- What is a Fusion Drive and is it better than a Flash drive?
- How much does a Fusion Drive cost and is it worth the price?
- Can you retrofit an Apple Fusion Drive?
When buying a new Apple Mac you have the option to buy three different types of hard drive: Serial ATA, Flash Storage or a Fusion Drive.
But what is a Fusion Drive? And why does it cost extra. And more importantly: is it worth buying a Fusion Drive with your Mac?
What is a Fusion Drive
A Fusion Drive is actually two separate drives ‘fused’ together. It contains a Serial ATA drive (that’s a regular hard drive with a spinning plate inside) and a solid-state drive. These are housed together in a single unit and Mac OS X treats them as a single drive. The result is not a RAID array, but a single volume that you use like any other drive. The Fusion Drive offers enhanced performance for a reasonable price.
Why is a Fusion Drive better than a regular hard drive?
The Fusion Drive blends together the best of two different types of hard drive. Solid-state Flash Storage drives offer amazing performance: they typically send and read data between 5-10 times faster than a regular hard drive. The difference is clearly noticeable when using a Mac with Flash Storage. It’s faster to open, launch apps and files and there are fewer instances of spinning beach balls.
But Flash Storage is expensive. A 1TB drive in a 27-inch Mac Pro adds a whopping £800 to the price of the system.
Serial ATA drives offer a huge amount of space for your cash. You can install a huge 3TB hard drive in a 27-inch Mac for just £120. It offerss three times the storage space for a sixth of the price.
Fusion Drive Speed Test
Fusion Drive Speedmark 8 Test: Longer bar is better
Fusion Drive File Copy Test: Shorter bar is better
It’s pretty clear from every test we run that the Fusion Drive offers a substantial speed boost.
Fusion Drive: best of both worlds?
The Fusion Drive is the best of both worlds. It combines a Flash storage drive for speed and a regular Serial ATA for space. And it does this at a price which is much cheaper than the pure Flash Storage drive.
Mac OS X plans out which files and program you are likely to be opening soon, and ensures that these are the ones sitting in the Flash space, while all your other files are stored in the Serial ATA part. It’ll run like a Flash drive most of the time, but reach out to the slower portion when you need to get an older or larger file.
Buying a Fusion Drive depends on the model of Mac you are buying. It’s only available on the iMac and Mac mini at the moment. You cannot install one in a MacBook Air because the Flash storage is welded to the motherboard, or MacBook Pro (because there isn’t space inside for the larger Fusion Drive).
There is currently only one model of Fusion Drive. AS 1TB upgrade that Apple is charging £160 for the upgrade.
Can I install a Fusion Drive later
Not really. While there's nothing stopping you from upgrading the hard drive in a iMac or Mac mini (apart from your technical ability) Apple doesn’t sell the Fusion Drive separately. And it’s a custom Apple technology so you can’t buy one from anybody else.
Is it worth buying a Fusion Drive and can you retrofit a Fusion Drive
We think the Fusion Drive is a great deal. For an additional £160 you get a drive that offers the speed of a Flash drive and the space of an ATA drive. If you’re a video professional you might prefer to go with a larger 3TB Serial ATA in your Mac, and it’s worth noting that you can upgrade the Mac mini and imac to a pure flash drive for £160. So if you can live without the space (or are happy using an external driver) then going for pure Flash will deliver faster performance. Flash Storage is the prestigious option, but we think most people will be more than happy to use the Fusion Drive and only wish Apple could expand the technology to its MacBook pro range.