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Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write speeds

post #1 of 107
Thread Starter 
A hands-on test with Apple's Fusion Drive inside the new Mac mini has found that the hybrid hard drive, with both solid-state flash memory and a traditional spinning hard drive, offers a significant performance boost.



Apple aims to offer the best of both worlds with Fusion Drive, available in the new Mac mini and iMac models. It offers the speed of a solid-state drive, while also enhancing capacity by including a slower but more spacious 5400-rpm spinning hard drive.

Techfast Lunch&Dinner got their hands on a 2012 Mac mini with Fusion Drive and put the hybrid hard drive through its paces to see how it stacks up against another 2012 model featuring just a standard 5400-rpm drive. Their tests found the Fusion Drive Mac mini started in just 15.7 seconds, while the 2012 Mac mini with a traditional hard drive took 34.1 seconds to start.

Major improvements were also found in a disk speed test, which revealed the Fusion Drive can achieve write speeds of more than 300 megabytes per second, and write speeds exceeding 400 megabytes per second. In comparison, the Mac mini with 5400-rpm drive couldn't exceed 100 megabytes per second on either the read or write test.

Fusion Drive was unveiled by Apple last month and is an upgrade option in the company's latest Mac minis and iMacs. Apple has said the feature offers nearly the same performance as a solid-state drive, but also allows considerably more storage at a lower price point.

Apple's Fusion Drives feature 128 gigabytes of flash storage paired with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte 5400-rpm hard drive. Apple's OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion operating system calculates which files and applications are used the most and automatically places them on the faster solid-state drive, while less frequently accessed software remains stored on the spinning drive.

Core applications and the operating system are permanently stored and accessed from the flash memory, while the leftover space is used for those frequently accessed files, folders or programs. File transfers between the drives take place in the background dynamically, so the system is seamless and unobtrusive to the user.

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller last month compared the Fusion Drive to a baseline 1TB 7200 RPM HDD. He said the Fusion drive performs an Aperture photo import 3.5 times faster, a file copy of a 4GB folder 3.5 times faster, and system boot 1.7 times faster.

Users can also create their own unofficial Fusion Drives and gain support from Mountain Lion, one developer recently discovered. Patrick Stein was able to build a hybrid drive compatible with Apple's new storage technology, proving the technology can be used with Macs that don't come preconfigured to take advantage of the functionality in Mountain Lion.
post #2 of 107
Yes, I just built mine on the 2010 13" MacBook Pro. Great!
post #3 of 107

Damn, why can't they stick a 7200 rpm drive in there?  Oh yeah, they are only that fast up to 750 gigs. 

post #4 of 107
..."Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write *times*"

Yes. Solid state drives take three times as long to read/write... I think you mean "speeds"...
post #5 of 107
File transfers between the drives take place in the background dynamically, so the system is steam less and unobtrusive to the user.
Quote:
.

"Steam less" or maybe "seamless?"
post #6 of 107

This is pathetic.  Does AppleInsider have an editor?  Maybe they should just hire writers who can write.  

post #7 of 107
It's not super-fair comparing the performance of Flash memory vs. spinny disks, it's like comparing cars to horses, who do you think is going to win? It is relevant though.

The whole model depends on your data accesses not being random, of course, which is a fair assumption for a single user system, since presumably only a crazy person would have completely random access.
post #8 of 107

A more interesting comparison would be between that of the fusion drive and a comparable SSD.

post #9 of 107
OK, so...can I take my current iMac to a Apple store and have them drop one in?
post #10 of 107
Originally Posted by eightzero View Post
OK, so...can I take my current iMac to a Apple store and have them drop one in?

 

No. And it's software, not hardware.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #11 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by DCJ001 View Post

File transfers between the drives take place in the background dynamically, so the system is steam less and unobtrusive to the user.
"Steam less" or maybe "seamless?"
What you don't have a coal-fired, steam-powered HDD on your Mac?

It really helps extend my MacBook's battery life, keeps my coffee warm in the Summer and warms my hands in the Winter. And of course the more coal you add, the faster it spins ... You want more speed, just shovel on some more fuel. Why I once got it up to 88.8 MPH ...
post #12 of 107
The original headline for this article. "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write times" (as well as the link title on Ai's main page), seemingly contradicts itself. It should probably read "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write speeds", or perhaps "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, read/write times by 2/3"...
Edited by mhej - 11/9/12 at 7:37am
post #13 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by mhej View Post

The original headline for this article. "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write times", seemingly contradicts itself. It should probably read "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write speeds", or perhaps "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, read/write times by 2/3"...

Over here at AI it is appreciated by many for posters to read the entire thread before posting. Still, welcome.
How to enter the Apple logo  on iOS:
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How to enter the Apple logo  on iOS:
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post #14 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post


What you don't have a coal-fired, steam-powered HDD on your Mac?
It really helps extend my MacBook's battery life, keeps my coffee warm in the Summer and warms my hands in the Winter. And of course the more coal you add, the faster it spins ... You want more speed, just shovel on some more fuel. Why I once got it up to 88.8 MPH ...

You know a nice compliment to that would be the gasoline powered dog polisher.

(Thanks to Steve Martin.  I steal from the best.)

post #15 of 107
Originally Posted by mhej View Post
The original headline for this article. "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write times" (as well as the link title on Ai's main page), seemingly contradicts itself. It should probably read "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, triples read/write speeds", or perhaps "Apple's Fusion Drive cuts Mac startup time in half, read/write times by 2/3"...

 

Welcome.


I can only edit forum posts, so I made the changes here for the benefit of our forum users. Otherwise I would have fixed the article itself, yeah.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #16 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

No. And it's software, not hardware.

 

Too bad, i will not be able to afford the new iMac for a bit while.

post #17 of 107
Originally Posted by Ochyming View Post
Too bad, i will not be able to afford the new iMac for a bit while.

 

It can be done TO an older Mac, however. Get an SSD and HDD in it and look for the tutorial somewhere. It's not officially supported, but it isn't buggy.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #18 of 107

This is great and all but it has "kludge" written all over it.  

 

The best knock-on effect of this is not the drive itself, but the fact that it can compete with regular SSD drives so it may in fact drive the price of them downward and their capacity upward.  

 

Of course it won't last, and of course it's just a stop-gap measure along the road towards solid state storage.  In a few years we will all be sitting around saying stuff like "Remember that weird period in the early 2010s when Apple had that weird hybrid drive thing?"  

post #19 of 107
Is there anything about a hybrid drive that an ordinary old-fashioned user needs to be aware of? Or do I just consider it as exactly the same as a single hard drive? Does it appear the same as a single hard drive to software, for example backup programs?
post #20 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

No. And it's software, not hardware.

 

The fusion drive is hardware and the software required for it is Mountain Lion 10.8.2. No reason whatsoever that the fusion drive would not work in an older Mac. 

 

As to the previous poster, no way will Apple sell you just the drive. No sir, you need to purchase a new Mac, can't have one upgrading their old machine when you could buy a new one!

iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
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iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
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post #21 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ochyming View Post

 

Too bad, i will not be able to afford the new iMac for a bit while.

You could put one in your iMac. But Apple will not sell you one. You could buy a SSD Drive online (ensure it is compatible) then ask an authorised reseller to install it along with your existing HDD. You can then create your own fusion drive via a well documented and seemingly easy terminal hack.

iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
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iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
Reply
post #22 of 107
Originally Posted by saarek View Post
The fusion drive is hardware…

 

No… it's any hard drive and any SSD…


…and the software required for it is Mountain Lion 10.8.2. No reason whatsoever that the fusion drive would not work in an older Mac.

 

Right.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already fucked.

 

Reply
post #23 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

No… it's any hard drive and any SSD…

 

Right.

 

And what is a HDD and SSD if they are not hardware? lol

iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
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iPad, Macbook Pro, iPhone, heck I even have iLife! :-)
Reply
post #24 of 107
Install SSD,
then:
- command r at start up
- Install fresh OSX on the SSD
- Boot Mac OSX from SSD, load Carbon Copy Cloner
- Make a copy to a USB Flash drive (from SSD)

Then:
- Boot from backup USB drive
- OSX loads, says drive needs repair
- Click fix
- Drives merged
- Open CCC and copy back to merged drive (from Flash drive).

and thats how i got the Fusion working with 3rd party SSD
post #25 of 107

I'm torn about the Fusion drives.  On one hand, it's nice that it's baked into the OS.  On the other, you have to backup/clone the entire drive as a unit.  I'd like to see what happens when a Fusion drive is cloned to an HDD, then back to a Fusion drive using common tools like SuperDuper.  If only to better understand what the rules are in terms of which folders are hardwired to the SSD and which are variable.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

It can be done TO an older Mac, however. Get an SSD and HDD in it and look for the tutorial somewhere. It's not officially supported, but it isn't buggy.

 

I'd like to be able to uncouple the SSD and HDD halves of a fusion drive and run benchmarks both ways to get a better feel for what the performance boost really is.  I mean, it's nice to see a comparison between the performance of a Fusion drive and a spinning HDD, but I would've also liked to see them add a straight SSD to the mix in their testing.

 

Oh, and I'd take a steampunked iMac any day of the week.  1cool.gif

   Apple develops an improved programming language.  Google copied Java.  Everything you need to know, right there.

 

  MA497LL/A FB463LL/A MC572LL/A FC060LL/A MD481LL/A MD388LL/A ME344LL/A

Reply

   Apple develops an improved programming language.  Google copied Java.  Everything you need to know, right there.

 

  MA497LL/A FB463LL/A MC572LL/A FC060LL/A MD481LL/A MD388LL/A ME344LL/A

Reply
post #26 of 107
Neat of apple combining, flash with standard hard drives, they could one day use this in all there devices, (mini standard drive on iOS).
post #27 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by jovceata View Post

Install SSD,
then:
- command r at start up
- Install fresh OSX on the SSD
- Boot Mac OSX from SSD, load Carbon Copy Cloner
- Make a copy to a USB Flash drive (from SSD)
Then:
- Boot from backup USB drive
- OSX loads, says drive needs repair
- Click fix
- Drives merged
- Open CCC and copy back to merged drive (from Flash drive).
and thats how i got the Fusion working with 3rd party SSD

Nice.

Does it appear as a single drive in OSX? Does it work with TimeMachine? What Mac did you do that on?

Thanks

post #28 of 107

So Fusion seems like a worthwhile option.  Yet, they don't offer it on the Mini Server.  I want to get a new Mini and was interested in both the Server and Fusion.  So I guess I get a regular Mini with the faster CPUs and a Fusion drive and then install the Server software myself.  Thus I have built a Mini Server with a Fusion drive, or have I?  Other than faster CPUs and dual hard drives I don't see any difference between the Server model and the plain model hardware.  Am I right or am I missing something?


Edited by WelshDog - 11/9/12 at 9:26am
post #29 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

This is great and all but it has "kludge" written all over it.  

 

The best knock-on effect of this is not the drive itself, but the fact that it can compete with regular SSD drives so it may in fact drive the price of them downward and their capacity upward.  

 

Of course it won't last, and of course it's just a stop-gap measure along the road towards solid state storage.  In a few years we will all be sitting around saying stuff like "Remember that weird period in the early 2010s when Apple had that weird hybrid drive thing?"  

Yeah, well, Live in the now.  We don't have cheap SSD storage, yet.  At the rate SSD prices are coming down, it's going to be a while until Terabyte SSD storage are in the $100 to $300 dollar range.

 

I wonder if they are going to do this with RAID for the upcoming MacPro system, since it's going to have room for many drives.

post #30 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Curtis Hannah View Post

Neat of apple combining, flash with standard hard drives, they could one day use this in all there devices, (mini standard drive on iOS).

The problem with traditional drives for iOS devices is room and battery life.  I think it's safe to say that the Fusion drive is for OS X laptops/desktops.

 

I wonder if third party storage companies are going to have external Fusion drives.

post #31 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

This is great and all but it has "kludge" written all over it.  

The best knock-on effect of this is not the drive itself, but the fact that it can compete with regular SSD drives so it may in fact drive the price of them downward and their capacity upward.  

Of course it won't last, and of course it's just a stop-gap measure along the road towards solid state storage.  In a few years we will all be sitting around saying stuff like "Remember that weird period in the early 2010s when Apple had that weird hybrid drive thing?"  

While the cost of SSD does down and capacities rise, HDDs will continue to do the same. In 10 years, the numbers will be different, but the situation will be the same: either spend your $150 on 128TB of SSD or get 3.0PB of HDD.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #32 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

It can be done TO an older Mac, however. Get an SSD and HDD in it and look for the tutorial somewhere. It's not officially supported, but it isn't buggy.

 

THX, i will look for it.

post #33 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

The problem with traditional drives for iOS devices is room and battery life.  I think it's safe to say that the Fusion drive is for OS X laptops/desktops.

 

I wonder if third party storage companies are going to have external Fusion drives.

 Any reason a third party storage company can't make a internal fusion drive? Sounds like OSX 10.8 supports it.

 

Seems like an external fusion drive rather defeats the purpose - isn't the external I/O a limiting factor on speed? I guess maybe thuderbolt, but alas, the iMac i have has no thunderbolt.

post #34 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post


While the cost of SSD does down and capacities rise, HDDs will continue to do the same. In 10 years, the numbers will be different, but the situation will be the same: either spend your $150 on 128TB of SSD or get 3.0PB of HDD.

 

I disagree.  Especially in a 10 year time frame.  

 

The prices of both will continue to drop, and the Fusion drive technology will hopefully push the acceleration of that drop, at least for SSDs, to go even faster still.  

 

The performance of SSDs however exceeds HDDs on almost every front and will no doubt get even better over time.  That means that once SSD is cheap enough, it's a complete replacement for HDD and HDDs will fade away.  You can buy older, slower HDDs or some other even older tech like tape drives, wire recorders or magneto-optical for cheaper than regular HDDs right now, that doesn't mean that anyone wants one though.  Once SDD gets cheap enough, HDDs will vanish very quickly indeed. 

 

I would seriously doubt that 10 years from now there will be a single computer for sale, at least in the consumer market, that uses HDDs.  

post #35 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post

I disagree.  Especially in a 10 year time frame.  

The prices of both will continue to drop, and the Fusion drive technology will hopefully push the acceleration of that drop, at least for SSDs, to go even faster still.  

The performance of SSDs however exceeds HDDs on almost every front and will no doubt get even better over time.  That means that once SSD is cheap enough, it's a complete replacement for HDD and HDDs will fade away.  You can buy older, slower HDDs or some other even older tech like tape drives, wire recorders or magneto-optical for cheaper than regular HDDs right now, that doesn't mean that anyone wants one though.  Once SDD gets cheap enough, HDDs will vanish very quickly indeed. 

I would seriously doubt that 10 years from now there will be a single computer for sale, at least in the consumer market, that uses HDDs.  

I would love for that to happen. The densities of NAND keeps doubling so perhaps what you describe will come to pass. I use a pure SSD solution today and I only wish for more capacity, but I also remember a time when flash based MP3 players were a joke with only 128KB of flash ram and serious music players had 15GB HDDs. Once it becomes practical, no one will miss HDDs.

I guess I agree with you, LOL.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #36 of 107

What you would need to do is have both a SSD and a regular hard drive in the system, then configure them to run as the same drive and it wil be recognized as a Fusion drive.  There was a recent article about hwo to do this on ArsTechnica.  The Fusion drives are not 128GB of SSSD in a drive unit like the Momentus hybrid drives, they are separate drives that are being viewed together by the system.  I believe they may have been having to set it up w/the command line version of the Disk Utility program, but it is possible w/the current systems.


Edited by SSquirrel - 11/9/12 at 10:11am
post #37 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by eightzero View Post

 Any reason a third party storage company can't make a internal fusion drive? Sounds like OSX 10.8 supports it.

 

Seems like an external fusion drive rather defeats the purpose - isn't the external I/O a limiting factor on speed? I guess maybe thuderbolt, but alas, the iMac i have has no thunderbolt.

FW800 with internal SSD?  The problem is putting the SSD in the darn system...

 

The limiting speed factor is less the external connection, but the fact your iMac is probably SATA II and not SATA III speeds for the internal drive bay therefore the SSD as quick (you may be 2X as fast, but not a 15Second boot;-)

 

Since this is in the SW now, I'd be curious if anyone has built up a MacPro with a 'Fusion' configuration.

post #38 of 107
Quote:
Major improvements were also found in a disk speed test, which revealed the Fusion Drive can achieve write speeds of more than 300 megabytes per second, and write speeds exceeding 400 megabytes per second.

So it can only write?

Seriously: Proofread.
post #39 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mac_128 View Post


What you don't have a coal-fired, steam-powered HDD on your Mac?
It really helps extend my MacBook's battery life, keeps my coffee warm in the Summer and warms my hands in the Winter. And of course the more coal you add, the faster it spins ... You want more speed, just shovel on some more fuel. Why I once got it up to 88.8 MPH ...

 

I have an inside track on one of the reactors from the recently decommissioned USS Enterprise.  This should be able to blow a Fusion drive out of the water... ;-)

Just say no to MacMall.  They don't honor their promotions and won't respond to customer inquiries.  There are better retailers out there.
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Just say no to MacMall.  They don't honor their promotions and won't respond to customer inquiries.  There are better retailers out there.
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post #40 of 107
Quote:
Originally Posted by saarek View Post

You could put one in your iMac. But Apple will not sell you one. You could buy a SSD Drive online (ensure it is compatible) then ask an authorised reseller to install it along with your existing HDD. You can then create your own fusion drive via a well documented and seemingly easy terminal hack.

Oh, just do it yourself

 

http://www.macrumors.com/2011/08/12/ifixit-offers-kit-to-install-2nd-hard-drive-in-2011-mac-mini/

 

to quote MacRumors: "the install isn't for the faint of heart, though iFixit does include suction cups to pull the glass off."

 

Again, at SATAII speeds, I don't know if it's really that much value over a 7200 or 10K rpm SATA II drive.

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