SSD vs Fusion Drive

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I saw one of the new 27 inch iMacs yesterday and have decided to spring for a new desktop. My question has to do with the choice of drives.

I do heavy photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop and a medium amount of video in Premiere. Currently, viewing individual images in Lightroom at full resolution is practically glacial with my current 7200RPM hard drive.

Is the performance enhancement of an SSD worth the extra cost for these purposes? Or is it better to go with the Fusion drive and opt for an upgrade later on. Thanks!
 

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Is the performance enhancement of an SSD worth the extra cost for these purposes? Or is it better to go with the Fusion drive and opt for an upgrade later on. Thanks!

From what you stated above, the performance enhancement of a pure SSD would be worth the extra cost. Personally, I would avoid a fusion drive as they have been troublesome for some users. You can do some searching about that if you desire. And as far as upgrading an iMac later on... you don't, unless it's out of warranty. The newer iMacs are even more daunting to get into than the older models, and they were not easy. ;)
 

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I do heavy photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop and a medium amount of video in Premiere. Currently, viewing individual images in Lightroom at full resolution is practically glacial with my current 7200RPM hard drive.

Is the performance enhancement of an SSD worth the extra cost for these purposes? Or is it better to go with the Fusion drive and opt for an upgrade later on. Thanks!

We need to be clear on one thing first. The hard drive, fusion drive, or SSD only effects performance when files are initially loaded. An SSD will only make the loading of a file faster (and the loading of applications faster). Once the applications are open…and once the file to be worked on is open…then the computers performance is almost entirely due to the:

- processing power of the cpu
- processing power of the gpu
- amount of ram installed

The "glacial" problem can be from:

- a hard drive that is too full
- a failing hard drive
- too many apps open at the same time
- the computer needs some maintenance done on it
- the computer hasn't been restarted in a while (which sort of "resets"/clears things)
- or the computer simply isn't powerful enough to handle the task that it is being asked to do

* Nick

p.s.Technically speaking…if there is not enough ram…some info may be "swapped" back to the HD temporally. But this is really a super technical thing…and really shouldn't have much of an effect on performance with a computer that has 16gig of ram installed…and a hard drive that is not too full.
 
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thanks for the advice I have about 200 gigs free on my hard drive and 16 gigs of ram on my current machine (a 2012 Macbook Pro). I changed my photo work from a 12 megapixel camera to a 35 megapixel a couple of years ago (shooting in uncompressed RAW), that was when things got really slow. Each photo is a 40mb file which I assume Lightroom has to go and open if I change from a thumbnail view to a full resolution view. When I'm reviewing a couple of hundred images that read time really bogs things down.

I've thought about getting a base model MacPro as it has SSD, but seeing that 27 inch retina model was real eye opener.

Dan
 
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thanks for the advice I have about 200 gigs free on my hard drive and 16 gigs of ram on my current machine (a 2012 Macbook Pro). I changed my photo work from a 12 megapixel camera to a 35 megapixel a couple of years ago (shooting in uncompressed RAW), that was when things got really slow. Each photo is a 40mb file which I assume Lightroom has to go and open if I change from a thumbnail view to a full resolution view. When I'm reviewing a couple of hundred images that read time really bogs things down.

I've thought about getting a base model MacPro as it has SSD, but seeing that 27 inch retina model was real eye opener.

Dan

Editing photos in RAW is a huge drain on your computers resources. Especially since you have increased megapixels and you have a lot of photos open (is that as thumbnails or full size??) I do more video work versus photo but I do use Lightroom and Photoshop. I have found the better the video card (more onboard video card memory) and the higher the system memory, the better handling of the picture. Hard drive speed is not as big an influence as the video card and memory of the system.

Also with the macbook pro versus the iMac you have to consider logic boards. The iMac will have a better logic board bus through plus a much bigger screen and hopefully a kick butt video card with 2 to 4 GB of onboard memory with a fast GPU.

Actually, if you are doing a lot of photo editing and don't have to have portability the iMac or Mac Pro is the way to go. Obviously, the iMac is considerably cheaper! ;)

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I have a similar workflow with the Nikon D800 (35MP). Often I'll need to stack 300~400 separate images, and I'm heading towards 500! This takes lots of computer power, memory and a fast HD. Both my MBPr and nMB have 1TB SSD drives and I would never consider a standard HD as a boot, application and scratch workspace HD. I do store the images to a Thunderbolt RAID (Dual 7200rpm Seagate HD), but do all the editing in the SSD.

The nMB uses 4 PCIe lanes for the SSD and that's why it's so fast (~1000Mb/s), the MBPr I have is the early version that uses eSATA interface and is ~450Mb/s. The newer MBPr and iMac use 2 lane PCIe SSD and achieve ~750Mb/s I believe. So I think it's worth looking into the SSD for your workload.

I have no experience with FUSION drives, but would like to try one to see how well they work in real life.

Hope this helps,

Mike
 
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I have a similar workflow with the Nikon D800 (35MP). Often I'll need to stack 300~400 separate images, and I'm heading towards 500! This takes lots of computer power, memory and a fast HD. Both my MBPr and nMB have 1TB SSD drives and I would never consider a standard HD as a boot, application and scratch workspace HD. I do store the images to a Thunderbolt RAID (Dual 7200rpm Seagate HD), but do all the editing in the SSD.

The nMB uses 4 PCIe lanes for the SSD and that's why it's so fast (~1000Mb/s), the MBPr I have is the early version that uses eSATA interface and is ~450Mb/s. The newer MBPr and iMac use 2 lane PCIe SSD and achieve ~750Mb/s I believe. So I think it's worth looking into the SSD for your workload.

I have no experience with FUSION drives, but would like to try one to see how well they work in real life.

Hope this helps,

Mike

thanks for the info... very helpful. I'm using a D800 as well. I did find this link on Adobe about SSDs that confirms this. Will an SSD Improve Adobe Lightroom Performance? | Computer Darkroom

a bit dated, but probably still accurate. It doesn't however directly address the 'hyrbrid drive' option of the new machines.
Dan
 
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I saw one of the new 27 inch iMacs yesterday and have decided to spring for a new desktop....I do heavy photo editing in Lightroom and Photoshop and a medium amount of video in Premiere. Currently, viewing individual images in Lightroom at full resolution is practically glacial with my current 7200RPM hard drive...
...Is the performance enhancement of an SSD worth the extra cost for these purposes? Or is it better to go with the Fusion drive and opt for an upgrade later on...

I'm the assistant editor for our documentary film group and use a 2013 iMac 27 with 3TB Fusion Drive, 3.5Ghz i7, 32GB, GTX-780m, and it works fine. We often shoot 2,000 raw stills per day split between D800/D810 and 5D3. I have no problem processing those on the iMac.

Much of my storage is on an 8TB Thunderbolt Pegasus R4, but I've put the files on the FD and it does OK.

On my machine the processing of these is not heavily disk-bound but CPU-bound. You can confirm that yourself by monitoring your workflow with iStat Menus. Lightroom import/export and preview generation is generally CPU-bound. It is not further accelerated by i7 hyperthreading, as I've tested that with HT on and off.

However FCP X export/rendering is accelerated by 30% with HT on, so it does help in certain areas. I don't know about Premiere.

Lightroom doesn't use GPU acceleration for anything, whereas Photoshop uses it for several functions. GPU-accelerated effects in Photoshop CS6 and earlier:

Photoshop CS6 GPU FAQ

Further GPU-enhanced features added in Photoshop CC:

Photoshop CC and CC 2014 GPU FAQ

Premiere Pro and FCP X make heavy use of GPU acceleration.

That said if most of your files are on an external array then SSD is likely a better choice. However if the price/capacity of SSD forces you to frequently move files back and forth to a slow external drive, then you probably didn't gain any overall performance over FD.

Further complicating this is the database-oriented nature of cataloging programs like Lightroom. Once your stills are imported, tagged and cataloged, it's a little more complex to move them around because the catalog knows their current location. It's easier to have them on an external RAID array so they can stay in the same place.

An issue with FD (or any HDD) is you need plenty of free space to maintain optimal performance. The amount varies but recommendations range from 20% to 50% (!!) free space. By contrast SSD retains full performance with only about 3% free space. So that reduces somewhat the price/space advantage of FD.

I would recommend a 4Ghz retina iMac 27, probably 256GB or 512GB SSD and a Thunderbolt drive array. If you keep it backed up you could probably get by with a two-drive RAID0 array like the G-Tech G-Raid. If you can afford it and need the space, a Pegasus R4 is good in RAID5. There are external SSD solutions but they are more expensive and I'm not convinced that after you reach 400-500MB/sec of an R4 or similar, whether further increases translate into real-world performance differences at the app level.
 

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