Apple is still lumbering iMacs with 5400 RPM hard drives

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I have never ever heard rotation velocity used as a measure of the quality of a hard drive. Like ever. Don’t we usually look at maybe data rates or access times or something? IANAG, maybe I’m off base.


I have a late 2012 MacBook Pro that I was considering ditching a couple years ago and then after reading some stuff online I realized I could get a new 1TB solid state hard drive for it for around 300 bucks. I did that and the speed of everything went up by like tenfold and I’m still using it to this day. No problems at all. It does things like export hd video from an editing app wayyy faster than it used to. Switching from a disc drive to solid state did more for my laptop than maxing out the ram.( I barely noticed that upgrade when I had it done.) It was like a brand new computer. I highly recommend that upgrade and it’s easy to do at home. The one I bought even came with the special screwdrivers to open the laptop and it was easy to plug in once you do. Also get a new battery while you’re in there. You can get those for like 30 bucks.


I think he means a rotating disc as opposed to one that has no moving parts at all and doesn’t need to warm up to speed to get data from various places on the drive. I’m no technician but that’s what I think is going on. The speed of the disc is incidental. I think. Right? Just the fact that it has to spin at all is the joke?


Thank you for providing the explanation about the tiny artisanal coal boiler, Rob. It will save one of the members of the Cult of Jobs some time in this topic.


It does seem weird, particularly for a company like Apple that is generally happy to pass on the cost of more-expensive components, without even giving buyers a choice, if they think there’s a benefit to specifying those parts.

But they do offer SSDs as upgrade options (even the most expensive model comes with hybrid “fusion” storage by default), so it’s not that they think a spinning disk is more reliable. (Spinning disks can be written to more times than flash storage, which could theoretically be a disadvantage with certain patterns of use).

So it does seem to just be about cost, which raises the question of why their flash storage is so expensive. Like, I can choose to upgrade to a 3TB hybrid drive for £90, or a 2TB SSD for £990. If they’re just milking dum-dums, wouldn’t those people go for the biggest drive? But then, informed consumers would also know that there’s little (if any) performance penalty with the 3TB option, because most of it will be filled with non-latency-critical data, and large files in particular, which don’t benefit from being stored on flash, while the stuff that is latency-sensitive will be cached in the flash part of the drive.

Perhaps it’s simply that the large SSD-only options are so unpopular that Apple has no reason to make those customised modules cheap?

Anyway, as @Boundegar says, the rotation speed is immaterial.


The fact they aren’t using SSDs at this point is puzzling. It’s like having a Ferrari with windows you have to roll down manually.


Not quite. It’s like having a Ferrari where the power window upgrade package costs half a million dollars.


I actually prefer a Ferrari with manual windows like the F40,F50 or the Enzo, having to choose. But in this case it’s for performance and have lighter doors.


Things like that strike me as performative (which, Ferrari, so sure). Yes, arguably, manual windows will weigh somewhat less. But what does a little electric motor weigh, maybe 4-5 pounds tops? So you’re saving maybe 10 pounds in a two-door 700 hp car? And guys who drive these things aren’t exactly built like horse jockeys, they’re dumpy 300 pound over-the-hill businessmen or whatever. So in what universe does that tiny weight savings provide any practical improvement, other than letting the owner say “well I have manual windows on my Ferrari because of weight savings blah blah blah…”

So just get the dang power windows in your Ferrari.


When upgrading Mojave to the new update the first time, the Fusion drive in my iMac experienced a schism. The two parts stopped talking to each other, and I was quickly experiencing a cascading failure. It was quite annoying, and left me without a computer for over a week until I could get it in for repair. At the time I didn’t know what had happened.

Luckily I had some of the drive backed up, the most important info, so I didn’t lose everything. So when they wiped it to fix it, I only lost most of what was on it.

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Yeah. read/write speeds are the adjective’s metric.

Really? You never heard of people talking about 5400 RPM vs 7200 RPM vs. 10k RPM vs. 15k RPM drives? The latter being the crazy high end stuff for datacenters before SSDs became practical?

The average desktop drive in the day was 7200 RPM, with 5400 RPM being relegated for DVRs, NAS, and other places where low heat and vibration were more important than performance. Laptop drives often ran slower too for power and heat concerns. In fact that is probably why Apple is using them here. The only spinning laptop drives manufactured anymore are the low end ones for super cheap laptops and for data dump (second) drives in bulky laptops. The middle and high end primary market entirely switched to SSDs years ago.

Why Apple thinks putting a spinning hard drive as the primary drive in a machine that costs over a thousand US dollars is a reasonable thing to do is a complete mystery. I’m a little dubious about the “fusion drive”. I had a PC laptop with a similar type of drive in it and it was just awful. The caching just didn’t work for beans and it acted like a slow spinning drive pretty much all the time. I had to replace it with a SSD in the end. If this is the case, then the cheapest reasonable iMac is $1300 unless it’s possible to replace the drive yourself, then it’s more like $1150.

Replacing the drive looks like it’s tricky but still possible.
Probably fairly quick but also kind of dangerous since it would be easy to break the glass when trying to remove the screen. The kind of repair that makes you wish they had just used screws.


This is why it’s so important to back up some of your data


I have now.


Right. The stuff I really don’t want to lose is backed up in multiple places. I saw it as a good cleanse. I may regret some of what I lost at some point, but I haven’t missed it yet.

My point was that the Fusion drive, while a nice compromise, has its risk. It was the first non-external drive that I’ve had fail so far; and I was fortunate in that it was reparable.

Yup, last time I recall reading about this at all, it came down to 7200 vs 5400. That was a long time ago.

I miss the rumblings sometimes. Made the machines feel a little more lively.
[Turn on “Autoplay Sound”]

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The quality of the hard drive isn’t in question (nor that of the ultra-high-grade 98% carbon pennine anthracite powering it)


I appreciate the link to the M.2 SSD, but do we know if Apple is using M.2 drives in these machines yet? The previous generation used SATA drives, and I’ve not seen a teardown yet.

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The Apple tax is strong on desktop systems. I have a two-year old PC that I built myself with 16 GB of RAM, a 3.5 GHz quad chip, and a decent gaming card for $800. I upgraded the monitors to 2 30-inch beasts for around $600 this year. It never crashes, runs smooth, and I can do just about anything I want to do. What does the Mac do that’s worth so much more money for lesser hardware?