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iMac Pro Has A Thunderbolt 3 Storage Surprise For You

January 19th, 2018, by rob-ART morgan, mad scientist
January 24th - added dual ThunderBlade results to graphs

The 2017 iMac Pro features four Thunderbolt 3 ports which have several uses. One of those uses involves external storage. We benchmarked a few of the newest and fastest PCIe based external storage devices.


(Image of ThunderBlade courtesy of OWC)

GRAPH LEGEND
Dual
ThunderBlade - Dual Striped OWC ThunderBlade TB3 High Capacity PCIe Flash RAID (8TB total) plugged into different iMac Pro Thunderbolt 3 ports on separate controllers
Dual Fusion PCIe Flash - Dual Striped Sonnet Technologies Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drives plugged into different iMac Pro Thunderbolt 3 ports on separate controllers
Nodes*2 960Pro*4 - AKiTiO Node and Note Lite, each with Amfeltec
PCIe Quad Slot M.2 Carrier board with dual 960 Pro 512G flash blades mounted and plugged into different iMac Pro Thunderbolt 3 ports on separate controllers; the four 960 Pros were striped using SoftRAID
ThunderBlade - OWC ThunderBlade TB3 High Capacity PCIe Flash RAID 4GB
Fusion PCIe Flash - Sonnet Technologies Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive 1TB
Node Lite 960Pro*2 - AKiTiO Node Lite with Amfeltec
PCIe Quad Slot M.2 Carrier board with dual 960 Pro 512G flash blades mounted and striped using SoftRAID
iMac Pro 1TB - 2017 iMac Pro 8-Core internal PCIe-based flash storage 1TB

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 best thing we learned was that the 2017 iMac Pro has dual Thunderbolt controllers for the four Thunderbolt Ports. That's great news! Why? When we striped two high-speed Thunderbolt 3 storage devices and plugged them into separate TB3 ports on separate TB3 controllers, we were able to break through the 2500MB/s single controller barrier to reach as high as 4835 MB/s!


(
AKiTiO Node Lite with Amfeltec PCIe Quad Slot M.2 Carrier board with dual Samsung 960 Pro NVMe blades.)

The Fusion Thunderbolt 3 PCIe Flash Drive was included to show the fastest bus-powered TB3 solution. Notice we added the results for two striped bus-powered Fusions which recored READ/WRITE speeds equal to the dual Node configuration.

Though the striped Nodes and Fusions recorded the fastest READ speeds, the striped pair of OWC ThunderBlades recorded the fastest WRITE speeds (3788MB/s).

The conclusion from all this mad science is that you can have external Thunderbolt storage connected to your iMac Pro that equals or rivals the fast PCIe base flash internal storage. No matter what storage capacity in your iMac Pro, it's nice to know there are speedy external options available. They even come in BLACK so they will not assault the Fung Shui of your Space Gray and Black Mac.

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WHERE TO BUY THE OWC THUNDERBLADE
Order in capacities from 1TB to 8TB direct from OWC (MacSales.com) or from B&H Photo Video.

WHERE TO BUY THE SONNET FUSION TB3 PCIE FLASH DRIVE
Order from the Sonnet Online Store. B&H Photo Video also carries the Sonnet Fusion.

WHERE TO BUY THE SAMSUNG 960 PRO
Order from NewEgg or from B&H Photo Video.

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.

WHERE TO BUY THE AMFELTEC M.2 CARRIER BOARDS
Order direct from Amfeltec. They have several models to choose from. Our favorite is the Gen3
PCIe Quad Slot M.2 Carrier board for the TB3 Expansion boxes like the Node Lite. The Gen2 PCIe Quad Slot M.2 Carrier board is best for the Mac Pro towers -- especially if you plan to use all four slots.

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