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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 125
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 125
    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
  • Reply 3 of 125
    ifij775ifij775 Posts: 470member
    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
  • Reply 4 of 125
    scartartscartart Posts: 200member

    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.

  • Reply 5 of 125
    scartart wrote: »
    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
  • Reply 6 of 125
    philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,671member
    scartart wrote: »
    ... 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?
  • Reply 7 of 125
    dave k.dave k. Posts: 1,306member
    Is the fusion drive unique to Apple or is fusion an Apple brand name for someone else's tech (like Retina display)?

  • Reply 8 of 125
    chabigchabig Posts: 640member

    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/

  • Reply 9 of 125
    gtj333gtj333 Posts: 19member
    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.
  • Reply 10 of 125
    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
  • Reply 11 of 125
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,543moderator
    iquestiony wrote:
    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.
  • Reply 12 of 125
    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.
  • Reply 13 of 125
    gtj333gtj333 Posts: 19member


    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. 

  • Reply 14 of 125
    ssls6ssls6 Posts: 49member

    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.

  • Reply 15 of 125
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member

    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. 

  • Reply 16 of 125
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    ascii wrote: »
    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
  • Reply 17 of 125
    ifij775 wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 125
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    iquestiony wrote: »
    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
  • Reply 19 of 125
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    dave k. wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 20 of 125
    charlitunacharlituna Posts: 7,217member
    iquestiony wrote: »
    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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