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

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 106
    Yes, I just built mine on the 2010 13" MacBook Pro. Great!
  • Reply 2 of 106


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

  • Reply 3 of 106
    ..."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"...
  • Reply 4 of 106
    dcj001dcj001 Posts: 301member
    File transfers between the drives take place in the background dynamically, so the system is steam less and unobtrusive to the user.[QUOTE].
    [/QUOTE]

    "Steam less" or maybe "seamless?"
  • Reply 5 of 106


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

  • Reply 6 of 106
    asciiascii Posts: 5,699member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 106


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

  • Reply 8 of 106
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,013member
    OK, so...can I take my current iMac to a Apple store and have them drop one in?
  • Reply 9 of 106


    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.

  • Reply 10 of 106
    mac_128mac_128 Posts: 3,042member
    dcj001 wrote: »
    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 ...
  • Reply 11 of 106
    mhejmhej Posts: 1member
    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"...
  • Reply 12 of 106
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,387member
    mhej wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 106
    welshdogwelshdog Posts: 1,583member

    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.)

  • Reply 14 of 106


    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.

  • Reply 15 of 106

    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.

  • Reply 16 of 106


    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.

  • Reply 17 of 106
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member


    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?"  

  • Reply 18 of 106
    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?
  • Reply 19 of 106
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,031member

    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!

  • Reply 20 of 106
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,031member

    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.

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