Help: Fusion Drive vs. Thunderbolt HDD for Huge Weddings

Started Jan 15, 2013 | Discussions thread
Nikko aus London Senior Member • Posts: 1,138
Re: Help: Fusion Drive vs. Thunderbolt HDD for Huge Weddings

Hi Ben

I placed my order for a 27" iMac yesterday and did a lot of thinking about storage options as you are.  Unlike you, I'm a hobbyist with a couple of hundred gig of photos growing modestly.  My workflow is to edit on my Macbook Pro using Aperture3 and then transfer the libraries (using sneakernet & a USB drive) up to a Mac Mini file server when I'm done.  The Mac Mini has a 2011 vintage LaCie 2big 2TB RAID enclosure that connects using FireWire 800 where all the media lives.

The weak link in all this is the MacBook, because I find editing photos with a 13" screen a PITA despite the fact that it has OK performance (2.66GHz core 2 duo, 16gig RAM and 256gig SSD).  So, having been given a tax rebate by Uncle Sam for 2010, I decided to buy the iMac 27" to replace both the Macbook Pro (for image editing) and the Mac Mini (for image storage, some editing and printing).

I thought long & hard about specs, and decided to opt for a fully-loaded system in terms of cpu and gpu, but with stock ram (I've bought 32gig Crucial from and a 1Tb Fusion drive.  There has been some criticism about the cost of the Fusion upgrade and some uncertainly about how it will perform in several real-life scenarios, with its approach to data tiering.

Some folks (and I count myself one of them) think that it's a rational option to just configure the iMac with stock spinning media.  If you go this route, 3Tb is preferred over the 1Tb option (if you have the cash) for its performance over time (because as disks fill up they get slower), and longevity (because it takes longer to fill up 3Tb).  What about system performance, you ask?  Well, the nice thing about the iMac is that it comes with both USB3 and Thunderbolt connectivity, and these are fast enough to approach the performance of comparable internal mount storage or, indeed, to improve upon it.  So you can (and people do) purchase a 128Gb or 256Gb external SSD drive (check out ), clone the boot drive across to it using CarbonCopy and then repurpose the internal storage for data storage.

What about your 30Gb shoots?  Another rational line of thinking is that it makes a huge amount of sense to separate out your data from system disk. So if you lose the system disk for whatever reason, your data is safe and you're free to boot from a backup system disk & carry on working.  So you could buy a Thunderbolt storage enclosure and fill it up with media of your choice.  Howard over at MacRumors has bought a Pegasus J4 and used standard spinning media (4x 7200rpm 1Tb drives in RAID0 = 4TB array) that, according to Howard reads & writes at 501/507 or SSD speeds.  RAID0 means you need great backup but you have TimeMachine for near-term backup and can buy CarbonCopy (or similar) for volume imaging.  See:

What did I end up doing?  I ordered a Fusion 1TB inside the iMac which I will use as a system drive and nothing else.  Or I might look into breaking the internal Fusion drive into two separate drives (it can be done apparently) and then I can use the 1TB spinning media for iTunes or something.  However, for general media storage, I bought one of these:( ) for lightning-fast RAID0 external storage (it was a big tax rebate).  As I fill up the media, it's easy to daisy chain them to add capacity and/or further increase performance.  And for backup (TimeMachine & CarbonCopy clones), I will repurpose the old LaCie 2TB RAID0 FireWire800 device and connect it with one of Apple's Thunderbolt to FW800 converters.

Now I have to wait patiently whilst Apple builds the iMac.  It's due mid-Feb apparently

Long answer to short question but I hope this is in some way helpful.


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