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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 07:51 PM   #1
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Question Mac Buying Advice: Fusion Drive

Hi
I have a mid-2013 13" MB Air and a mid-2010 21" iMac i3 4GB base model. My iMac feels really slow against the MB Air and it is time to replace it.

I want to purchase an iMac that feels as fast (or faster than the MB Air) however the 7200rpm drive is not as fast as SSD in the MBA.

My question is, if I purchase the 27" base model will it feel faster than the MBA?
If not, would I be better spending money on the fusion drive or upgrading from 8 to 16 MB RAM, or jumping up a level on from base? What will result in the biggest speed boost for the $$.

Usage is primarily web, Office, Lightroom and Photoshop. Parallels for MS Project.
Photoshop and Parallels/MSProject is where I really feel the slowness - we are talking several minutes to open files - whereas the MBA is instantaneous. I am not handling massive Photoshop files - mostly 100MB or less.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 08:00 PM   #2
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In order to make an iMac feel like an Air, it needs an SSD -- that is what makes the Air fast like it is. The RAM and CPU is irrelevant.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 08:07 PM   #3
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Perhaps if they had the same processors and ram I might agree with you. My MBA has a benchmark score of 2370 and the new 27 has a benchmark score of 3254 (Source: Mac Benchmarks - Geekbench Browser). The increase speed of the CPU and extra RAM do make some difference to the overall speed of a computer otherwise nobody would ever upgrade they would just purchase new hard drives.

In theory the iMac should be much faster, however, benchmark testing doesn't always reflect what it is like to use a computer in real life for real activities. That's why I'm asking as someone likely has experience using both or similar models.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 08:33 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MazG View Post
In theory the iMac should be much faster, however, benchmark testing doesn't always reflect what it is like to use a computer in real life for real activities.
Exactly. Benchmarks don't take into consideration the sheer speed of the SSD, which is what 95% of users experience these days. I've had mechanical drives and SSD's, and it's the single biggest difference between the two machines in terms of speed. It's why your Air feels so fast compared to your iMac, even if everything else in the Air is technically slower.

You asked what it would take for an iMac to act like your Air -- the SSD is it. The Fusion Drive or SSD is a no brainer. More RAM is always good, too, but if you would only have one or the other, the SSD tops the RAM any day. A new iMac with a mechanical drive boots slower than your Air, and opens everything slower, too.
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Old Sep 11th, 2014, 11:41 PM   #5
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I have the same vintage MBA as you and a 2013 21.5" iMac with a standard 1gb HD. The MBA felt much faster; the standard drive is very slow and takes way too long to boot up or start up apps. I ended up buying a 128gb SSD, which I put in a good usb 3 enclosure. I use that as my boot drive and keep my apps on it as well. All data files are on the internal HD. Makes a big difference in apparent speed and with it, the iMac feels at least as fast as the MBA. If I was doing it over, I would buy the iMac with a fusion drive to avoid requiring an external setup.
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 11:41 AM   #6
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Running a 20099 iMac with an SSD here and the thing flies. Entirely attributable to the SSD.
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 12:19 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies, this is great information.

So the fusion drive (being partially SSD) should give it that speed boost to feel like the Macbook Air. Given that this machine would cost around $2000, would it be worth upgrading my mid-2010 iMac to SSD instead. It would certainly save me some cash right now and I might be able to squeeze another year or two out of it? It sounds like Macfury is running a 2009 machine with an SSD that "flies" and Fox bought an SSD. I hadn't thought of this option.

I believe my iMac is USB 2 so it would mean an external USB 2 enclosure unless there is some way to put the drive inside the iMac but I don't image that is very doable unless....
Edited to add link:
https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iMac+In...placement/9068

I also heard there is a way to create your own "fusion" drive using an SSD and hard drive too that way the OS manages the two drives vs me (there's a YouTube video I watched on this).
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 12:35 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MazG View Post
Thanks for the replies, this is great information.

So the fusion drive (being partially SSD) should give it that speed boost to feel like the Macbook Air. Given that this machine would cost around $2000, would it be worth upgrading my mid-2010 iMac to SSD instead. It would certainly save me some cash right now and I might be able to squeeze another year or two out of it? It sounds like Macfury is running a 2009 machine with an SSD that "flies" and Fox bought an SSD. I hadn't thought of this option.

I believe my iMac is USB 2 so it would mean an external USB 2 enclosure unless there is some way to put the drive inside the iMac but I don't image that is very doable unless....
Edited to add link:
https://www.ifixit.com/Guide/iMac+In...placement/9068

I also heard there is a way to create your own "fusion" drive using an SSD and hard drive too that way the OS manages the two drives vs me (there's a YouTube video I watched on this).
IMO, the Fusion is a waste of money. It's massively slower than an SSD for long term use because it has to recall older files from the HDD. I'd recommend a 256GB SSD for the startup drive, and a regular FireWire or Thunderbolt external HDD for storage if you don't have USB 3.0.
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 02:08 PM   #9
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Don't bother with a USB2 SSD as it will be too restricted. Either install the SSD internally or use an external Thunderbolt SSD ($$$).
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Old Sep 12th, 2014, 02:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Andrew Pratt View Post
Don't bother with a USB2 SSD as it will be too restricted. Either install the SSD internally or use an external Thunderbolt SSD ($$$).
AFAIK, a 2010 iMac does not have a thunderbolt port.
USB 2 would be slower than the internal drive, and FW800 still isn't fast enough to outperform the internal 7200rpm hdd.
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