We shoot a mixture of Canon 1D X II (25Mb+ .cr2 raw files) and Canon 5DS (50Mb+ .cr2 raws) bodies. We store all raw imagery on external Thunderbolt / USB 3.0 drives and not on the internal hard drives.
    4. We use Lightroom / Photoshop CC across 6x computers: 1x Mac Pro (2010), 2x iMac 27" (2010), 2x MacBook Pro 15" (2014/2015) + 1x new MacBook Pro (2017) arriving next week. Dropbox is stored on the secondary internal hard drives where possible (on the MacBooks, it has to go on the main SSD - which creates space problems for us).
    5. Storing all Lightroom catalogs (with Standard / Smart Previews built and backups) on Dropbox means our Dropbox usage regularly sits around the 200-250Gb mark - and thats just for the previous 3 months worth of work. Every month or so we must archive Lightroom Catalogs and Final Imagery off Dropbox and onto one of the many external hard drives and the 2x NAS units we have in the studio / office.
    6. With so many apps creating caches (Spotify Premium with high quality streaming alone is regularly 20Gb+!) and even using DiskWave to free up space, we are left with little more than 100Gb available on the MacBook Pro drives - day to day.
    7. Our computer hardware is as follows: 1x 2010 Mac Pro 12-core 3.33Ghz, 32Gb RAM, 2x 120Gb SSD, 1x 4TB HDD, etc etc) aka 'The Beast' - used for rendering contact sheets, 1080p / 4k video, exporting files, etc.; our 2x iMac 27" 2010 computers have a minimum 256Gb SSDs used for MacOS installation and programs + additional internal 2TB 7200rpm HDD; 2x MacBook Pro 15" (2014/2015, 16Gb / 512GB SSD), with 1x new MacBook Pro 15" 2017 (16Gb / 1TB) arriving next week. I would say the biggest thing holding us back is not the 2010 Mac Pro or iMac CPUs - it's the connectivity of USB 2.0 on the iMacs - our Mac Pro has a USB 3.0 / USB-C PCIe already.
    8. You'll notice the upgrade to the new MacBook Pro SSD above: glancing ahead to the future and keeping my fingers crossed that we continue to expand our studio capabilities, I cannot see how our studio system can survive on 512Gb SSDs - at least for the laptops as we quite often shoot overseas where bringing multiple external hard drives simply isn't an option.
    9. We are about to either sell the 2x iMacs or use them as secondary displays for the MacBook Pros. We've got plenty of CPU grunt, USB 3.0 / USB-C / Thunderbolt connectivity to last us moving forward now.
    To summarise that overly long breakdown: buy the fastest CPU and the biggest SSD you can afford. I would set a minimum at 512Gb for the SSD and maxing out the CPU. In this iMac case, I would strongly recommend going for the SSD route over the Fusion Drive. The performance of the Fusion Drive for what we do is simply not there and you now have 4x Thunderbolt 3 ports with which to attach either external hard drives for Raw files or whatever new Drobo is released that supports TB3 (or the 5N which I think supports TB2 - in which case, use the Apple TB to USB-C adapter).

    Hope this helps in some weird, convoluted way...;)
  16. chicagofan00 macrumors regular

    Apr 4, 2010
    Some good notes for sure!

    Your use case is of course completely different as I am just an amateur photog that likes to take photos when time allows as well as when the opportunities present itself with the kiddos. Sounds to me like you are running a studio, etc. and of course need the ability to access the catalogs on the go whereas I won't need that. As well as your catalogs appear to grow exponentially with each passing month.

    You do have me questioning going with the 512GB SSD though as the catalog files can get rather large over time. I'm wondering if it would be better to move that over to the Drobo as well? Would there be a noticeable performance dip in Lightroom of done that way? I would assume so since the internal SSD would of course be the optimal way to go but ok curious to actual real world usage versus just pure performance testing numbers.
  17. pixelatedscraps macrumors 6502


    Jul 11, 2017
    Hong Kong
    You absolutely want to keep your work-in-progress LR catalogs on your main drive, and preferably an SSD. On our iMacs we install Dropbox on the D: (7200RPM HDDs) because the SSDs are too small. Performance takes a hit as a result, though not as much as the pain of using USB 2.0 for rendering contact sheets or exporting images.

    If you aren't archiving LR catalog files (with Standard & Smart Previews + Backup, these can be huge. We've got some LR catalogs that are 15Gb+!), I would go for a 1TB SSD. If, however, you keep an external drive and a NAS / Drobo, you should be more than fine with a 512GB. That said, I would always go for bigger and faster if you can afford it.
  18. mpe macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2010
    If using Lightroom & Photoshop and have a huge catalogue, get the Fusion. The SSD-only won't get you any performance benefit over Fusion as the bottleneck is on the CPU which is magnitude slower than I/O. When you start experimenting with clunky external drives it could be actually worse and require manual file management which is always better to avoid.

    pure SSD is great, but can quite become very small if working with large media libraries.

    The Fusion works actually very well in Lightroom workload. Catalogue and fresh RAWs and previews always stays on the SSD due to constant use, while older RAWs are demoted to HDD which is likely what you would be doing if were using an external drive.

    Personally I am using fusion drive, although my SSD is 512GB and HDD is 6TB. Even my previous 2TB fusion was great in Lightroom.
  19. grad macrumors regular

    Jun 2, 2014
    I don't even know how this is an argument. You always go with the SSD, the larger/faster the better. You can always connect a usb/thunderbolt additional cheaper external storage if needed.
  20. Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2014
    The iMac 2/3TB Fusion only has a 128GB SSD, so I would be cautious in recommending that to a intensive LR workflow. The catalog preview irdata can get very huge for 1:1 previews with high MP RAWs, also the cache takes some space, and the OS and apps, 128GB can be easily exceeded.
  21. snowtrooper1966, Jul 23, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017

    snowtrooper1966 thread starter macrumors regular


    Oct 13, 2011
    Clarksburg, WV
    Good info (albeit somewhat conflicting at times, LOL)
    Now on the table additionally is a 512 SSD coupled with a G-Tech Thunderbolt 3 external 4TB drive, as it fits in the budget and is available through the Apple website, since my BTO will be purchased with Apple store credit.


    The big conundrum here is vs the 3TB Fusion, where likely all the RAW files will be on the SATA portion, how much faster will it be vs the external's 40Gb/s I/O

    It's a no brainer that the fastest solution right this moment will be the 1TB SSD, but I'm operating on the notion that it may be a year or so before being able to add an external if going with the 1TB SSD or Fusion Drive options, which may actually be a good thing as I see no Thunderbolt 3 SSD drives available (other than RAID, a completely separate rabbit hole
    I'm sure I don't need to go down, LOL) at the moment...

    Last consideration is if going with the 3TB Fusion, would be able to add AppleCare + now.
  22. Chancha, Jul 23, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017

    Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2014
    TB3 is massively overkill for single platter HDD enclosure. The only benefit with enclosures like that G-DRIVE is with its dual TB3 ports and the extra USB-C port, so the extra bandwidth of the port is reserved for devices down the daisy chain from this enclosure on. I would say at least a dual platter HDD array in RAID-0 (or SSD) to even begin considering necessitating TB3, if not 4+ enclosures at RAID-5. Get a cheap generic USB3 for immediate storage need, only think of speedier options if you truly run into performance issues with accessing RAWs from this drive.

    I would also say 512SSD is a safe choice to make, true the space may not be as plentiful as the 1TB, but for price conscious scenarios you get to save that difference towards better / bigger external HDDs. The 1TB is also not going to be enough for everything anyway. I myself did choose the 1TB SSD option with my iMac 2017 but it was only because my employer agreed to the cost of it, not necessarily due to the cost effectiveness (and much less so with 2TB). But of course if you feel the need to future-proofing the iMac purchase then 1TB is a sound investment.
  23. mpe macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2010
    Fresh/least recently RAWs and ACR cache will most likely end up on the SSD with the fusion no matter what.

    The speed of the drive with RAWs doesn't really matter that much. The fastest quad-core CPU in iMac can decode roughly one 36mpx RAW every two seconds. Even the crappy 5400rpm can easily saturate the CPU. Lightroom is not I/O bound and there is very little difference even if you use external 100mbps NAS for bulk RAW storage. The important is to have the catalogue and RAW cache on the SSD and have writes cached on SSD, which is something Fusion drive does well.

    The reason why the SSD is so much better than HDD isn't the high I/O speed, but its because the SSD is hiding I/O latencies for small writes (reduce wait for I/O time for small writes which can't be RAM cached to avoid data corruption). This is something even the crappiest 32GB fusion can do quite well.
  24. MacGizmo macrumors 65816


    Apr 27, 2003
    There is absolutely no case to be made for Fusion drives anymore—other than cost-savings at purchase time. None. If you're looking for ANY other justification, there is none.
  25. mpe, Jul 23, 2017
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2017

    mpe macrumors 6502

    Sep 3, 2010
    Sure. But but it's still a big one.

    2TB SSD is +$1400 compared to 2TB fusion and there is no 3TB+ SSD-only option (I really wish there was).

    256GB and 512GB SSD and even 1TB are way too small (for me). I could probably live with 1/2TB, but would need to move older masters to archive drive which I am reluctant to do as it is convenient to have all my catalogue available at any point.

    I am running custom built fusion (512GB SSD + 6TB HDD) with growing 2TB Lightroom catalogue and there is simply no alternative (other than clunky external enclosures/SAN boxes and manual file management).

    For people having media libraries photo editing, fusion drive offers huge saving with little or no disadvantages. And for many users it is simply no brainer. Definitely better than surviving on a tiny 256GB SSD. That is arguably the worst storage option...

Share This Page