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  #1  
02-28-2011, 01:23 PM
Bill Downing Bill Downing is offline
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What external hard drives (portable and desktop) do you consider the best for macs? Is SSD worth it?
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Someday, 12:01 PM
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  #2  
03-04-2011, 07:48 AM
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More importantly, what slots are open in the desktop?
And what kinds of internal and external connectors are available on the laptops or desktops?

That almost matters more than anything else.

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  #3  
03-04-2011, 10:00 AM
Bill Downing Bill Downing is offline
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Sorry.
New MacBook Pro - 17 inch.
USB, Firewire 800, Thunderbolt.
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  #4  
03-04-2011, 03:58 PM
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What is your planned use?
For example, on my Mac mini, I use USB2 and Firewire 800.

I use the USB2 with flash drives and external portable drives, for to/from delivery of files to the studio. This is purely for transport storage, never active use. For that reason, cost is considered, and USB2 drives are cheapest.

The Firewire 800 is what I use with a RAID-1 mirrored external drive, for all of my photography. I want immediate redundancy (backup) on photos that get offloaded from the CompactFlash cards. I use the exact OWC drive configuration suggested here: Best hard drive for archiving photos on a Mac? Help me pick a new backup drive... (but I have 2TB x 2 WD drives). I got mine in February, replacing another non-RAID drive. So now several of us operate from this OWC RAID-1 setup, and it's excellent.

Is SSD worth it? Not really. The best use of SSD that I know of is for hosting large MySQL or MSSQL databases for large websites. Those drives act as the server drives, in some sort of RAID configuration. For most desktop working, the bottleneck will be the CPU and RAM, not the hard drive rpms.

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  #5  
03-16-2011, 11:37 PM
kaliree kaliree is offline
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I agree with KP's conclusion: SSD's aren't worth it.

SSD's cost per GB is far, far higher than for hard drives. This disparity is decreasing, but it will be quite some time before SSD's cost $1 per GB. Even $1 per GB is much higher than a hard drive. To put it in perspective, a 2TB hard drive (2,000 GB) will cost about $0.04 per GB.

SSD's are a premium performance product, if you buy quality SSD's at least. If access time is important in your workflow (like databases as KP mentioned) then you will see a huge benefit. In most situations, however, the benefit doesn't justify the price premium. They are still a new technology and there are potential issues with reliability, longevity, compatibility and so on. More often than not they will work excellently for you, but they are not quite mainstream yet.

I disagree with KP about where the performance bottleneck exists in most computers. Perhaps "most" is the area where we have differing opinions. The hard drive is almost always the slowest part of a computer system. If you have a very old processor or too little RAM for your tasks and then add a modern hard drive - the CPU or the RAM could be the bottleneck. If you have a modern computer like your Macbook, the CPU and RAM will spend most of their time waiting for the hard drive whenever you first open a program or begin a new task.

I suggest you find buy a Firewire 800 drive or a get an e-SATA express card for your Mac (if the new models let you add express cards), an external enclosure with e-SATA connections and a well reviewed hard drive.

Here is a link to two threads where several of us had a discussion about external hard drives for a Macbook (in case that's helpful):

If I use enclosures for external drives - firewire 400/usb? or 800/usb?

For external hard drives, a dock for swapping versus enclosures
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  #6  
03-17-2011, 12:23 AM
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To add yet another perspective to the SSD vs HDD discussion ...

Example of Why Hard Drive Speed Doesn't Matter in a Media Workflow

Here's a perfect example: This very minute I can't do any real work -- and it will probably be 2-3 hours before I can do anything significant. (If anybody online ever wonders why I post so much, in so many places, this is why. I have a lot of downtime, because I wait around on computers. Sometimes it's on encoding, sometimes it's on janitorial tasks.) I've completely filled every computer on site with a mix of streaming and HD H.264 video projects, and it's time to play "musical hard drives". Everything must be off-loaded from the workstations onto the local file servers. Some files even have to be swapped between servers, because of archive policy. Even with 1Gb (gigabit) connections, using the best switches + wires (none of that cheap bulk-grade crap), the hard drives are faster than the connection between systems.

Can this be fixed? Well, technically, yes. Reasonably, no! It would require upgrading everything to 10Gb or fiber LAN, which would run well into tens of thousands of dollars in hardware to setup up multiple switches, fit each system with a card, and wire it. And even then, such hardware only works with certain server/computer configurations. That's just not feasible. That's quite literally datacenter-grade hardware, possibly broadcast-grade hardware (for some of the higher end facilities, like cable news networks). For us mere mortals, it's as realistic as buying a mansion and a yacht.

Browse the 10Gbps products from Newegg, to see pricing:
- 10Gb network cards: http://www.newegg.com/Product/10Gbps-network-cards
- 10Gb switches: http://www.newegg.com/Product/10-gigabit-switches

All I can do is wait --- and it's not because of the hard drives being slow. It's everything else that causes the bottlenecks.

Even when it's high grade SATA workstations, the drives are not being used at full speed capacity -- i.e, data is not being read continuously. The computer's CPU and RAM request data as needed, and when you're processing videos.

Performance Benefits of SSD

The real benefit to high speed drives is when lots of small files (or database queries) are being requested by multiple sources. This is referred to as "disk I/O" and is a common tell when distinguishing a good web host from an inferior/bad one.

However, that's already achieved with HDD solutions, such as 15k SAS or SCSI in a RAID, and by using ample RAM with decent caching.

Non-Performance Benefits of SSD

The other non-performance benefit of SSD is a lack of noise (nothing spinning), and supposedly a lack of fragmentation issues (i.e, read delays due to fragmentation, as found on HDDs). The drives are small, lighter, cooler, and consumer less power.

SSD is the future, but not until lifespan (limited writes) can be re-worked, and costs significantly lower to at least competitive pricing ranges. Maybe not as cheap as HDD, but at least no more than 2x the cost.

Note:
Quote:
the CPU and RAM will spend most of their time waiting for the hard drive whenever you first open a program or begin a new task
This is most definitely true.

However, once the program has loaded itself into memory, the benefit of the SSD is largely ended at the workstation level. The actual task itself, for which the software was opened, will reverse the role of CPU/RAM and HDD, in terms of which one becomes a bottleneck.

An exception to this rule may be gluttonous video games, which are constantly calling up new maps and data for the players. However, I would suggest some of this is based on poor coding, which lacks decent caching as found pretty much everywhere else in the computing industry. I've seen video games barf themselves trying to load video clips, whereas a good NLE can render a preview effortlessly. The common blame is "video playback is greedy", and while there is truth to that, it doesn't necessarily have to choke a system.

If your workstations is mostly used for something automated, like creating thumbnails of photos, SSD would improve performance. But those are very narrow scenarios, and not the most common workflow for users.

3D modeling -- be it for CAD/architecture, gaming or movie/TV graphics -- may or may not benefit from SSD. Again, it really depends on what you're doing. How big and complex is the 3D model. Sometimes funds are better spent on larger CPU and RAM here, and 15K SAS RAID will suffice for storage write/read speed.

Example of an SSD Myth / Misinformation:

I get rather annoyed by myths and misinformation. I'd call this a misdirect:
Quote:
if you're downloading video and using multiple applications at the same time, an SSD will give you a very noticeable performance boost
That's quoted from an article I saw online. When you're using "multiple applications", some of them tend to be idle in RAM. For example, I have Outlook open, and it's doing nothing, minimized. There's several system tray programs running in RAM, but I/O performance is zero or near-zero. If you were running several programs at once, and both of them needed heavy-handed I/O, then by all likelihood both tasks would be fighting over RAM space and CPU time. So again, the bottleneck ends up NOT being the drive!

Unless you're Sally the soccer mom, your computer generally has more than one hard drive -- especially those cheap USB2 externals. So when you're downloading files to drive D, drive C is not affected by I/O. And if drive D is an external USB drive, you're pulling at the CPU because USB drives all run through CPU cycles. Firewire and eSATA, of course, do not access via CPU.

Quotes like that are misleading at best, lies at worst.

SSD as demonstrated by CF or SD cards:

Cameras shoot lots of tiny files, which are initially stored in onboard RAM, processed by the CPU, then offloaded to the storage card. This is a great example of "lots of small files" being moved at a rapid pace. Consider my high-end Nikon DSLRs, like a D3 or D3s. Those shoot 2MB JPEG to 20MB RAW images, and then pass them quickly from RAM to CF. Speed is an issue when I start to run the shutter at 7fps or 9fps.

When you think of a computer, consider this: Are you "shooting" at 9fps, or are you working at a more human-like speed of 1fps (one thing at a time)? In most cases, you'll find yourself in the latter category. And that, in turn, will somewhat help you consider SSD vs hard drive.

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  #7  
03-17-2011, 02:35 AM
kaliree kaliree is offline
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Quote:
When you think of a computer, consider this: Are you "shooting" at 9fps, or are you working at a more human-like speed of 1fps (one thing at a time)? In most cases, you'll find yourself in the latter category. And that, in turn, will somewhat help you consider SSD vs hard drive.

Read more: http://www.digitalfaq.com/forum/newr...#ixzz1Gq6Yro4L
Yes! Great point. That is the primary reason I have not yet switched to an SSD (though price is a close second). I have multiple hard drives. One for my OS and others for temp files and my data. My OS drive is actually one of the slowest on overall throughput, but the I/O is higher than some of my larger drives. I am quite happy with it's performance in most situations because I am generally not stressing it with 20 or 30 tasks at once. There are exceptions to that, of course, but I'm more demanding than your average user.

I think the most important question we still need answered by the OP is the first question from KP.

Quote:
What is your planned use?

On a small aside:

@Lordsmurf: Do 15k SAS drives really have I/O that competes with SSDs? I was under a different impression, but I haven't done much research on that myself. Improved I/O and phenomenal access times are the two "real world" benefits of SSDs from everything that I've read.
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  #8  
03-17-2011, 02:46 AM
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It really comes down to your throughput, the bandwidth, the I/O activity. For a basic comparison, think of a three tiered comparison.
Note: Random numbers, for demonstration purpose only.

Tier 1 - 5 files requested - 7200rpm standard drive = SSD performance
Tier 2 - 50 files requested - 15k SAS RAID = SSD performance
Tier 3 - 500 files requested - SSD performance = no competition

Up to a certain point, performance is the same, yes. So it really depends on the environment.

More is only better when more is needed. And that's my point -- few actually need it. And therefore these benefits are generally only theoretical, not practical. Yes, you can download 100 files, open Photoshop + Premiere + Maya at the same time, and watch a video that shows you how to hop on one foot while patting your belly, with the best I/O available. But how often is that a realistic scenario? (It's not.)

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