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Single M.2 NVMe vs multiple SATA SSD
Old 30th December 2019
  #1
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Jeff19's Avatar
Single M.2 NVMe vs multiple SATA SSD

I have a 2010 Mac Pro and I am considering upgrading my three SATA SSDs to a single PCIe M.2 NVMe hard drive.

Years ago, my upgrade from 7200 rpm hard drives to SATA SSD was a HUGE performance upgrade. I feel my slowest component still remains the SATA SSDs and I could get a significant improvement with NVMe.

I have room to add only one PCIe M.2 NVMe hard drive (other PCIe slots taken by LYNX AES16e, Radeon RX 580 and UAD quad). A 2 TB NVMe can include all of my data and OS, and give me plenty to still record for only $400 from macsales.

So my current SATA hard drive benchmark gets about 260 MB/s for read and write. I see online people getting 1500 MB/s with the NVMe drives (PCIe 2 bus limit) for my same mac pro.

My system uses the 3 separate SATA drives for OS, Logic X files and samples. In my computer, NVMe is almost 6x faster than SATA (1500/260). It seems that in theory, if all 3 SATA drives are working at the same time, max speed is still only 780 MB/s (260x3), whereas NVMe max is 1500 MB/s. But it's unlikely all 3 SATA will work at the same time all the time. It's more likely 1 for startup, maybe 2 intermittently during running Logic and 3 rarely. I feel that even though the NVMe drive would be shared, the 1500 MB/s would still give me more bandwidth and more speed. The end result of course is more tracks, faster startups....

I guess an alternative could be replacing the OS with NVMe and keep the Logic X files and samples on SATA. Or the opposite where the OS runs on SATA and the Logic and sample files on NVMe.

So what do you think? Any help is appreciated! Thanks!

Jeff

Additional system info:
6-core 3.33 GHz, 12 GB DDR3 RAM, High Sierra, UAD quad
My Logic projects use a combination of recorded audio, synths and samples. Sometimes only 20 tracks, sometimes much more.
Old 31st December 2019
  #2
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hugol's Avatar
 

I also have a 2010 Mac Pro. The disk bays are SATA I only - so very slow as you say.

Yes - I think upgrading to a 2TB M.2 drive will surely give you the fastest overall performance. However it's also a very expensive option - and obviously wasteful in terms of your existing SSDs.

I would consider the option of running your OS / Logic / plugins / presets from a smaller M.2 OS drive - and keeping your data / large samples on the SATA SSDs.

Definitely if you're going for a split M.2 vs SATA setup - you want the be using the M.2 drive for your OS / music software and the SATA drives for data.

Personally I wouldn't bother shelling out £200+ for the 2TB M.2 drive - but that's just me. I guess the question is are you finding sample library loading times unacceptable right now - if you are - then the 2TB M.2 option is your best bet - but don't be surprised if you only shave a few seconds here and there.

Moving your OS + apps onto M.2 will definitely provide significant benefit however - I noticed a big difference moving from a SATA connected EVO drive to a M.2 drive on my Mac Pro 2010.

NB: You can pick up something like a 512GB ADATA SX8200 for about £60 - which seems a great option. Just to add - pretty sure you can get dual slot M.2 PCIe adapters - worth looking it - as you could obviously start by trying a 512GB M.2 drive upgrade with your existing SSDs and optionally add another M.2 drive later. Sure they'd both be sharing the same PCIe slot bandwidth - but I doubt that's much of a concern.

Last edited by hugol; 31st December 2019 at 01:06 AM..
Old 31st December 2019
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff19 View Post
I feel that even though the NVMe drive would be shared, the 1500 MB/s would still give me more bandwidth and more speed. The end result of course is more tracks, faster startups....
Erm just spotted this comment - what do you mean by "more tracks"?

Are you really seeing issues with your current projects due to high disk IO with your current SATA SSD setup? I'd be surprised - unless you're dealing with huge numbers of audio tracks / massive sample libraries.
Old 31st December 2019
  #4
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mintyfreshbeats's Avatar
 

The PCI Based RAM flash drive will be plenty fast enough for anything audio related.
I wouldn't muck about with multi–drive setups at this point, unless its something external.
Old 31st December 2019
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff19 View Post
I have a 2010 Mac Pro and I am considering upgrading my three SATA SSDs to a single PCIe M.2 NVMe hard drive.

Years ago, my upgrade from 7200 rpm hard drives to SATA SSD was a HUGE performance upgrade. I feel my slowest component still remains the SATA SSDs and I could get a significant improvement with NVMe.
...
... I feel that even though the NVMe drive would be shared, the 1500 MB/s would still give me more bandwidth and more speed. The end result of course is more tracks, faster startups....
I also have a 2010 Mac Pro, and have done multiple experiments with hard drives, SSD's and RAID configurations. Take a look at my articles in the link in my signature.

As for faster startups,
[https://www.techpowerup.com/review/p...en-3000/3.html ]
[https://www.extremetech.com/computin...me-ssd-upgrade ]
Take a look at the graphs showing how app behavior flattens out for all SSD's after the mechanical latency of HDD's is taken away. You have the lion's share of the SSD benefit already.

You will get more tracks using SSD's, especially noticable after you go higher than the 120-track range. However, system boot and app startup are dominated by small 4k random reads where all SSD's struggle to provide throughput in the 50MBytes/sec range, far from the hundreds and thousands of MBytes/sec that are obtainable at 128KByte and larger sequential reads.

I would leave the boot SSD on the native SATA-II port, and put the NVMe to work for samples and/or audio projects.
Old 31st December 2019
  #6
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Can you point me to the 4TB NVME product at $400 that you’ve found? Sounds very cheap.
Old 31st December 2019
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dbjp View Post
Can you point me to the 4TB NVME product at $400 that you’ve found? Sounds very cheap.
Sabrent has fast NVME available on Amazon, more than $400 though
Old 31st December 2019
  #8
Old 31st December 2019
  #9
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dbjp's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ekwipt View Post
Sabrent has fast NVME available on Amazon, more than $400 though
Yeah thanks. That one is more in line with what I’d imagined to be NVME on the cheaper side. Can’t find any at that capacity for 400.
Old 31st December 2019
  #10
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Jeff19's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hugol View Post
I also have a 2010 Mac Pro. The disk bays are SATA I only - so very slow as you say.

Yes - I think upgrading to a 2TB M.2 drive will surely give you the fastest overall performance. However it's also a very expensive option - and obviously wasteful in terms of your existing SSDs.

I would consider the option of running your OS / Logic / plugins / presets from a smaller M.2 OS drive - and keeping your data / large samples on the SATA SSDs.

Definitely if you're going for a split M.2 vs SATA setup - you want the be using the M.2 drive for your OS / music software and the SATA drives for data.

Personally I wouldn't bother shelling out £200+ for the 2TB M.2 drive - but that's just me. I guess the question is are you finding sample library loading times unacceptable right now - if you are - then the 2TB M.2 option is your best bet - but don't be surprised if you only shave a few seconds here and there.

Moving your OS + apps onto M.2 will definitely provide significant benefit however - I noticed a big difference moving from a SATA connected EVO drive to a M.2 drive on my Mac Pro 2010.

NB: You can pick up something like a 512GB ADATA SX8200 for about £60 - which seems a great option. Just to add - pretty sure you can get dual slot M.2 PCIe adapters - worth looking it - as you could obviously start by trying a 512GB M.2 drive upgrade with your existing SSDs and optionally add another M.2 drive later. Sure they'd both be sharing the same PCIe slot bandwidth - but I doubt that's much of a concern.
Thanks for your reply! To answer your question, I do not find the loading times unacceptable. I do notice that the HD use (the bar in logic program) will go to 100% (all bars) quite frequently with 40+ audio tracks. This happens mostly when moving around a song and goes to 0% with regular speed playback. It will often go to 70% when moving around with just 8 audio tracks. It does not tend to crash or lock up, but it just looks like the system is just barely making it by. Then again, maybe this is just normal use? The CPU bars are usually chilling at like 10% or less.
Old 31st December 2019
  #11
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Jeff19's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hugol View Post
Erm just spotted this comment - what do you mean by "more tracks"?

Are you really seeing issues with your current projects due to high disk IO with your current SATA SSD setup? I'd be surprised - unless you're dealing with huge numbers of audio tracks / massive sample libraries.
You totally called it right. I misspoke in saying that I need a hard drive solution to actually run more tracks in Logic sessions. I would never go over 80 audio tracks, and the SATA drives works for that well. But as I mentioned above, the HD use in Logic often hits 100% when navigating through Logic. I just feel like one day a software update will come by that will slow down things just enough to make this a problem. I guess I would like the future proofing as well as the convenience of faster load times.

I should have also mentioned that I'm at the point where I need an additional hard drive. I have time machine running on an old 7200 rpm drive and I think it slows down the system sometimes. It's loud enough to hear in my recordings too and I want it gone. I could replace the old hard disk with an SSD OR I could get a new NMVe and use one of my existing SATA for time machine. Also extra existing SATA could be used to back up projects and store old projects...

I do tend to flip between projects very often during a single evening. If a faster hard drive sped this time up a few seconds, I would not be unhappy about that , although not a necessity.
Old 31st December 2019
  #12
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Jeff19's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dbjp View Post
Can you point me to the 4TB NVME product at $400 that you’ve found? Sounds very cheap.
I personally was looking for 2 TB, not 4 TB.

https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/SSDACC4M202T/
Old 1st January 2020
  #13
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hugol's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
I also have a 2010 Mac Pro, and have done multiple experiments with hard drives, SSD's and RAID configurations. Take a look at my articles in the link in my signature.

As for faster startups,
[https://www.techpowerup.com/review/p...en-3000/3.html ]
[https://www.extremetech.com/computin...me-ssd-upgrade ]
Take a look at the graphs showing how app behavior flattens out for all SSD's after the mechanical latency of HDD's is taken away. You have the lion's share of the SSD benefit already.

You will get more tracks using SSD's, especially noticable after you go higher than the 120-track range. However, system boot and app startup are dominated by small 4k random reads where all SSD's struggle to provide throughput in the 50MBytes/sec range, far from the hundreds and thousands of MBytes/sec that are obtainable at 128KByte and larger sequential reads.

I would leave the boot SSD on the native SATA-II port, and put the NVMe to work for samples and/or audio projects.
Except the articles you link to are PC related and talking about SATA-II connected drives / the benefits of NVME over AHCI (which are there - but relatively minor). The 2010 Mac 5.1 only supports SATA-I drives natively.

You mention 120 tracks - which is way in excess of what the OP was talking about.

All I'll say is I went from an 840 EVO OS/apps drive in my Mac Pro's SATA-I bay - to a PCIe / M.2 AHCI Samsung device - and the difference was noticeable.
Old 1st January 2020
  #14
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hugol's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff19 View Post
You totally called it right. I misspoke in saying that I need a hard drive solution to actually run more tracks in Logic sessions. I would never go over 80 audio tracks, and the SATA drives works for that well. But as I mentioned above, the HD use in Logic often hits 100% when navigating through Logic. I just feel like one day a software update will come by that will slow down things just enough to make this a problem. I guess I would like the future proofing as well as the convenience of faster load times.
Fair enough - how much RAM does your system have by the way?

Anyway - look if cost isn't much of a concern then I'd say just go with the 2TB+ M.2 solution. It's surely the best possible upgrade for your 2010 Mac Pro. However I'd be curious to see how much real-world difference it really makes.
Old 1st January 2020
  #15
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hugol's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff19 View Post
I personally was looking for 2 TB, not 4 TB.

https://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/SSDACC4M202T/
Woah - this solution seems like complete overkill unless you're into editing high res video.
Old 1st January 2020
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hugol View Post
All I'll say is I went from an 840 EVO OS/apps drive in my Mac Pro's SATA-I bay - to a PCIe / M.2 AHCI Samsung device - and the difference was noticeable.
Typing with thumbs...
Terminology:
SATA-I is 1.5 Gbits/sec

SATA-II is 3 Gbits/sec ... Yields 260 MBytes/sec out of a max 300MBytes/sec in a 2010 Mac Pro.

SATA-III is 6Gbits/sec with a 600 MBytes/sec max.

Tour the articles in my signature for related info. There's stuff about SATA RAID, benchmarks, Fusion Drives, etc. I will in the near future add an article about the PCIe 4.0 Ryzentosh under construction. The NVMe drives should be very entertaining in that thing.

For sure the performance differences are noticeable jumping into the NVMe world. My intent was to simply highlight that massive increases in throughput offer less-massive-but-worthwhile improvement in the user experience.
Old 1st January 2020
  #17
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hugol's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
Typing with thumbs...
Terminology:
SATA-I is 1.5 Gbits/sec

SATA-II is 3 Gbits/sec ... Yields 260 MBytes/sec out of a max 300MBytes/sec in a 2010 Mac Pro.

SATA-III is 6Gbits/sec with a 600 MBytes/sec max.

Tour the articles in my signature for related info. There's stuff about SATA RAID, benchmarks, Fusion Drives, etc. I will in the near future add an article about the PCIe 4.0 Ryzentosh under construction. The NVMe drives should be very entertaining in that thing.

For sure the performance differences are noticeable jumping into the NVMe world. My intent was to simply highlight that massive increases in throughput offer less-massive-but-worthwhile improvement in the user experience.
Good point - duh - brain fart (and lots of alcohol being New Year) - yes I meant SATA II rather than I. Thank you for correcting me.

Sure - I don't disagree with you that, unless you're dealing with huge files, latency is the significant win with SSDs.

Anyway - SSD prices really seem to have really dropped recently and capacities are ever increasing. Which is great - thank you 3D NAND etc - aren't we lucky.
Old 17th January 2020
  #18
Gear Nut
 
Jeff19's Avatar
You were right!

Quote:
Originally Posted by MediaGary View Post
I also have a 2010 Mac Pro, and have done multiple experiments with hard drives, SSD's and RAID configurations. Take a look at my articles in the link in my signature.

As for faster startups,
[https://www.techpowerup.com/review/p...en-3000/3.html ]
[https://www.extremetech.com/computin...me-ssd-upgrade ]
Take a look at the graphs showing how app behavior flattens out for all SSD's after the mechanical latency of HDD's is taken away. You have the lion's share of the SSD benefit already.

You will get more tracks using SSD's, especially noticable after you go higher than the 120-track range. However, system boot and app startup are dominated by small 4k random reads where all SSD's struggle to provide throughput in the 50MBytes/sec range, far from the hundreds and thousands of MBytes/sec that are obtainable at 128KByte and larger sequential reads.

I would leave the boot SSD on the native SATA-II port, and put the NVMe to work for samples and/or audio projects.
So I purchased the NVME PCIe drive from OWC as listed above (2TB PCIe Accelsior 4M2). Upgraded to Mojave. After testing, I found the best setup is to keep the Sata II SSD (Samsung 850 pro) for the boot drive and the NVME PCIe drive for the logic audio files and samples. Here are the details if interested...

For starters the Accelisor is stupid fast on “paper” even with only PCIe 2.0. I get 2500 MB/s write and 2700 MB/s read on Black magic disk speed tester. That is on par with a base 2019 Mac Pros (stock SSDs, not PCIe add ons). My Samsung 850 pro on SATA II gets “only” 250 MB/s write and 270 MB/s read. The PCIe is 10x faster!

But benchmarks and real world are not the same. With the System running (booting) on the NVME PCIe, the startup was very slow. It was over 1 min, whereas startup on SATA II SSD was about 1/2 the time. Once running, there was no noticeable difference in logic between the SATA boot and PCIe boot (so the Logic project was always running from the PCIe NVME storage, but the boot disk was swapped between SATA and PCIe). The logic program startup time has no noticeable difference (there could be 1-5 second difference, but it was minimal).

OK above discussion was about the system running. But you may wonder in real world, does running a logic project from PCIe NVME have any benefit over SATA? So in this case the logic project and all audio files and samples are stored either on SATA II Drive or the PCIe NVME drive. In both cases I’m booting the system with SATA. Well the Logic program startup time is about the same. But if you look at the hard drive usage during normal Logic use, the PCIe drive has a significant benefit. The SATA drive is constantly maxed using 64 tracks, but the PCIe drive never maxed. The PCIe drive also more quickly lowered its drive usage. So in theory you could run more tracks with the PCIe drive (I didn’t test more), but the program will run with generally the same speed.

Let me know if you have any questions. BTW, I did have a lot of issues getting the PCIe drive to boot the system. So if you plan this, you could have some issues. I suspect it is because the Accelsior has 4 partitions. Maybe a “normal” single slot M.2 NVME PCIe would install fine. It’s supposed to in Mojave. If you are interested in my issues, just ask and I can give details. I hope this helps someone.

Last edited by Jeff19; 17th January 2020 at 04:37 AM.. Reason: Added details
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
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hugol's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff19 View Post
So I purchased the NVME PCIe drive from OWC as listed above (2TB PCIe Accelsior 4M2). Upgraded to Mojave. After testing, I found the best setup is to keep the Sata II SSD (Samsung 850 pro) for the boot drive and the NVME PCIe drive for the logic audio files and samples. Here are the details if interested...

For starters the Accelisor is stupid fast on “paper” even with only PCIe 2.0. I get 2500 MB/s write and 2700 MB/s read on Black magic disk speed tester. That is on par with a base 2019 Mac Pros (stock SSDs, not PCIe add ons). My Samsung 850 pro on SATA II gets “only” 250 MB/s write and 270 MB/s read. The PCIe is 10x faster!

But benchmarks and real world are not the same. With the System running (booting) on the NVME PCIe, the startup was very slow. It was over 1 min, whereas startup on SATA II SSD was about 1/2 the time. Once running, there was no noticeable difference in logic between the SATA boot and PCIe boot (so the Logic project was always running from the PCIe NVME storage, but the boot disk was swapped between SATA and PCIe). The logic program startup time has no noticeable difference (there could be 1-5 second difference, but it was minimal).

OK above discussion was about the system running. But you may wonder in real world, does running a logic project from PCIe NVME have any benefit over SATA? So in this case the logic project and all audio files and samples are stored either on SATA II Drive or the PCIe NVME drive. In both cases I’m booting the system with SATA. Well the Logic program startup time is about the same. But if you look at the hard drive usage during normal Logic use, the PCIe drive has a significant benefit. The SATA drive is constantly maxed using 64 tracks, but the PCIe drive never maxed. The PCIe drive also more quickly lowered its drive usage. So in theory you could run more tracks with the PCIe drive (I didn’t test more), but the program will run with generally the same speed.

Let me know if you have any questions. BTW, I did have a lot of issues getting the PCIe drive to boot the system. So if you plan this, you could have some issues. I suspect it is because the Accelsior has 4 partitions. Maybe a “normal” single slot M.2 NVME PCIe would install fine. It’s supposed to in Mojave. If you are interested in my issues, just ask and I can give details. I hope this helps someone.
Awesome - good for you. Actually aside from the OS / apps, I think I was suggesting running all your Logic plug-ins / presets from the PCIe drive - although maybe it doesn't make that much real-world difference.

Was the slow OS startup when booting from the PCIe drive due to OSX taking a long up-front time to detect / initialise the PCIe disk? i.e. it pauses for a significant time during boot with the PCIe OS option?

Anyway - I'm happy to be proved wrong - good job for testing. Clearly your projects were IO heavy and you were hitting the limits of your previous SATA setup, so moving to a PCIe attached SSD has helped.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
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Jeff19's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by hugol View Post
Awesome - good for you. Actually aside from the OS / apps, I think I was suggesting running all your Logic plug-ins / presets from the PCIe drive - although maybe it doesn't make that much real-world difference.

Was the slow OS startup when booting from the PCIe drive due to OSX taking a long up-front time to detect / initialise the PCIe disk? i.e. it pauses for a significant time during boot with the PCIe OS option?

Anyway - I'm happy to be proved wrong - good job for testing. Clearly your projects were IO heavy and you were hitting the limits of your previous SATA setup, so moving to a PCIe attached SSD has helped.
I don't know why the startup was so slow. But I get the "feeling" that the mac is just searching for a better option to boot (SATA, USB, CD disk...) until it finally decides it will take it's last option, the PCIe slot. I have no idea what is really happening, but in theory the PCIe boot should just as fast as SATA, and ideally a little faster. In practice for me, it is not. I'm not unhappy though. My computer boots fast and my Logic projects are not strained for hard drive use.
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