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BARE FEATS LAB - real world Mac speed tests

iMac Pro PCIe-based Flash Storage:
How Fast Versus Other Macs?

January 5th, 2018, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist

The 2017 iMac Pro has dual NVMe PCIe-based flash modules as a boot volume. Let's see how fast it transfer large sequential data. And let's see if older Mac Pros can compete with it when upgraded to fast PCIe-based flash blade or striped blades.


(Image from iFixit teardown)

GRAPH LEGEND
iMac Pro 1TB - Apple factory 1TB PCIe based flash storage in 2017 iMac 5K
iMac 5K 1TB - Apple factory 1TB PCIe based flash storage in 2017 iMac 5K
cMP SM951x2 Slot2 - Amfeltec Gen3 x16 PCIe quad slot M.2 carrier board with two Samsung SM951 AHCI PCIe based flash blades striped (RAID 0) using SoftRAID 5.6.3 and installed in x16 PCIe 2.0 slot #2 of a 2010 Mac Pro tower

cMP 960Pro Slot2 - Amfeltec Gen3 x16 PCIe quad slot M.2 carrier board with one Samsung 960 Pro 512G NVMe PCIe based flash blade and installed in x16 PCIe 2.0 slot #2 of a 2010 Mac Pro tower
cMP 960Pro Slot3 - Lycom DT-120 PCIe 3.0 x4 single slot M.2 carrier board with one Samsung 960 Pro 512G NVMe PCIe based flash blade and installed in x4 PCIe 2.0 slot #3 of a 2010 Mac Pro tower
nMP Donor Flash - 1TB 'donor' PCIe-based flash blade from 2015 MacBook Pro installed in 2013 Mac Pro
nMP Original Flash - 512G original factory PCIe-based flash blade in 2013 Mac Pro
cMP 2.5in SSD - Samsung 840 Pro 2.5-inch 6Gbps SSD installed in 2010 Mac Pro factory drive bay

LARGE SEQUENTIAL
We used AJA System Test to benchmark file level sequential transfer speed using a 16GB test file.
HIGHER number in megabytes per second = FASTEST

WHAT DID WE LEARN?
The 2017 iMac Pro's PCIe flash storage is fast but, with the right combination of flash blade and PCIe M.2 carrier board, the 2010 Mac Pro can compete. (NOTE: The iMac Pro had the fastest WRITE speed but was beat by three other examples on READ speed.)

After posting this we obtained test results for the iMac Pro with 4TB PCIe flash storage. It measured essentially the same read/write speeds as the 1TB. So ordering the optional flash storage gives you greater capacity but not faster transfer speeds.

Why two different flash blades for 2013 Mac Pro? When Apple first shipped the Mac Pro "Turbo Tube" in early 2014, it shipped with a PCIe-based flash blade that topped out at 1170MB/s. A few years later, there was a 'silent upgrade' to a flash blade capable of much faster large sequential transfer speeds. However, the 2013 Mac Pro 'hits the wall' at 1500MB/s internally due to the 5.0GT/s link speed and other factors.

The only way to make the 2013 Mac Pro go faster is to boot from multiple striped (RAID 0) Thunderbolt 2 drives like we did with three LaCie Little Big Disks which achieved 3740MB/s by bridging the 3 Thunderbolt 2 busses.

We included the 2.5-inch SSD installed in the 3Gbps Mac Pro tower factory drive bay to show you have far we have come from early SSD days.

Stay tuned for a report on fast external Thunderbolt 3 storage options for the iMac Pro (and other Macs with Thunderbolt 3 ports).

Feedback or comments? Feel free to email me,
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WHERE TO BUY THE SAMSUNG 960 PRO
Order from NewEgg or from B&H Photo Video.

WHERE TO BUY THE AMFELTEC M.2 CARRIER BOARDS
Order direct from Amfeltec. The have several models to choose from. We recommend the Gen2 Quad Slot for the Mac Pro tower if you are running four striped blades and want to get close to 6000MB/s. For some reason, the Gen3 Quad Slot tops out at 3000MB/s. The Gen3 works fine with two blades in the Mac Pro tower and in Thunderbolt 3 expander boxes. Email me if you are wondering which model is best for your setup.

WHERE TO BUY THE LYCOM M.2 CARRIER BOARDS
Search for the DT-120 and DT-129A on Amazon or eBay.

WHERE TO BUY THUNDERBOLT 3 EXPANSION BOXES
AKiTiO has the Node Lite that is fully compatible with Mac. Order direct from AKiTiO or from B&H Photo Video.

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copyright 2018 Rob Art Morgan
"BARE facts on Macintosh speed FEATS"
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