Apple's Fusion Drive slashes boot times, boosts read/write speeds

Apple's Fusion Drive slashes boot times, boosts read/write speeds

Summary: Apple's Fusion Drive brings Mac users the best of both worlds -- terabyte storage capacities with the performance of a solid state drive.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, Storage
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Apple is renowned for creating devices that look good and feel good in the hand, but the company also likes to innovate and do things that you can't directly see. One new technology for the Mac that Apple unveiled last month was Fusion Drive, a hybrid that combines a regular hard disk drive and a solid state drive to offer the best of both worlds -- high capacity and fast storage in a single, easy-to-use package.

Combining hard drives and flash storage is nothing new, it's what a hybrid drive is. What's interesting about Fusion Drive is the software intelligence that makes the hard disk drive and solid state drive appear to the user like one drive, and OS X silently moves frequently accessed files from the slower hard disk to the faster solid state drive in order to boost performance.

But how much of a performance boost does it offer? According to testing done by Techfast Lunch&Dinner, the performance boosts offered aren’t just measurable, they are easily noticeable.

The tests pit a 2012 Mac mini with Fusion Drive -- consisting of a 256GB solid state drive, and a 1TB 5400 RPM hard drive -- against a 2012 Mac mini featuring a standard 5400 RPM drive.

Starting with the boot up, the tests found the Fusion Drive Mac mini booted up in a shade over 15 seconds, while the 2012 Mac mini with the hard drive took 34 seconds.

Like I said, this is a noticeable improvement. Very noticeable.

Speed tests showed that the Fusion Drive was capable of delivering write speeds in excess of 300 megabytes per second, and write speeds breaking the 400 megabytes per second barrier. In comparison, the Mac mini containing the 5400 RPM hard drive couldn't even hit 100 megabytes per second in either the tests.

While solid state drives are fast, they have been slow to be adopted because the cost per GB is much higher than that of a regular hard drive. Housing both types of drives in a single system, and adding secret sauce software that intelligently combines the two drives into a single partition, brings the best of both worlds to Mac users.

This technology will no doubt help to raise awareness for the benefits of solid state drives, and help boost adoption, both at home and in the workplace.

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Image source: Apple.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Storage

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26 comments
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  • "Fusion" Drive?

    Wait! "Fusion Drive"? let's call a spade a spade k Apple it's Hybrid Drive, we all know what a Hybrid Drive is, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hybrid_drive
    msul.nma
    • Yeah, and Microsoft needs to start calling Windows just "operating system"

      Lets call a spade a spade here. And lets not let Apple off the hook so soon either. the iMac should be called "computer." The Mac Pro, likewise should be renamed "computer."
      Tigertank
      • Fusion drive is hybrid drive, but of totally different kind comparing to ..

        ... any implementation existed ever before. You are getting 1,25 TB logical drive that consists of both SSD and hard disk -- nothing like a mere SSD cache that exists in current competing solutions.
        DDERSSS
        • Keep up the good fight, but

          understand that willful ignorance (so aptly demonstrated in the last U.S. presidential election) is endemic.
          baggins_z
          • The election is over.

            move on.
            Tigertank
          • The attitude and culture

            that produced it are not. Stay asleep.
            baggins_z
    • And MS calls it ReadyDrive. What is your point.

      And even reading your wiki reference, the details are somewhat different in implementation given the Fusion drive does not function as a cache.
      Bruizer
    • In a fusion drive, SSD and HDD are managed DIRECTLY by the OS, ...

      .. whereas in a hybrid drive, the drive itself manages the caching. Management by the OS can yield much better results than the simple caching of a hybrid drive.

      Furthermore, in a Fusion Drive, you have the COMBINES capacity of SSD and HDD, whereas in a hybrid drive, you only have the capacity of the HDD, and the SSD and HDD capacities can be chosen separately.
      financegozu
      • What, the Combines from Half-Life 2?

        "you only have the capacity of the HDD, and the SSD and HDD capacities can be chosen separately."
        If you only have the capacity of the HDD, how can you choose the SDD capacity separately?
        Random_Error
        • i forgot to repeat "Fusion drive" :))

          should have read : "and WITH FUSION DRIVE the SDD and HDD ...". Better so?
          financegozu
    • Re: "Fusion" Drive?

      Yes, let's call a spade a spade here: The Fusion Drive is not a common third-party style "hybrid drive." In fact, it's the first consumer-level implementation of a server-style automatic tiering drive.
      deasys
  • Yeah but

    what's the cost compared to a 256GB SSD and separate 1TB HDD? Also, what is the speed difference compared to just using an SSD?
    MajorlyCool
  • That's what I wanted to know

    MajorlyCool is right. I thought I would get a comparison to a standalone SSD. I know how fast SSDs are, and I want to know how much slower the Fusion Drive is.

    But, MajorlyCool. It seems they don't sell the Mini with an SSD and a TB drive anymore. You can get a hard drive, an SSD, or a Fusion. Oh well, change is good.... right?
    Hameiri
  • Based off of Ars Technica... similar speeds up to a point

    The data is first directed toward the SSD and can maintain 300-400MB/Sec bandwidth. Once the SSD is full, it will start to write to the HDD. Once the operations are complete and the drive has stabilized, data will moved from the SSD to the HDD until there is at least 4GB on the SDD free.

    There is some mechanism to track usage and keep the most used/recently used data on the SDD but the end result is the SDD is the primary storage location and the HDD is fill over.
    Bruizer
  • What happens

    when the SSD drive fails?
    Interested to know, seems to be a type of RAID renamed.
    martin_js
    • Highly destructive

      You will want to go to your backup. You do keep them , right? Again, ARS found that you did not want to do any tinkering with either the HDD or the SDD or the Core Storage partitioning would break down quickly.

      :-)
      Bruizer
  • This is a tweener drive

    Is it an SSD? Is it an HDD? I'm so confused. This drive is so schizophrenic. My data just flies back and forth, I never know where it is. So confused.
    toddbottom3
    • This is a horrible device

      It is the unnatural combination of a fridge and a toaster. Ugh.
      toddbottom3
      • Must be painful for you to use your brain ...

        .. to understand a clearly written article. So keep up the good trolling, that's where you excel.
        financegozu
        • I read it as sarcasm.

          N t
          ye