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Apple's Fusion Drive now available on new entry-level 21.5" iMac orders

post #1 of 123
Thread Starter 
Apple is now offering the Fusion Drive as a build-to-order option when ordering the most affordable 2.7GHz 21.5-inch iMac model, a change in availability from October when the system was limited to high-end versions and the 27-inch iMac.

iMac Fusion Drive


The revision to the Online Apple Store's build-to-order options, first spotted by French blog MacGeneration and confirmed by AppleInsider, adds Apple's hybrid Fusion Drive as a $250 upgrade to the base model 21.5-inch iMac.

Introduced in October 2012 alongside the redesigned iMac, Apple's Fusion Drive is a hardware and software solution that promises the performance of a solid state drive with the storage capacity of a hard drive. Initial tests showed the hybrid drive to cut startup times in half while increasing read and write speeds significantly when compared to a traditional 5400-rpm hard drive.

The software driving the technology is built into OS X Mountain Lion and join a 128-gigabyte SSD with either a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte HDD to form a single addressable volume. Integral applications and the operating system itself are permanently stored on the flash memory while other files are store on the slower spinning drive. The system monitors a user's operations and swaps frequently accessed files, folders or programs between the two to optimize performance. Transfers take place seamlessly in the background and require no user input.

Previously, the hardware that works in tandem with the Fusion Drive software was only available on the more expensive 2.9GHz 21.5-inch iMac model.
post #2 of 123
That's the second time they've done that. Originally you couldn't get 512GB on the low end Macbook Pro if I recall. If you're nice you say it's because of production capacity constraints, if you're mean you say it's because they want people to buy the more expensive one.
post #3 of 123
I'm thinking apple have been racing and scrambling their way along. I'm looking to buy my first imac (27") and thinking the launch on oct 23 was rushed to beat the windows8 event in late October - get to the media first - and hence why November launch ended up as nov 30. They appear to scramble something by then. I'm thinking the product was not 100% ready to go re their production capabilities and assurances needed.

Now they bring out fusion drive on entry imac. Based on customer feedback or just had to get some options out there (so they don't lose too many sales) and they'll take care of more options later.

These are questions they i don't see being asked around the place (as most people seem to praise or abuse apple as opposed alto show some healthy scepticism at times - it's ok to ask and wonder people)

Any views on my notions? I'm no expert but from a marketing and media analysis point of view I just wonder if my thoughts might sound probable to others

Cheers
post #4 of 123
Is there a comparable technology on Windows PCs? I don't see anything like this on Dell's website. Their higher end systems just seem to add more TBs

*edit* actually, I see a mention of mSata Caching SSD drive on their top Alienware system. I wonder how many PCs are shipped with this
Edited by ifij775 - 1/5/13 at 2:18am
post #5 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ifij775 View Post

Is there a comparable technology on Windows PCs? I don't see anything like this on Dell's website. Their higher end systems just seem to add more TBs
*edit* actually, I see a mention of mSata Caching SSD drive on their top Alienware system. I wonder how many PCs are shipped with this

 

Fusion Drive isn't a caching SSD or a hybrid HHD. Those solutions normally have a quite small SSD and that space doesn't count towards the total available storage to the user (e.g. 500GB HDD + 32GB SSD = 500GB available storage). The Fusion Drive is an automated tiered storage solution, which isn't a new concept as it has been in the Enterprise storage market for a long time, but is new to the PC market.

 

Most PC manufacturers are shipping higher end systems with an SSD for the OS and a larger HDD for data, they cannot combine them at this stage because Windows hasn't got the capability of a Fusion Drive concept.

post #6 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScartArt View Post

Fusion Drive isn't a caching SSD or a hybrid HHD.

ScartArt are you pretty well versed in this kind of stuff?

What's your view of fusion drive. I'm not an IT expert but worried about the fact that the fusion system MOVES files and you may end up having blocks of data sitting split on the hdd and the ssd at the same time. Is the fact that some files will be MOVED from one to the other from time to time (depending on usage) cause any concerns of these files being compromised in your eyes?

Does regular moving of files allow for corruption of files?

I'm thinking this might have to be a wait and see kind of product launch

Again, any views from more savvy people than myself here?

I found an apple store employee who music edits had similar views to myself. Are these concerns valid?


Cheers
post #7 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ScartArt View Post

... because Windows hasn't got the capability of a Fusion Drive concept.

Windows? I look through windows.

Or in Dutch: Windows? Wat is dat? Een vrouw die gewonnen heeft.

Joking aside, I cannot believe a company with the resources and doing the same thing for over 30 years, writing software, doesn't have this tech. They always seem late to the party, like EFI and such. Why is that? Surely there must be very talented people within the company. Are they being held back by managers who don't see the point?
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post #8 of 123
Is the fusion drive unique to Apple or is fusion an Apple brand name for someone else's tech (like Retina display)?
post #9 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by iquestiony View Post


I'm not an IT expert but worried about the fact that the fusion system MOVES files and you may end up having blocks of data sitting split on the hdd and the ssd at the same time. Is the fact that some files will be MOVED from one to the other from time to time (depending on usage) cause any concerns of these files being compromised in your eyes?

 

No. Files get moved ALL of the time. In fact, on Windows, people routinely run defrag programs that move things all around. As users, we shouldn't have to be concerned with the location of bits. The OS handles that for us. On a single hard drive, a file is often split over multiple sectors and it's not a problem. In a fusion drive, bit can reside on multiple devices, just like they do on RAID systems (although without any redundancy). It just works. Of course, a fusion drive will lose data if a drive fails, but that's true of any drive failure unless measures are taken to protect the data. Fusion is not a substitute for backups.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by iquestiony View Post


Does regular moving of files allow for corruption of files?

 

No. See above.

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by iquestiony View Post

I found an apple store employee who music edits had similar views to myself. Are these concerns valid?

 

No. See above.

 

Here are two excellent technical articles about how Fusion drives work:

 

http://www.anandtech.com/show/6406/understanding-apples-fusion-drive

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/10/more-on-fusion-drive-how-it-works-and-how-to-roll-your-own/

post #10 of 123
BTW - Originally I didn't think you could get the fusion drive on the base model 27 inch iMac. It looks like you can order the fusion drive on the base model 27 inch now too. My question is, when will they offer a 3 TB fusion drive on the 21 inch? It seems I should be able to get a drive of that size on a 21 inch model. I understand there's less space on the back of a 21 inch iMac, but I think you should be able to find a drive like that without too much trouble.
post #11 of 123
Thanks for the response chabig.

The idea that we defrag was what I had on the other side of the coin re concerns (or not) of effects of moving files.

Working within some sort of budget I'm planning to buy the top end (stock) 27 inch (3.2 ghz i5) as opposed to buying the 2.9 ghz 27 inch and getting fusion drive. I'm thinking the better graphic card with 1gb vram will slightly better future proof the imac. Also thinking to go this way with the slightly better cpu.

The most intensive tasks I will be undertaking is some basic home video editing from time to time.

I didn't want to go 5400 rpm hence going with the 27 inch 7200 options.

Do you think I'm best suited with the better graphic card and cpu or should I trade it back to the entry 27 inch with fusion drive?

Or is it six of one, half a dozen the other?

( I have no issues in waiting an extra 25 seconds for the imac to boot up or 7 seconds for an app to open)

Thanks again for any input
post #12 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by iquestiony 
the fact that the fusion system MOVES files and you may end up having blocks of data sitting split on the hdd and the ssd at the same time. Is the fact that some files will be MOVED from one to the other from time to time (depending on usage) cause any concerns of these files being compromised in your eyes?

Does regular moving of files allow for corruption of files?

They apparently do a verify step before deleting the file off the other drive so if the computer crashed mid-copy, it wouldn't delete the file. I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea of the OS shuffling files round behind the scenes but the SSD is quite large and if they make sensible choices, the shuffling shouldn't be frequent. It might have been safer if they had a copy of a file on each drive and so they would always have two copies of any file that goes on the SSD but it would need syncing back and forth anyway and at some point they'd either have to only have one file or else require more free space on the big drive.

I'm not sure if it copies files that are in use e.g if you open a file from one drive, if it copies in the background and then saves to the other. That might cause issues if it did that because say you had a 64GB file and it decided to copy over to the SSD, it would be limited to the read speed of the HDD so it would take 7 minutes best-case to copy over. If you then saved to the HDD during the copy, the SSD transfer would have to fail. It must only copy unused files and it would make sense if they limited the maximum file size to 1GB or something.

I'd assume they've tested this all out but you never know. Having an up-to-date backup should get round most of the potential issues so it wouldn't put me off buying. I'd rather have a 256GB SSD with a standalone drive myself though and you can split the Fusion up if you want into a 128GB SSD + HDD. I think for consumers, a better setup would have been to have a 256GB SSD (priced at <$1/GB) and then allow the HDD to be used for Time Machine backups and for additional storage. It could have been setup like JBOD but it would be set to only write to the HDD once the SSD was full and the SSD size would be reserved on the HDD for backup. This makes backups even more transparent because you don't even have to plug in a drive. For files that spill over to the HDD, they wouldn't be backed up automatically but people that use more than 256GB will likely know what they're doing to have an external backup.
post #13 of 123
Once you try ssd speed, you'll never want to go back. What you are planning makes sense, I would just factor in getting an external TB or usb3 enclosure and ssd to create your own Fusion drive. Fusion is really a great interim step from hdd to ssd, giving you the best of both speed and storage capacity at a relatively low buy-in price.
post #14 of 123

I am having a similar debate for future "resisting" my new iMac. I want picture and video editing as well. I've been debating the 21 vs. 27 inch system. Here's my thought process. 

 

To me, fusion drive is a no-brainer because many i/o operations will be faster with fusion drive. If you're doing video editing, you'll be doing a bit of i/o. Fusion drive should help with a lot more than just boot operations. 

 

The future of video and pics - higher resolution, bigger files, which means more i/o and more processing. So I am thinking of not getting the base model CPU, but step above that by 1 or 2 levels.

 

I don't do games - so a high end graphics card doesn't appeal to me. It probably helps some of the video/pic editing, but it isn't clear to me that it helps with other activities besides the on-screen rendering.

 

I don't feel like I need more than 8 GB now, but I will need more later. If I go with a 27 inch, I can bump up without too much cost later to help in that department. 

 

My bigger "future" issue is disk space. With either 21 or 27 inch, there is no easy route to a hard drive upgrade in the future. I'm at 450 GB with my 2008 iMac - so in 4 years, I'll be easily over 1 TB. Time machine only backs up internal hard drives, so if I want protection for my data using OOTB OS X, I need to buy the 3 TB fusion drive, which is only available on the 27 inch model.

 

So I'm leaning toward 27 inch, 3 TB fusion drive, some 3.x CPU, 8 GB, and the standard graphics card. 

 

Good luck. 

post #15 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ifij775 View Post

Is there a comparable technology on Windows PCs? I don't see anything like this on Dell's website. Their higher end systems just seem to add more TBs
*edit* actually, I see a mention of mSata Caching SSD drive on their top Alienware system. I wonder how many PCs are shipped with this

 

Yeah, intel has included it in their chipsets for a while now.  It is called intel rapid storage.  Most PC's have this driver for the chipset but they don't include the small SSD for cost reasons.  I just built a workstation for word (win 7) and stuck in a $60 128 GB SSD and the intel driver grabbed 40 gig of that drive for the HD cache.

post #16 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ifij775 View Post

Is there a comparable technology on Windows PCs? I don't see anything like this on Dell's website. Their higher end systems just seem to add more TBs
*edit* actually, I see a mention of mSata Caching SSD drive on their top Alienware system. I wonder how many PCs are shipped with this

 

The technology is relatively simple. You have a standard hard drive, which is cheap. You have a SSD drive, which is not cheap. There are currently so called hybrid drives, which fuse these together to give people some of the benefits of SSD at regular hard drive prices. Usually the SSD portion of the drive is quite small (6 to 8 GBs). Likewise, Apple is doing the same thing, but is using a bigger SSD drive. Like the other hybrid drives, Apple is fusing the two drives together to be treated as one.  If there is any innovation here it is that Apple is using the OS to determine what files get used the most, and moving them to the SSD drive behind the scenes. So when you need to use a particular file it is available quicker. Caching in a an SSD drive isn't designed for the same purpose as the Fusion drive. It perhaps speeds up SSD performance, but that isn't what the Fusion Drive is doing. 

post #17 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ascii View Post

That's the second time they've done that. Originally you couldn't get 512GB on the low end Macbook Pro if I recall. If you're nice you say it's because of production capacity constraints, if you're mean you say it's because they want people to buy the more expensive one.

And if you a smart you would say that it's because they didn't think enough folks would want the option on that model to make it worth doing. By apparently enough folks griped that they figure they can give it a go and see what the real orders are like. They can always cut it later

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post #18 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by ifij775 View Post

Is there a comparable technology on Windows PCs? I don't see anything like this on Dell's website. Their higher end systems just seem to add more TBs
*edit* actually, I see a mention of mSata Caching SSD drive on their top Alienware system. I wonder how many PCs are shipped with this

Actually, there are hybrid drives from HDD manufactures out there today. Been available for a couple years now.
post #19 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by iquestiony View Post

I'm thinking apple have been racing and scrambling their way along. I'm looking to buy my first imac (27") and thinking the launch on oct 23 was rushed to beat the windows8 event in late October - get to the media first - and hence why November launch ended up as nov 30. They appear to scramble something by then.
Cheers

If you believe that then you don't know Apple's history very well.

Apple as a company is loathe to have someone else announce something new and potential exciting about their products. Once these computers went into mass production there was a high risk that someone at Foxconn (say a floor worker needing some extra cash) would leak information about them just as they do about the iPads and iPhones. Tim didn't want that anymore than Steve would have. Remember Steve had a whole website banned from events for leaking the iPhone 4 from an acquired (illegally as it were) prototype. And they may have had patent apps that would be going public soon and also be public knowledge that would 'announce' details. So, Tim announces before anyone can leak anything and has the advantage of getting folks to wait and not rush off to buy a PC etc thinking there would be no new iMac.

Also, if Apple was rushing to beat someone else's announcement/launch (which is typically the other boys game trying to beat the rumors), they wouldn't save done it with an iMac because desktops and tablets are totally different bits of the market. Maybe a new notebook to go against the Surface Pro but not a desktop.

If anything, Microsoft was aiming for October due to that being a predictable time for the new iPhone and IOS 6 and they didn't want to give Apple to much time alone in the market, especially with heavy rumors of a new iPad coming out also

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post #20 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave K. View Post

Is the fusion drive unique to Apple or is fusion an Apple brand name for someone else's tech (like Retina display)?

yes I believe Fusion Drive is a trademarked name owned by Apple.

But the tech isn't totally Apple. It's a hybrid drive with much much smarter software. Anyone could have that kind of system if they wanted. Might take some rewriting and perhaps licensing a patent or two but it is possible.

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post #21 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by iquestiony View Post

Is the fact that some files will be MOVED from one to the other from time to time (depending on usage) cause any concerns of these files being compromised in your eyes?
Does regular moving of files allow for corruption of files?

ANYTHING you do with data comes with a risk for corruption. Turning on your computer is risking your data. It's just part of the game. A part that is a huge reason for why smart users back up constantly and even back up their backups.

Focus your decision less on risk of corruption etc and things like efficiency. I work in video and I need a machine that can render large, complex video files without crashing or taking weeks. If a Fusion Drive can get me there, if more and faster RAM or a having whatever can get me there, I'll get it. If it won't, it's not worth the money.

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post #22 of 123
Originally Posted by TBell View Post
Likewise, Apple is doing the same thing, but is using a bigger SSD drive. Like the other hybrid drives, Apple is fusing the two drives together to be treated as one.

 

Not quite. Hybrid drives are one drive. One 3.5" drive casing, everything is in there.

 

Fusion Drive is a RAID between two full-size drives of different physical and storage sizes and different types.


Originally Posted by charlituna View Post
It's a hybrid drive with much much smarter software.

 

It's a RAID.

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post #23 of 123

I have a question about a Fusion Drive, almost a year ago I spilled lemon aid on my 2011 macbook pro 13" it still works with some problems but it only runs 3/4 the regular speed I used speed test to find this out, would my computer run faster if I installed a Fusion Drive in it?

Any help would be appreciated

post #24 of 123

This tech has been around for awhile, I personally prefer an all SSD solution but each to his own.

 

http://www.seagate.com/internal-hard-drives/laptop-hard-drives/momentus-xt-hybrid/

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post #25 of 123
Originally Posted by Relic View Post
This tech has been around for awhile…

 

Not in the slightest. Not with that drive, at any rate.

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post #26 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by bruhaha View Post


Actually, there are hybrid drives from HDD manufactures out there today. Been available for a couple years now.

Yep, it is fun to think Apple was first though. Not sure who would want these drives but I guess it's nice to have options.

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post #27 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Not in the slightest. Not with that drive, at any rate.

Actually the Seagate is identical to the Fusion drive. The tech is from Intel -> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_Response_Technology

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post #28 of 123
Originally Posted by Relic View Post
Yep, it is fun to think Apple was first though. Not sure who would want these drives but I guess it's nice to have options.

 

Once again, you're wrong. Read the thread: It's a RAID created by two separate drives of different types. Not one drive. Nothing to do with that Seagate thing. And Fusion Drive has intelligent placement software.


Originally Posted by Relic View Post
Actually the Seagate is identical to the Fusion drive.

 

Wow. No.

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post #29 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Once again, you're wrong. Read the thread: It's a RAID created by two separate drives of different types. Not one drive. Nothing to do with that Seagate thing. And Fusion Drive has intelligent placement software.

 

 

Wow. No.

Actually it really is, instead of caching in hardware Apple does it in software using what they call CoreStorge. It's still a Hybrid, two drives. This isn't anything new nor is it something that should be sought after in my opinion. Buy a smaller SSD for the system and larger HDD for data.

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post #30 of 123

The Fusion Drive doesn't use caching and isn't a RAID drive

We've seen hard disks with SSD caching for years now, and of course RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) storage has been around since PCs were made of wood.

However, the Fusion Drive is neither a caching drive or a RAID one: it's a hybrid drive, so instead of mirroring - creating a cached copy of frequently used data on the SSD - it moves frequently used data from the HDD to the SSD.

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post #31 of 123
Originally Posted by Relic View Post

However, the Fusion Drive is neither a caching drive or a RAID one…

 

Fine. Mea culpa.

 

It's two drives. Not one drive. Not the Seagate. Seagate uses the SSD to cache the spinning disk. Apple actually uses the space on the SSD for storage. NOT the Seagate!

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post #32 of 123
Here you go! What did I say before? Just one or more BTO options on the base models and you'd be just fine. The quad-core non-server Mac mini should offer at least one 3 TB Fusion I feel but ah well.
post #33 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

Fine. Mea culpa.

 

It's two drives. Not one drive. Not the Seagate. Seagate uses the SSD to cache the spinning disk. Apple actually uses the space on the SSD for storage. NOT the Seagate!

Fine, however it's still just another approach to the same goal. It's a gimmick, the price for SSD's have gone down significantly. Purchasing the iMac with it's original capacity and then purchasing an additional 64GB 550MB+ RW drive is not only cheaper but a much better solution.

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post #34 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Introduced in October 2011 alongside the redesigned iMac,

Is there some odd back to the future thing going on here or did I sleep for a year?

I thought fusion drive and redesign iMac was 2012.

post #35 of 123
Originally Posted by Winter View Post
The quad-core non-server Mac mini should offer at least one 3 TB Fusion I feel but ah well.

 

That'd require a physical retooling though. The Mac Mini uses 2.5" drives and you'd have to have a 3.5" for that.


Originally Posted by Relic View Post
It's a gimmick…

 

lol. It's a stepping stone.


…the price for SSD's have gone down significantly.

 

Yeah, those 3TB SSDs are passed around like toilet paper.


Purchasing the iMac with it's original capacity and then purchasing an additional 64GB 550MB+ RW drive is not only cheaper but a much better solution.

 

So, what, an external drive that isn't as fast, you mean? How's that better? It doesn't automatically assign more often used things to the SSD. It's external. I thought that was inherently bad…

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post #36 of 123

It's only the system that needs to be fast, data not so much.

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post #37 of 123
Originally Posted by Relic View Post
It's only the system that needs to be fast, data not so much.

 

So what's your proposal, removing the internal 1TB drive and replacing it with a 64GB SSD, using the 1TB as an external? 

 

Aside from the physical difficulty of doing that in any iMac, how in the heck is this a "better" solution than having both internal and both working as a fusion drive does?

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post #38 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

So what's your proposal, removing the internal 1TB drive and replacing it with a 64GB SSD, using the 1TB as an external? 

 

Aside from the physical difficulty of doing that in any iMac, how in the heck is this a "better" solution than having both internal and both working as a fusion drive does?

No, I would just use the dual HD mounting kit from ifixit and just add the second drive.

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post #39 of 123
Originally Posted by Relic View Post
No, I would just use the dual HD mounting kit from ifixit and just add the second drive.

 

But you can't do that. So… 

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post #40 of 123
Quote:
Originally Posted by bruhaha View Post


Actually, there are hybrid drives from HDD manufactures out there today. Been available for a couple years now.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post


yes I believe Fusion Drive is a trademarked name owned by Apple.
But the tech isn't totally Apple. It's a hybrid drive with much much smarter software. Anyone could have that kind of system if they wanted. Might take some rewriting and perhaps licensing a patent or two but it is possible.


People already have - I remember reading within days of release that someone demonstrated cobbling together a 3rd party HW solution that the Mac treated as a fusion drive.  Unless memory fails, that is...  ...not that that ever happens to this humble poster.... :)

An iPhone, a Leatherman and thou...  ...life is complete.

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An iPhone, a Leatherman and thou...  ...life is complete.

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AppleInsider › Forums › General › General Discussion › Apple's Fusion Drive now available on new entry-level 21.5" iMac orders