Apple's new Fusion Drive debuts in latest iMacs, Mac minis

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
Apple's new iMac and Mac mini desktops feature what Apple is calling a "Fusion Drive" that offers nearly the same performance as a solid state drive, but allows for considerably more storage at a lower price point.

Commonly known as a hybrid hard drive, Apple's version uses a 128GB SSD coupled with either a 1TB or 3TB hard drive. The two drives are "fused together with software" into a single volume to allow faster reads and writes without forcing a user to put down thousands on a pure flash-based setup. The feature is automatically supported by Mountain Lion, though it is unclear if the company will be extending the Fusion Drives to other machines.

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Basically, hybrid drives calculate which apps are used most and place those assets on the faster SSD, while less frequently accessed files or software are stored on the capacious one or three terabyte hard disk drive. For example, disk-intensive tasks like booting up OS X to launching recently-used apps are stored and facilitated from the SSD, while a spreadsheet file that hasn't been modified for two years will be automatically placed on the HDD.

Core applications and the operating system is permanently stored and accessed from the SSD, with the leftover space used for frequently-accessed files, folders or programs.

The file transfers from take place in the background dynamically, so the system is seamless and unobtrusive to the user.

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Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller noted that the new Fusion Drive offers near the performance of flash with access to more storage. For example, compared to a baseline 1TB 7200 RPM HDD, 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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 116
    djrumpydjrumpy Posts: 1,116member
    Don't really care about the thickness, but I am very curious as to how this one will perform. Love the SSD Platter hybrids. So glad Apple has started offering these.
  • Reply 2 of 116
    andysolandysol Posts: 2,506member


    Very curious on this price- it'd be awesome with one- for sure.

  • Reply 3 of 116
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    I currently run SSD and HDD in my 15" i7 MBP pretty much as described. All my apps and OS are on the 256 GIG SSD large data libraries on the 1TB HDD. Importing a photo into Aperture that fast would obviously depend on where the Aperture Library was and given the size of mine there is no way I can afford that on SSD as of yet although the application itself is. In Apple's new system would it try to move my Aperture Library (that I use many times a day) to the SSD? I hope not unless it somehow is intelligent enough to have a library split between SSD and HHD migrating older less used images to the HDD but I seriously doubt that. I'd be interested to know if like say Time Machine there are some user options on what the drives software can and can't do in terms of relocation.
  • Reply 4 of 116


    The Mac Mini is a useless product for my needs other than having a bottom feeder Mac for Web/Mail and publishing. Nothing for Engineering even at the entry level for OpenCL.


     


    Too bad.


     


    The iMac obsession with thin is ultra disappointing. I'll not touch the Nvidia garbage and their yield issues in the 28nm stamp out. The lack of commitment from Nvidia with OpenCL alone has me p/o'd enough as it is, but the garbage 512MB and up to 1GB RAM on the GPGPUs is embarrassing Apple.


     


    You sacrifice potential performance for being ultra-thin. Looks sexy, too bad she can't reproduce.


     


    Mac Pro is the only option left for heavy computing work.

  • Reply 5 of 116
    flabberflabber Posts: 100member

    The thinness is amazing, but I do wonder about a few things:


     


    - I have never been able to install Windows via Bootcamp (I like playing PC games on a "casual basis"), so would this iMac offer Windows installation via USB?


     


    - If it's thát much thinner, are they using a slower/lower power version for the CPU and GPU? And how much faster will it turn out to be compared to the previous model(s)?


     


    - The standard HD is only 5400rpm, making loading heavy files (and games) a decent amount slower. The Fusion HD is extremely expensive in my opinion, and a standard "normal speed" 7200rpm drive doesn't seem to be standard. 


     


    - The price is about the same as the previous model, but they offer a default drive of 5400rpm ánd removed the DVD drive (which I can applaud as long as I can install Windows via USB)… it feels like they didn't actually ádd something, because right now it seems like they kept the price the same but still used cheaper hardware (HD and removing the Superdrive).


     


    All in all, I was waiting for a new iMac to replace my current one, but I'll have to wait and see what the reviews say about both USB-installable Windows and performance. It ís amazingly thing though! :)
  • Reply 6 of 116


    Yes, I'm sure that your investment in two storage devices and manually splitting the OS & Apps from the data files is a MUCH better engineering effort than Apple has come up with. I'm so glad you were able to take the time out of your busy day of designing & engineering storage architecture to comment on this item.


     


    I've always suspected I could do a better job than Apple if I would just pop down to Micro Center & buy a couple ESATA enclosures with some 7200RPM drives. You have inspired me to action! Thank You!!!

  • Reply 7 of 116
    hmmhmm Posts: 3,405member


    They didn't pay much attention to their entry models here. 5400 RPM drives are ridiculous in a desktop, even given performance improvements in recent years. The display update might be nice. I'll wait to see it. The mini update is a little dumb in that they maintained the price points while dropping discrete graphics. I can understand if they felt the HD4000 was good enough, but they charge quite a lot for some of those gaps on a lower end machine. CPU cost wouldn't change either. Quad core cpus are around the same price as the most expensive duals, like the one used in the 2011.

  • Reply 8 of 116
    conrailconrail Posts: 489member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Andysol View Post


    Very curious on this price- it'd be awesome with one- for sure.



    The mac mini 1TB Fusion drive upgrade is $250. 


     


    Figure the 3TB for the iMac will be around $400.   

  • Reply 9 of 116
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member

    Quote:


    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    Apple's new iMac and Mac mini desktops feature a new Fusion Drive that offers nearly the same performance as a flash-only drive, but features considerably more storage.

    The hybrid technology drive has 128 gigabytes of Flash storage coupled with a 1-terabyte or 3-terabyte hard drive. These are fused into a single volume to allow faster reads and writes, and work automatically with Mountain Lion.



    It's indeed very good to know Apple relatively quickly adopts this promising tech. We've been clandestinely installing hybrid drives with pitiful 4GB of Flash in our Macs for quite a while now and used to think Apple did not really like what we did. Apparently, they are with us and, sure, astounding 128GB of Flash --- which they subsidize when pricing the machine --- matter. 


     


     


    Quote:



    The Fusion Drive system will automatically take less-frequently used applications and move them to the slower hard disk drive. More popular applications are automatically moved to the flash drive, which gives faster speed.



    This traditional approach is nevertheless not that much convincing. The Mac OS X works for months without a restart and actively used applications are all just sitting in the RAM. Documents are loaded from disk and saved back. In fact, the configuration, keeping documents in the Flash storage and applications --- on the hybrid drive, seems showing even better performance in terms of daily usage.      

  • Reply 10 of 116
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    polymnia wrote: »
    Yes, I'm sure that your investment in two storage devices and manually splitting the OS & Apps from the data files is a MUCH better engineering effort than Apple has come up with. I'm so glad you were able to take the time out of your busy day of designing & engineering storage architecture to comment on this item.

    I've always suspected I could do a better job than Apple if I would just pop down to Micro Center & buy a couple ESATA enclosures with some 7200RPM drives. You have inspired me to action! Thank You!!!

    If you were replying to me (hint, it's Quote not Reply) I think you misunderstood. In Time Machine there is a user option to select items to leave out. I was merely (and long windily perhaps) saying I hoped the new drive has a Systems Preferences setting to exclude items from being transferred to the SSD. If so I am sure Apple's new device will be mind blowing.

    BTW my MBP required very little work to achieve what I did and being a 2010 model it was worth the small effort to make it way faster booting from an SSD.

    For many years I did indeed have an Apple engineering department at my company and many highly qualified staff but alas these days I am semi retired so just play around for myself.
  • Reply 11 of 116
    My guess is that "operational storage" will use the SSD -- meaning, that if you "suck images into Aperture" it first goes on the SSD, and over time, migrates to the hard drive. Same thing with any PhotoShop file you are working on.

    You'll have that performance hit the first time you START working on a file, but on subsequent uses -- say within a week, it'll use the SSD.

    That at least is how I would do it -- and it stands to reason that Apple spent some time to manage this the right way, since they are making it part of the standard now. I'm glad they jumped on making hybrids valuable -- it just makes a lot of sense.
  • Reply 12 of 116

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    In Apple's new system would it try to move my Aperture Library (that I use many times a day) to the SSD? I hope not unless it somehow is intelligent enough to have a library split between SSD and HHD migrating older less used images to the HDD but I seriously doubt that.


    Your Aperture library isn't a single file.


     


    .tsooJ

  • Reply 13 of 116

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by polymnia View Post


    Yes, I'm sure that your investment in two storage devices and manually splitting the OS & Apps from the data files is a MUCH better engineering effort than Apple has come up with. I'm so glad you were able to take the time out of your busy day of designing & engineering storage architecture to comment on this item.


     


    I've always suspected I could do a better job than Apple if I would just pop down to Micro Center & buy a couple ESATA enclosures with some 7200RPM drives. You have inspired me to action! Thank You!!!



     


    That's an Operating System specific update. BFD. The Hardware is just a hybrid drive albeit now a full size 128GB SSD [And I'm sure a low to mid-entry OEM performer] on top of a 1TB or 3TB drive. I'm all for it, until the SSD starts failing and you're DOA with unlike the boring Disk based drives that warn you ahead of time with sector errors and noise.


     


    I'm sure a 3rd party app monitoring drive performance will come out for $50 to jack up the consumer on that one. Or Apple could have it built-in, who knows.


     


    Apple is just making it easy to have all user accounts symlinked to their traditional disc based drive. Not rocket science.


     


    The fact you're stuck with a 5400 RPM disc drive [no fusion unless BTO] for $1499 means a thinner design to house a newer CPU/GPU minus DVD drive and lower cost to them for the Panel implementation [Yes the new tech is less expensive for Apple and as a stock holder that's good news] but I'm not seeing the WOW under the hood.


     


    All the WOW under the Hood is Extra which isn't much unless you hit the 27 in top end BTO.


     


    https://www.apple.com/imac/specs/


     


    Beautiful exterior, though she's getting anorexic but the guts aren't blowing me away.


     


    I'd rather wait for the Mac Pro if and when Intel can manage Xeons for their current and soon-to-be 1 year off Ivy Bridge model.


     


     


    Quote:


    3.2GHz


    3.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz) with 6MB L3 cache


    Configurable to 3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz).




     


    By the time one is configured for this we're at the Mac Pro pricing with not multi-GPGPU solution, half the RAM, less Power in the system, and zero expansion for storage other than an external T-Bolt RAID option that is effin' expensive [baseline an additional $1150+].


     


    Call me critical, but besides the evolving sexy look I'm not blown away with the guts, especially when it comes to heavy computing.


     


    If Apple doesn't exceed the GPGPU of the iMac for the Mac Pro they might as well cancel the line. After all, these are Mobile GPGPUs were discussing. Since Apple presently has a hard-on for Nvidia [and we know how that changes] this has to be the baseline for the Mac Pro:


     


    http://www.geforce.com/hardware/desktop-gpus/geforce-gtx-670


     


    Anything less is an insult.


     


    The same company that doesn't even advertise for OpenCL and Apple is using them. That is pathetic. Nvidia's OpenCL stack is now behind Intel's for completeness. Pathetic.


     


    Then again, a year from now Apple most likely will jump back to AMD on their GPGPUs and cripple them by using the low end prior year option calling for people to demand they return to Nvidia.


     


    Show us the Mac Pro that can lead a Workstation market or get out of it completely.

  • Reply 14 of 116
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    gyorpb wrote: »
    Your Aperture library isn't a single file.

    .tsooJ

    I actually covered that in my post. I said "I hope not unless it somehow is intelligent enough to have a library split between SSD and HHD migrating older less used images to the HDD but I seriously doubt that." (i'd love it if it did).

    I also have to wonder about HD video capture to one of these Fusion drives. I am intrigued, not being negative. I can't wait to read the tests. I just read they are 5400 rpm hybrids not 7200 rpm as of yet.
  • Reply 15 of 116
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    That's an Operating System specific update. BFD. The Hardware is just a hybrid drive albeit now a full size 128GB SSD [And I'm sure a low to mid-entry OEM performer] on top of a 1TB or 3TB drive. I'm all for it, until the SSD starts failing and you're DOA with unlike the boring Disk based drives that warn you ahead of time with sector errors and noise.

    I'm sure a 3rd party app monitoring drive performance will come out for $50 to jack up the consumer on that one. Or Apple could have it built-in, who knows.

    Apple is just making it easy to have all user accounts symlinked to their traditional disc based drive. Not rocket science.

    The fact you're stuck with a 5400 RPM disc drive [no fusion unless BTO] for $1499 means a thinner design to house a newer CPU/GPU minus DVD drive and lower cost to them for the Panel implementation [Yes the new tech is less expensive for Apple and as a stock holder that's good news] but I'm not seeing the WOW under the hood.

    All the WOW under the Hood is Extra which isn't much unless you hit the 27 in top end BTO.

    https://www.apple.com/imac/specs/

    Beautiful exterior, though she's getting anorexic but the guts aren't blowing me away.

    I'd rather wait for the Mac Pro if and when Intel can manage Xeons for their current and soon-to-be 1 year off Ivy Bridge model.



    By the time one is configured for this we're at the Mac Pro pricing with not multi-GPGPU solution, half the RAM, less Power in the system, and zero expansion for storage other than an external T-Bolt RAID option that is effin' expensive [baseline an additional $1150+].

    Call me critical, but besides the evolving sexy look I'm not blown away with the guts, especially when it comes to heavy computing.

    If Apple doesn't exceed the GPGPU of the iMac for the Mac Pro they might as well cancel the line. After all, these are Mobile GPGPUs were discussing. Since Apple presently has a hard-on for Nvidia [and we know how that changes] this has to be the baseline for the Mac Pro:

    http://www.geforce.com/hardware/desktop-gpus/geforce-gtx-670

    Anything less is an insult.

    The same company that doesn't even advertise for OpenCL and Apple is using them. That is pathetic. Nvidia's OpenCL stack is now behind Intel's for completeness. Pathetic.

    Then again, a year from now Apple most likely will jump back to AMD on their GPGPUs and cripple them by using the low end prior year option calling for people to demand they return to Nvidia.

    Show us the Mac Pro that can lead a Workstation market or get out of it completely.

    I just posted on another thread the hope that a 3rd party software company comes out with something to allow this on a DIY set up. You give me hope. It would be kind of like the days in the mid 1990s when we built our own SCSI RAIDS! DIY hybrid 7200 rpm HDD and a 512 SSD would be sweet.

    A new Mac Pro ... what a dream ...
  • Reply 16 of 116
    19831983 Posts: 1,134member
    Its about time Apple brought this tech to market. I read about these hybrid drives a few years back!
  • Reply 17 of 116
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,835member
    1983 wrote: »
    Its about time Apple brought this tech to market. I read about these hybrid drives a few years back!

    My feeling is hybrid technology will be a massive improvement for the average consumer but will need tweaking for those of us editing HD video and massive RAW files. IMHO A Mac Pro or MBP with a large SSD for the OS and apps and 7200 rpm HDD for images and video won't be bettered until we have inexpensive SSDs 1 TB and upward. Although as I said earlier up the thread, of we had some control over the intelligent software it might just work. I'd want to specify what was always to go the the HDD. Not for speed but for price / capacity.
  • Reply 18 of 116
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,267member
    So far, no one else has exactly what Apple has here with the Fusion drive. So we have some drives like the Momentous, with 8GB Flash for cache, and we have caching drives, which are usually 30 Gb or so. But other than getting a 128Gb SSD, and an HDD, there is no other combo like this. Even that isn't the same thing.

    It's Apple's software that make this different. With other drives, you don't get the intelligent determinations where software will be placed the way this does. Even caching drives are less sophisticated than this one is. I don't think this is in one drive case though. I don't see how 128 GB flash can fit into the same case as a HDD. It's likely done in a different way, even though it will function as a single drive to the user.

    edit:

    I just saw this article on ArsTechnica, where they cover this sort of thing fairly well in speculative articles. Of course, we'll have to wait for AnandTech to really test this properly after the machines come out, next month, at least.

    http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/10/apple-fusion-drive-wait-what-how-does-this-work/

    If true, it's actually very exciting.
  • Reply 19 of 116
    kpluckkpluck Posts: 500member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by melgross View Post



    So far, no one else has exactly what Apple has here with the Fusion drive.


     


    Wrong. You might want to look up Intel's Smart Response Technology.


     


    -kpluck

  • Reply 20 of 116
    ivan.rnn01ivan.rnn01 Posts: 1,822member


    Apple was quite good at bringing simplified enterprise-grade solutions to John "The Consumer" Doe.


     


    The Fusion Drive should be to tiering what the Time Machine is to enterprise-grade backup.

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