WHY SSD over fusion? The "for dummies" version please.

Discussion in 'iMac' started by ssledoux, May 2, 2019.

  1. ssledoux macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #1
    I've posted the question in a few threads, and I've searched the boards and read stuff that makes no sense to me, but for a basic user, WHY is the SSD better, and how much more practical, really, is it to get 256 SSD versus 1TB fusion?

    Also, while you're at explanations for dummies, should I be looking at only the hz, or also the cores? I did find a refurb on Apple (in my price range) with SSD, but it's only a dual core, and I'm assuming I don't want to go there (I think this 10yo one I'm typing on is a dual core).

    I just don't know what I should be willing to give up to get SSD while trying to stay within a reasonable price range (somewhere around $1200 or so if possible).
     
  2. Starfia macrumors 6502a

    Starfia

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    #2
    Hi, ssledoux,

    I think Phil Schiller's original explanation – from when the Fusion Drive was introduced – is still the best one. If you're just trying to understand the basic difference and you only have five minutes to spend doing it, spend them watching that introduction here:



    My last two iMacs have had Fusion Drives, and they've been great for me – near the performance of Flash, like he says. If you're just in the market for a new iMac to rely on for at least the next few years, and don't care too much about the bleeding edge or the technical stuff, the Fusion Drive should be fine. As you saw if you watched, that means your iMac will literally contain both some Flash storage and a spinning hard drive, but to your eyes and ears and sense of time, there's not a huge difference. There's a small one, but not a huge one. To some geeks who want the latest and greatest, abandoning the spinning hard drive (even when it means abandoning the large capacity too) is worth spending hundreds of dollars on.

    These days, you should also care about the cores. More Mac apps take advantage of delegating their computational tasks to multiple cores today than ever, so four cores instead of two is a pretty big deal.
     
  3. Banglazed, May 2, 2019
    Last edited: May 2, 2019

    Banglazed macrumors demi-god

    Banglazed

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    #3
    To put it short, fusion drive is basically a fused flash storage (SSD) and hard drive. This fused partition drive will gain a higher performance because the flash storage will increase the average speed compared to a regular hard drive (5400-7200RMP HDD).The issue is that the flash storage is limited to 24 GB, 32GB or 128GB flash storage and plus the hard drive (1TB). The limited SSD capacity will be used mostly by the OS and transfer between the drives. There is a possibility it can be unlinked in the future. The HDD portion may die slowly and may not show in diagnostic until it completely failed. However, you will get SSHD speed. HDD is mechnical and more likely to cause heat and result in data loss due to failure. Performance is not consistent as SSD.

    More on fusion drive and fixing it if unlinked https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT207584

    To rank performance:
    1. SSD - best performance, costly, limited storage
    2. SSHD or fusion drive - better performance, less costly, higher storage
    3. HDD - great performance, cheaper, highest storage
     
  4. mikehalloran macrumors 65816

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    #4
    iMacs

    Fusion:
    Tiny fast SSD does the boot up and swaps files in and out of the HDD (mechanical hard drive) running less than 1/20 the speed of the SSD. The Mac OS makes the decisions—the user has no independent control over the process.

    Pros: Fast boot up. Cheap. If you browse the web, do word processing, email, watch YouTube videos etc., you would notice little or no difference between the two ever.

    Cons: If you work with certain types of large files or you have filled up the drive, things get sloooooow. You have a mechanical motor generating heat. Beginning 2013, this was less of an issue when Apple started using slower, cooler HDDs. In 2015, the drives got even slower and ran cooler to increase reliability.

    HDDs wear out but they can be replaced with SATA III SSDs (about 1/6 speed of NVMe 3 x4 blades). The best course is to just remove the HDD and upgrade the NVMe SSD to a larger one (2013-14; 2017-2019), larger and faster (2015)

    SSDs: Beginning in 2013, Apple began using NVMe 2 blade type processors — look like RAM chips — in the PCIe bus for SSD storage. In 2015, the PCIe bus got faster to 3 x4 but the blade didn't in the iMac. In 2017, Apple began using NVMe 3 x4 blades and still do. Dirty little secret: Replacing the NVMe 2 blade with an NVMe 3 x4 in a 2015 iMac boosts it to near 2017 speeds.

    Pros: Fast. Speed doesn't degrade. If processing large files on your boot drive, it can't be hampered by swapping out to a slow HDD.

    Cons: Price. That's it.
    --- Post Merged, May 2, 2019 ---
    I don't agree with 3. Mediocre performance — better than my G5.

    My morning routine begins with rebooting my iMac and automatically opening the apps I need and logging into certain sites. I must start with a reboot or certain databases do not organize properly which takes time.

    My 2010 iMac i7
    Original WD Black HDD: When I was running from an HHD, I'd start up, have breakfast and coffee, return to the desk in 20 minutes to see if I was ready to work. Compared to my earlier G5, this was a big improvement.

    Change out to 850 EVO SATA III SSD: Boot, get fidgety if the entire process took more than 90 seconds. Never took 2 minutes.

    2017 iMac Pro

    Process now takes 30–45 seconds.

    A lot of the boot time is spent logging into web sites and the boot drive has little control over that.
     
  5. Pakaku macrumors 68020

    Pakaku

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    Aug 29, 2009
    #5
    It does perform the same speeds as an SSD, but the flash is really a crutch for the hard-drive, which comes with all of the usual hard-drive downsides like physical wear-and-tear over time (one benefit to that is harddrives are cheaper per gigabyte, so you could theoretically pay less for more storage in one single self-contained drive)

    SSDs have their own flavour of wear issues, but at least there are no moving parts (it's a Solid-State Drive) and I would assume the architecture is simpler since it's one drive that isn't swapping between two pieces but I'm not really sure about that
     
  6. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 68000

    nambuccaheadsau

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    #6
    A late model 1TB Fusion (2015+) has a tiny 24 or 32GB Flash Drive, not even large enough to store the system software, let alone often used applications
     
  7. ssledoux thread starter macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #7
    Okay so I’m seeing that 2019 1 TB fusion drives have a small amount of SSD, so you’d have to go to a 2TB if you want more SSD.

    Is there any way to tell what is what with a refurb? Like will it break down the fusion drive specs somewhere so I could see what’s what?

    Crap I just noticed in the post above that it’s 2015 iMacs and up.

    But if I found a 2TB in a refurb would I be able to see how much SSD?

    Honestly, I’d just rather not have to add an external drive, but idk if I can even afford to bump to 512 SSD; I’m likely gonna need more storage than that, and certainly more than the 256 that’s closer in line with my budget.
     
  8. niteflyr macrumors 6502a

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    #8
    It's been widely reported that the 2TB Fusion drives, and larger, have a 128GB SSD.
     
  9. nambuccaheadsau macrumors 68000

    nambuccaheadsau

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  10. curmudgeonette, May 2, 2019
    Last edited: May 2, 2019

    curmudgeonette macrumors 6502

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    California
    #10
    Storage drives have gotten so big that a consumer can only fill them up if they are storing videos, lots of music, or a huge number of photos.

    The price of a small SSD has dropped below the minimum possible hard drive price. (A collection of a few chips is cheaper than a precision mechanical device.)

    SSD's are so much faster than HDD's.

    Therefore, a consumer with modest storage needs should get a small SSD.

    A professional, for whom time is money, should get large SSD's up to the limit of their individual cost benefit analysis. A faster SSD will allow them to do more work, thus earning more money, and paying off the increased cost of the SSD.

    For a consumer (like the OP) who wants to store a large amount of rarely accessed data, it makes sense to have a small SSD for their system to run on, and a large HDD to store the archived data. In other words, the OP is a perfect user of a Fusion drive.

    An additional consideration is that current iMac's are quite difficult to open up. If an HDD suffers a mechanical failure, it is not a simple process of popping in a replacement. Therefore, you may want a small internal SSD, and a large external HDD.

    Also, a Fusion drive has two parts. A failure in either will cause the loss of data across both*. Therefore, they are less reliable than a single drive.

    * Apple could have designed Fusion to keep a parallel file system on each drive, or to use the SSD merely as a cache of the hard drive. Instead they chose a convoluted but easy to implement block swapping design.

    ...

    For long term archival storage, in my opinion, the only answer is HDD's. Data on SSD's needs to be rewritten every now and then**. As long as an SSD is hooked to a computer and actively used, the normal wear leveling algorithm will take care of this rewriting need. However, do not put an SSD on a shelf and expect to recover all the data in twenty years. This is especially true of USB Flash sticks which may have inferior algorithms in their controllers. An HDD is fine for such intervals, however it is at much higher environmental risk. Therefore, replicate the same data into several HDD's and store them separately.

    ** SSD's store data as just a few electrons trapped in an insulated cube. Eventually they can "leak" out, or others may "leak" in.
     
  11. ssledoux thread starter macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #11
    ^ Very informative - thank you!
    --- Post Merged, May 3, 2019 ---
    Okay so right now I'm using an old iMac with a 512 HDD. Old as in mid-2010. It just doesn't seem like it takes THAT long to boot up and get going as others have said. I haven't timed it, and of course a lot of the time I just put it to sleep instead of shutting it off, but it's not THAT slow.

    It also isn't mine - it's my daughter's - but she has really only used it for photo storage for the last couple years, so she moved it to my house. It's been here for months, and I just decided to bring it in and use it to see if I'd like to go back to having a desktop.

    So if this is a 3.06 ghz intel core i3 with a 512 HDD (that has 71 gigs free, but has almost 300 gbs of photos and videos stored on the hard drive), I'm gonna see a pretty huge difference in performance in anything 2017 and up, correct?

    I'm not gonna go less than quad-core for sure, but with the current iMac's stats, I'm thinking if I'm looking at 2017 refurbs, and I stick with quad-core and either 256 SSD or fusion, I'm gonna have massive improvements over this, correct?

    Honestly, if it weren't for the "fuzzy" look to the screen/text, and not being able to update this to current software, I could probably save everything I was worried about to an external drive and keep using this.
     
  12. Benz63amg macrumors 68030

    Benz63amg

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    Oct 17, 2010
    #12
    Too many bashers bashing the Fusion drive in this thread pretending to know better than Apple. You people should be ashamed of yourselves for making it sound like the Fusion is a terrible choice no matter what the individual’s needs are. Enjoy your 512gb of Limited storage space. I mean seriously.. just because 512gb of storage is enough for you doesn’t mean it’s enough for others and there’s a reason why Apple offers the 2Tb and 3Tb Fusion Drive storage options.
    I do agree that the 1TB fusion drive is not the best choice due to it having a substantially smaller SSD Portion when compared to the 2TB fusion drive which boasts a much larger 128GB SSD Portion which is more than enough to store the main operating system files and data for optimal performance.
     
  13. ssledoux thread starter macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #13
    I know I likely don't need 1TB, much less 2TB, but 256 SSD is gonna be a struggle, and I cannot really afford 512. I still have no clue what I'm gonna do.
     
  14. whooleytoo macrumors 604

    whooleytoo

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    Cork, Ireland.
    #14
    Apart from the obvious speed vs price, is the 'moving parts' element still a factor?

    Do hard disks (such as in a Fusion drive) still have a greater chance of failure when dropped (I assume there are some shock-detection mechanisms built in these days)?
    Do spinning disks have a higher power-draw, impacting battery life?

    Noise I'd assume is no longer a factor, I remember on older machines you could hear/feel the click of the mechanism and the drives spinning up.
     
  15. ssledoux thread starter macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #15
    I'm sure you aren't asking me, since I am not really "up" on this stuff anyway (obviously), but I'm using this mid-2010, and honestly, other than when it's booting up, I hear nothing. It's just a basic HDD.
     
  16. mj_ macrumors 6502

    mj_

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    #16
    Then get the 1TB or 2TB Fusion Drive and stop worrying about it ;) People on these forums are strongly biased towards SSDs but in reality most people won't notice the difference or won't care even if they do. Yes, every now and then you'll have to wait a few seconds for an application to launch but it's really not a big deal. Especially if you never shutdown your systems but only put it to sleep, thereby keeping applications in resident memory.

    Yes, all that is still true. However, if you drop an iMac you've got bigger problems then the hard drive :D
     
  17. ssledoux thread starter macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #17
    So do I go 2019 or go home? Or is a 2017 refurb a good choice?
     
  18. Benz63amg macrumors 68030

    Benz63amg

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    #18
    Get a new 2019 would be my recommendation.
     
  19. ssledoux thread starter macrumors 65816

    ssledoux

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    #19
    Benefits of going that route over refurb? Legit question. I generally am about going for the newest thing, but I wonder if there's a legit reason for me to do that in this case.
     
  20. Benz63amg macrumors 68030

    Benz63amg

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    #20
    Because it’s a new device. A refurb might be a device someone returned or it might be a device that was plagued with issues and was repaired by Apple therefore I wouldn’t recommend you go the refurb route.
     
  21. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #21
    "WHY SSD over fusion? The "for dummies" version please."

    OK, the "for dummies" answer:
    Speed.
    (that's it)
     
  22. SecuritySteve macrumors 6502a

    SecuritySteve

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    California
    #22
    I just purchased a refurb iMac Pro, if I wasn't told it was a refurb, I wouldn't know.

    I've just been reading your posts and from what you're saying, I doubt you need the latest and greatest. If a 2010 has been "working" for you up until now, a 2017 will likely last you until 2026.

    Pick the option that seems most affordable to you.
     
  23. AlaskaMoose macrumors 68000

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    Alaska
    #23
    I would not buy an iMac not even with a 512GB SSD. It's too small, and overpriced.
     
  24. SecuritySteve macrumors 6502a

    SecuritySteve

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    #24
    There's a double negative here. Are you saying you wouldn't buy an iMac with any configuration because they are over priced, or that you need an SSD greater than 512GB in order to consider an iMac, or that you would only consider Fusion drives?
     
  25. SkiHound2 macrumors regular

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    Jul 15, 2018
    #25
    I'd agree. Fusion drives get bashed on these forums, and SSDs clearly have advantages. But lots and lots of folks are happily using iMacs with Fusion drives. I had a 2012 Mini with a 1TB fusion drive (at that time it had 128gb of SSD). It booted fast and quickly loaded programs I'd been using. On occasions when I opened a rarely used application that was not on the SSD, load times were notably slower. But it worked pretty darn well. Some folks are fine working with a 256GB ssd and some are content to use a 128GB SSD. But it's not for everyone. I would try to upgrade to the 2TB drive because it has 128GB SSD and I think that's a pretty big advantage over the 32GB in the current 1TB fusion drives.
     

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25 May 2, 2019