Why the Hate for Fusion Drives?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by whodatrr, Oct 29, 2015.

  1. whodatrr, Oct 29, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015

    whodatrr macrumors 6502a

    whodatrr

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    Jan 12, 2004
    #1
    Really, I don't get why almost everyone holds Fusion drives in such distain. Personally, I found that the 3TB drive on my late 2012 provided stellar performance. So, when it was time to upgrade to a new 5K, I ordered another 3TB Fusion drive. The way that Apple implements this technology is very nice - it does actually provide SSD read levels of performance for 95% of the stuff I need, and write levels to keep up with just about any source I can read from. And this year's Fusion drive performance is about twice as fast as my late 2012 iMac.

    My Results - I just ran Black Magic on my new system and got 1750 MB/s reads and 670 MB/s writes. That's within 5% of Apple's claimed reads for SSD, and while the writes are slower, it's more than enough to keep up with any data source I'll throw at it. About the only time you'll feed the difference between a Fusion Drive and an SSD is on the day you buy it, because that's when you'll be migrating over your old system (Mine was around 1.25TB). After that, you'll mostly be reading from SSD or writing to a buffer. I have lots of SSD systems, and I will say that Fusion drives are fast, especially the latest release... screaming fast!

    Capacity is Nice - Briefly, I tried migrating to a 512 SSD. Moving my iTunes and photo libraries over was a pain. And guess what, the noticeable performance of those external volumes would be worse than on the Fusion Drive. Plus managing what lives where and how it gets backed up was more complicated. With data types like 4k video becoming more common, capacity is important. It was a bad tradeoff for me, but YMMV.

    SSDs are an expensive proposition - OK, if you're the type of person who only has enough data to fill a 256GB SSD, then an SSD is a no-brainer. 512GB, maybe? But if you're going to need 1TB, or more with external volumes, SSDs get costly fast. The option to switch from 3TB Fusion to a 1TB drive costs about $600. This is $600 for a drive that offers roughly the same read times, will write as fast as most data sources you throw at it, and has 1.3 the capacity of the big Fusion. Then, if you have or will have more data than that capacity supports (like me)m you'll need to add an external drive. Yeah, you could just throw a spinner off the back, but that'd be painfully slow. So you'll need to pony up for an external 1TB SSD (~$400). Now, we're at an extra $1,000, yes we still don't have the capacity of the 3TB Fusion - you'd have to throw down another $400 for that. Yep, $1,400 for a storage solution that will pretty much provide the same read and capacity of a Fusion drive. And while writes will theoretically be faster, most will probably almost never really feel the difference.

    I'm not saying SSDs are bad - I use them almost exclusively. Apple's Fusion drives, specifically on my iMac, are my one exception to that rule. The tech if brilliant, transparent, and flawless. And the latest rev of these drives, like with their SSDs, provides almost a 2x bump in performance.

    Again, if your data deeds are so modest that a 256 or 512 SSD can meet your needs today and 3yrs from now, then an SSD is a no brainier. But if you're data needs are more than that, and you're buying an SSD because you think it'll feel faster than a Fusion drive, I'd suggest giving Fusion drives another look.

    Speeds and feeds are interesting reads, but often they're only that. Chasing benchmarks can be a costly pro

    Flame on... LOL
     
  2. AznTakumi macrumors regular

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    #2
    I hate the new 1T fusion drive because it only comes with 32gb of SSD versus last year model that came with 128gb of SSD.
     
  3. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #3
    I only think the new 1TB Fusion Drive is getting any hate because of the 24GB SSD?
     
  4. whodatrr thread starter macrumors 6502a

    whodatrr

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    #4
    Good point - the 2TB and 3TB drives are the way to go. I guess I can understand Apple skimping with the small SSD on the 1TB, but I don't understand why they still sell models that just have spinners?

    But the main reason I posted this is because I saw so many people discussing how to migrate to a smaller drive, in order to improve performance. I think there's widespread suspicion that a Fusion drive is more sinner than SSD, when the vast majority of users will probably experience SSD performance 95% of the time.

     
  5. codySLR macrumors newbie

    codySLR

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    Oct 22, 2015
    #5
    Hate for the 1TB, yeah, but the general consensus here seems to be that going with the pure SSD option is a no-brainer. This post argues against that, and I tend to agree. However, I did just watch a video someone posted here the other day which suggests the Fusion Drive SSD is only 1/3 as fast as the pure SSD option. I'm sure someone can confirm if this is the case... anyone?
     
  6. whodatrr, Oct 29, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015

    whodatrr thread starter macrumors 6502a

    whodatrr

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    #6
    The latest Black Magic run that I did came in at 1750 MB/s read, which is pretty much what Apple claims for their SSD reads (they claim 1800 MB/s). And read speeds are what's going to be notice for us, 90% of the time. So really, no difference there. And those speeds are blazing fast compared to last year's pure SSD performance, as well as what most of the PC vendors are offering.

    Write speeds are slower (mine was 670 MB/s), but that's still screaming fast. fact is that most would have trouble finding source media that could read that fast, so it's a spec that's nice for benchmarks but may be meaningless in real life.

    But yes, if your source media is larger than the SSD buffer that Apple sets aside, you'll write at spinner speeds. I suspect that most of us will rarely be sucking over that much data, aside from our initial data migration. And yeah, reads from files we don't often access will be slower, but still a heck of a lot faster than they would be if they accessed over a network/cloud or from a USB drive attached to the back of your iMac.

    I think that most users get frustrated with slow drives when they're doing repetitive things like" opening MSOffice, firing up iTunes/iPhoto, starting Photoshop, launching a game, browsing a photo library. And these activities will feel as fast on a Fusion drive as withe a spinner. While accessing that HD movie that you haven't watched in a year may be slower on a Fusion drive than a pure SSD, it;ll be a heck of a lot faster than pulling that movie up form your NAS or a USB drive.

     
  7. T'hain Esh Kelch macrumors 601

    T'hain Esh Kelch

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    #7
    Of course you'll get excellent speeds when reading from the SSD directly. But this is not the case when you have to read from the HDD first.

    It really depends on how you use the drive for data.
     
  8. Evil Spoonman macrumors 6502

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    #8
    Fusion Drive is a transitional technology. Until NAND has achieved a sufficient value:capacity ratio, Fusion Drive is incredibly pragmatic.

    The Fusion Drive experience is biased one way or the other depending on the size of the SSD. The smaller the SSD, the less frequently things are located there, and the more your experience feels like a mechanical disk. 128GB is not a bad inflection point for most people's working sets. 256GB is a very smooth and almost universally SSD-like experience.

    The main source of pain with this subject is the new 24GB SSD /1TB 5400RPM HDD Fusion Drive combination. For all but the most casual of users, this is going to be a horrible configuration. The SSD will not store a large working set and when you have to go to spinning rust that disk is incredibly slow.

    I wish Apple had a more diverse array of Fusion Drive options - I would recommend a 256GB SSD + 7200RPM 2TB HDD. That seems like a price/performance sweet spot to me. Overall Fusion Drive is a great technology, its implementation is just a little weak because of the configurations Apple has decided to certify.
     
  9. Tanax macrumors 6502a

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    #9
    I don't have anything against Fusion Drive's speed - my gripe with them is that they still have a spinning HDD component in them that generates more heat, more noise and that its performance degrades with time.

    Judging by your post it seems that your only issues with SSDs are mainly that you need more storage capacity than the 256 GB and even the 512 GB models and that SSDs become too expensive if you need 1 TB. I absolutely wholeheartedly agree - 1 TB SSD is outrageously expensive. I'd argue that even the 512 GB is too expensive right now.

    However, if you need that much storage, I'd say that you're not storing your files properly where they belong. For instance, in your case, I'd store my iPhoto (Photos) library in iCloud. Music I'd either use Spotify and/or Apple Music and/or store them on a NAS. Same with movies, using NAS and/or Netflix/Viaplay/HBO/etc. When doing that, I think you'll get MUCH more available space on your Fusion Drive and that the transition to a full-SSD solution will be much easier.

    This is of course assuming you're an average user and not using the computer for work-related things. If you're doing that, it's a whole different thing. But this of course boils down to personal preference, if you don't have a NAS or don't want a NAS, and don't want to use any of the many cloud solutions that already exists, you'll obviously need much more space on your computer. SSDs might not be for everyone but I think that 99% of all average users could adapt to them.
     
  10. whodatrr, Oct 29, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015

    whodatrr thread starter macrumors 6502a

    whodatrr

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    #10
    Agreed 100% that it's transitional. A few years from now, spinners will be about as common as cathode ray tubes. But until the technology makes capacity affordable, it's a nice option.

    Yeah, I would have liked to see a 256GB/3TB this time around, and I would have paid more for it. But the 128 cache served me well on my late 2012 iMac, and according to Black Magic, my 2015 will be a lot better. Still, I'm surprised that Apple went with a smaller cache for their 1TB, vs bigger caches all around. I'm guessing someone at Apple thought selling SSDs would bump their margins?

     
  11. whodatrr thread starter macrumors 6502a

    whodatrr

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    #11
    Different strokes. While I won't accuse you of storing your data improperly, my approach is different. I absolutely use lots of streaming services as well as cloud archives and backup offerings. But for some data I find NAS and the cloud painfully slow. Cloud aside, the best theoretical NAS performance I can get is 1/14th the speeds I'm reading at locally (14,000 Mb vs. 1,000Mb ethernet). This dives if I'm retrieving from the spinner, but still dramatically faster than over the wire. And my cloud connection is fairly good for here (300Mb), but my local disk is 46x faster - and that's assuming the cloud vendor and my ISP are giving me their undivided attention.

    Bigger point is, the way I use this data, I want it close. I'm making videos, editing videos, working on projects, etc. But YMMV. There is really no proper or improper way of doing this.

     
  12. Tanax macrumors 6502a

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    #12
    Yep, like I said, different people - different needs :)
     
  13. antipodean macrumors member

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    May 2, 2014
    #13
    I went with 1TB SSD (both for my 2013 and now 2015 iMacs) and have to agree that the extra cost did sting a little. Having said that 1 TB is plenty for my needs and I like three things about pure flash vs fusion: 1. the silent operation, 2. the lack of moving parts (perceived lower failure rate) and 3. full speed in bootcamp Windows.

    As many have said the value of these things will vary by user and ultimately budget.
     
  14. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

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    UK
    #14
    My observation over the years is that Fusion haters come in different types.

    People who don't understand how it works

    Of course, they'll never admit that their knowledge of Fusion technology comes from skimming threads written by other people who also don't know how the technology works. Characterised by quotes such as "Oh, it'll be fast alright. Until you fill the SSD part and then it will crawl for the rest of time." There is a sub-group who will buy a fusion drive and split it into two because no software could manage the drive as well as they could.

    History Deniers

    Or just unaware of history. These people believe that all we did in the old days (before SSD) was spend our lives replacing hard disks. They find it impossible to believe that hard disks had to have some high levels of reliability in order to be so successful. Characterised by quotes such as "oh, it will be fast, but you just wait until the spinner dies", "I ain't having no moving thing in my computer" Also likely to claim that an SSD will fix everything wrong about your computer - was fine yesterday, slow today? Fit an SSD. Screen funny? Get an SSD into that bad boy.

    'Professionals'

    I quoted this, because I'm aware that there are real people on this forum who have a real need for speedy access to storage. Others are probably only professional benchmark obsessives. Likely to be heard saying "my time is precious, that's why a 20 second update from sleep is unacceptable."


    A characteristic shared by all types is a passionate belief that they're right and anyone who disagrees with them is as obsolete as the 'spinners' they deride. They would call Fusion advocates Luddites if they didn't have to go and look up the term first.
     
  15. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #15
    I think overall the idea of the fusion drive is great and people do like them. That was up until when Apple updated the iMac line and cut the flash storage from 128GB to 24GB. Now the flash storage is only large enough to hold the OS and maybe a few files. Basically you pay for a fusion drive but in reality only get a 5400 rpm hard drive.
     
  16. joema2 macrumors 65816

    joema2

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    #16
    Correct. FD is essentially a cache. It doesn't fill up then slow down. You can have vastly more data than will fit into the SSD and it can still be fast if if your "locality of reference" fits within the cache: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Locality_of_reference

    That is how all caches work. We don't moan and groan because our Intel CPUs only have 128 kbytes of L1 cache, and say it's only fast if the program is less than 128 kbytes in size. The task of a cache and associated logic is to maintain the best possible hit ratio for the given access pattern. In general FD (at least the 128GB versions) seem to do a good job at that.
     
  17. Buerkletucson, Oct 29, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015

    Buerkletucson macrumors 6502

    Buerkletucson

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    #17
    I purchased the 1TB SSD because I want the best experience possible............and I don't regret purchasing it one bit.
    It's lightening fast on everything and I don't ever need to be concerned about using up the Fusion drives SS buffer and slowing things down.

    Yes I need a lot of storage space that's why I have (2) 10TB Thunderbolt 2 RAID1 mirror drives (5TB ea) that I store all my huge amounts of data. But things I work on every day and all my current projects are held locally (and backed up) so I can get the best performance all the time.

    To each his own, but the cost of the 1TB SSD was well worth it for me.



    btw - PLEASE stop with the percentage "statistics" numbers......(i.e. 95%....99%). This is complete BS and has absolutely no basis but your personal opinion, that is being presented as fact. If these numbers are indeed true, show me the facts to back it up please.
    Thanks....
     
  18. JustMartin macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    Yeah, I like the Fusion 1Tb a lot less because you only get a small SSD portion. On the other hand I'm wondering whether it could actually just sound small rather than be too small. If you rarely rebooted, how much of the OS would remain on the SSD over time? I wish there was a way of identifying which blocks lived where.
     
  19. maflynn Moderator

    maflynn

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    #19
    I believe the design of the drive is that the OS is on the flash storage, and the OS is continually being accessed. There are frameworks, kexts and other portions of the OS that are actively being retrieved AFAIK.

    Even if the OS isn't on the flash storage, 24GB is tiny and will not hold a fraction of what I work on, so either way its a bad option.
     
  20. fa8362 macrumors 65816

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    #20
    If and when that Fusion drive fails, you will feel differently about Fusion. I use internal drives for software, not data. So I don't need (or want) a fusion drive. With the exception of 1 external SSD for Lightroom previews, I use inexpensive external traditional spinning hard drives for data. And when I buy a new computer, I won't have to buy any external drives because I already have them.
     
  21. roadkill401 macrumors 6502

    roadkill401

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    #21
    I will say that I am not a Fusion hater. I don't own one, and decided to go with a 512 as it was available on a refurb machine.

    There are however those of us who have spent the time to understand how the system works. It really falls into the same category as large drive cache that was part of higher end server raid controllers. They do work well to a point, but as a drive fills they can become less and less effective. You are dealing with a pre-emtive hit ratio and best guess as to what data will be wanted next.

    You are trying to let a piece of software inside the OS decide onto what it thinks is important and with the lack of published logic behind it you can play out the scenarios.

    For example:

    A person has a fusion drive filled with 300gb of data. They have an itunes library that is 150gb in size, and listen to thier music on a daily basis. The whole drive is simply too large to fit onto the SSD part of the fusion, so what happens? The user does average home use documents, surfs the internet, and plays a few games.

    - Does the software know or understand that although the itunes library gets accessed on a regular basis, there is no need for it to be located on the SSD?
    - how much free space is left on the SSD portion for writes? does it have some AI to know how much space is needed for this user, or is it a fixed amount?
    - Does it put all the apps onto SSD to speed up loading of all apps even though many will never get used? How about the libraries or the web cache?

    Sure, a fusion drive does offer a whole load of advantages in the form a whole load of storage for a relatively cheeper price. For the average user it makes a load of sense in they can have everything in one box that looks tidy and no bother. If you are a user who doesn't keep a whole bunch of files, then it would be more logical and faster if your storage needs can be more than met by a 512ssd to go pure ssd. If you are a buisness or IT type person, then more than likely you will have an external drive hooked up to your iMac anyways as you will be logical and back things up. So if you are already compartmentalizing everything, going to an SSD only with external storage for older documents or data that is not required all the time might be faster to do it yourself.

    It all comes down to knowing your own needs and how much you want to put into it as that controls what you get out.
     
  22. twilexia, Oct 29, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2015

    twilexia macrumors 6502

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    #22
    I think it's interesting that almost everyone who has a fusion drive likes it (from what I've seen on this forum) while everyone who doesn't have it seems to hate it. One IT guy in my office absolutely hates it, but he's never even used one before.

    I'd be really curious to hear from someone who HAS/HAD a fusion drive, but HATES it. That's the kind of opinion I'd want to see in this debate. People with Fusion drives and love them suffer from confirmation bias of their choice. They will overlook slight flaws in favor of the expanded storage and value. People with SSDs also suffer from confirmation bias because they chose to pay a premium for the SSD and will trash anything else into oblivion.

    In my research I haven't seen anything that shows Fusion drive less or more reliable than the SSD + external drive. Sure, a single SSD drive is more reliable than a hybrid drive, but the minute you slap an external drive into your workflow, your chances of suffering catastrophic failure/loss of data is more or less the same. And there are some who argue that it's easier to rescue a HDD than a SSD.

    So let's stop with the heat comparisons, the "Fusion Drive is outdated" comparison, the "I don't want a spinning hard drive in my PC" argument and the "Fusion drive is louder" argument. Also let's stop talking about the 1TB/24GB SSD as it is well-agreed that this is by far the most inferior option and not even worth considering.

    The primary question is, and I ask this to fusion drive owners who have used the fusion drive with 128GB SSD, have you ever suffered a moment where you stopped and thought, "damn, I wish I got the full SSD?" And I ask this to not just casual users but also gamers and professionals who produce video and audio content.
     
  23. whodatrr thread starter macrumors 6502a

    whodatrr

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    #23
    I think you hit the nail squarely on the head. The people who hate Fusion drives have never owned one.

    There's a fear of the way that OSX prioritizes data staging by those who have never seen OS X do it, while those of us who have appreciate its transparency.

    There's a fear of platter failure, when those of us who rely upon Fusion drives have had years of service without a hiccup.

    There's a fear that your powerful new iMac will not live up to its potential, when those of us who use them recognize that a pure SSD would have almost no impact upon the performance of the overall system in our daily lives.

    Fusion haters are people who "have heard something" or "Imagin something" or have looked at "some benchmark". While many of us Fusion users also incorporate SSDs into our daily lives (I personally have 6 PCs/Macs with SSDs floating around this house).

    As someone mentioned above, this is a transitional technology, and platters will eventually go the way of the do-do bird. But in this transitional period, they're a great way of saving a boatload of money and avoiding external drives, while maintaining performance.


     
  24. hifimacianer macrumors member

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    Germany
    #24
    You are wrong - in many cases people choose the 256GB SSD over the 2TB Fusion in the standard configuration of the top end iMac. The costs are the same. Also in the lower end models, there is almost no price difference between the 256GB SSD and a fusion.

    And in the end it doesn't matter if you have your data internally or on external drives, you have to make regular backups anyway. But besides the possibility that spinning HDs might fail more often than a SSD (I don't think they do), you can't deny that spinning HDs tend to be louder and slower over the time. They are even louder if they are brand new. And THAT is something many people just don't want anymore.

    Thats why I banned all of my spinning drives from my desktop.
     
  25. desmond2046 macrumors regular

    desmond2046

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    #25
    I have been very satisfied with my 2TB Fusion Drive. I have a large photo library, mainly RAW data. But I rarely open those files. To me, the Fusion Drive runs just like SSD for application but with a big capacity for storing photos.
     

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