Apple’s Fusion Drive

Apple’s Fusion Drive
October 23 14:57 2012

Apple's Fusion Drive

Apple has announced their new line of Macs. These include a new 13″ MacBook Pro with Retina Display, a redesigned iMac and a new Mac Mini. I won’t go into much detail about the products, except for a new configuration option for the Mac Mini and iMac, the Fusion Drive.

One of the problems with the eventual conversion from traditional spinning hard drive media to flash storage is how to get the speed of a flash storage yet retain the price and storage size of traditional hard drives. For many users, speed is not a concern. If they are primarily using their computer for browsing the internet, listening to iTunes, and using the iWork application suite, they may not notice any drastic speed improvement. However, power users may notice a high difference.

Apple’s Fusion drive provides a hybrid option. Apple’s Fusion Drive is a hybrid of both Solid State and traditional spinning hard drives. Apple’s Fusion Drive comes in two sizes, 1TB and 3TB. Each contains 128GB of flash storage, with the remaining amount being traditionally spinning hard drive storage.

The way that Apple’s Fusion Drives work is they take the most frequently accessed information, Operating system files, Applications like iTunes, iPhoto and others, and stores them on the flash portion of the drive. Storing the most commonly used files will provide users with faster access times for these files and will improve the overall speed of the machine.

You may be asking, what do I have to do, outside of ordering a new iMac or Mac Mini, to be able to use the flash portion of the drive? That’s the beauty part, absolutely nothing. OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion will take all of this into consideration and make the necessary changes to file locations for you automatically. This is much easier for the end user to adopt the technology.

Hybrid hard drives are not new, Seagate has pioneered the technology with their Momentus XT line since May of 2010. Most likely the Apple Fusion hard drives are specifically made hard drives for Apple. If you wish to add one to your iMac or Mac Mini, it will cost you an additional $250.

There are some caveats as to which models of the iMac and Mac Mini can be configured for an Apple Fusion Drive. The following models can be configured with a 1TB Fusion Drive: the 2.9GHz 21.5″ iMac, and either 27″ Model. Along with the iMacs, the Higher-end Quad-Core 2.3GHz Mac Mini can be configured with a 1TB Fusion Drive. The 27″ iMacs are the only ones that can be configured with the 3TB Fusion drives. Apple’s Mac Mini Servers cannot be configured for the 1TB Fusion Drives. Personally, I wish this was an option on the Mac Mini Servers.

The move to Hybrid hard drives will allow computing performance to increase, while still maintaining a modicum of price parity over traditional hard drives. With Apple pushing the envelope of technology with the inclusion of Fusion Drives will force other manufacturers to include hybrid drives in their lineups as well. Overall, the Fusion Drive looks to be a good addition to the iMac and Mac Minis. It will be an option until flash storage prices can be at the same levels as traditional hard drives.

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About Article Author

Wayne Dixon
Wayne Dixon

I'm into anything technology related. I do some HTML/CSS/PHP development. I like to follow things that most people would find annoying or not worthwhile. I follow Apple, Microsoft, Google, The Cloud, cell phones and even programming. By Day I'm a Systems Administrator for a Library, which has it's own set of issues. Follow me on Twitter.

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