External HD data rate question

Started 5 months ago | Discussions thread
Jacques Cornell
Jacques Cornell Forum Pro • Posts: 13,413
A 500MB/s SATA III 2.5" SSD is the sweet spot for photo work.

dr jim wrote:

Forgive my ignorance. I'm looking, at least until the Apple silicone iMacs come out, at using a new MacBook Air for my photo processing. My thought was to have a nice speedy external drive for file storage, since HD space on the MacBooks is pretty limited. What I need to figure out is, what data transfer do I need to be able to edit files efficiently, that live on the external drive. What I'm seeing so far, is roughly a max of 240 MB/s on a conventional spinning HD, maybe 2 times that with a raid array. I know a SSD would be even faster, but the prices get really ridiculous when you get up over 2 TB. Everything is backed up on BackBlaze. I just need enough transfer speed to be able to edit my images with no obvious slowdown compared to having the images actually stored on the computer. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

I found equal real-world performance with my RAW master image files on an off-the-shelf 500MB/s 2.5" SATA III SSD in a $10 USB 3.0 5Gbps enclosure and on the 1400MB/s SSD in my 2013 Mac Pro.

I keep my Lightroom Catalog and master image files that I'm processing on an external 1TB SSD, then move the image files to spinning-platter hard drives for archiving when the project is finished. This way, I'm paying the price premium for SSD storage only where it matters - active projects.

FWIW, even though the extra speed won't make any difference, my external 1TB SSD is now a $95 WD Blue 2400MB/s NVME stick in a $55 Orico USB 3.2 Gen 2x2 20Gbps USB enclosure in anticipation of having faster ports to connect it to in the near future. With the USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps ports of my new M1 MacBook Air, I get about 800MB/s throughput. Orico makes a $20 USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps enclosure that would deliver this level of performance.

Another bargain I considered is a PNY Elite Pro 1TB USB 3.1 Gen 2 10Gbps portable SSD, selling new on eBay for around $90. I went the more expensive WD+Orico route for future performance improvements as well as the Orico enclosure's finned aluminum heat sink. It never gets more than slightly warm to the touch.

I went with an external SSD rather than a larger SSD in the MBA because:

  1. I get more capacity for less money, and
  2. I can easily move my work from my M1 MBA to my new M1 mini.
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