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M.2 enclosure recommendations for Mac Studio

Giga, Mega, bytes, bits... on Mac Studios the comparison is 5500 (internal storage) to as little as 250 (old USB C enclosures).
No, because I don't have the same libraries on both drives.

What I have noticed is that everything on the Mac is amazingly fast - and it still feels fast after having the machine almost three months. Logic launches in three seconds, Affinity Photo in two (vs. :25 on my previous machine, not that it's apples/apples).

Now, I don't have programs on external drives, but I'm still sold on having fast drives.
There is a huge difference between an old SATA SSD in a USB3.0 enclosure, versus a fast NVMe SSD on a 10 Gbps or higher port.

Once you get to that point, there isn't much difference for our use case of loading and streaming samples (only the first portion of an instrument's samples are loaded into RAM, when a note is played it starts with that and streams the rest of the sample from disk).

On my 2019 iMac, the internal SSD averages 2700 MB/s read in benchmarks. My external SSDs range from 1100 MB/s to ~1550 MB/s in the same benchmark, and I cannot tell a difference loading the same libraries between the two. I only tested a couple of libraries, so there may be some edge cases where the extra available speed on the internal drive makes an actual difference.

But just because a drive is capable of reading at a blazing 5500 MB/s in a synthetic benchmark does not mean it will offer advantages in the real world. At least not for running sample libraries.

The Acasis enclosure is pretty reasonably priced though, so I'd go for that if you are concerned. Plus you are future-proofing yourself too in case the extra speed does eventually become usable.
 
Once you get to that point, there isn't much difference for our use case of loading and streaming samples (only the first portion of an instrument's samples are loaded into RAM, when a note is played it starts with that and streams the rest of the sample from disk).

Sure, and as I wrote, that's only one of my use cases.

To be clear, I'm the guy who kept posting that putting an SSD on my previous Mac's half speed SATA 2 bus vs. putting it on a SATA 3 card made zero difference in the real world.

But look below and you'll see that this is many times faster.

On my 2019 iMac, the internal SSD averages 2700 MB/s read in benchmarks.

This is my 2022 Mac Studio's overpriced internal storage, and sometimes it tests a little higher. I promise you I'm not posting it to brag about the size of my hands, just to show why I'm sold on drive speed.


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My external SSDs range from 1100 MB/s to ~1550 MB/s in the same benchmark, and I cannot tell a difference loading the same libraries between the two. I only tested a couple of libraries, so there may be some edge cases where the extra available speed on the internal drive makes an actual difference.

But just because a drive is capable of reading at a blazing 5500 MB/s in a synthetic benchmark does not mean it will offer advantages in the real world. At least not for running sample libraries.

It's synthetic, but as I wrote above, I'm still constantly surprised at how fast everything happens three months later, whether it's loading programs, opening System Preferences, and so on.

Again, I don't have programs on an external drive and I'm not a benchmark pervert, I'm just enjoying how fast this machine is, need some more external storage, and don't want to create bottlenecks.


The Acasis enclosure is pretty reasonably priced though, so I'd go for that if you are concerned. Plus you are future-proofing yourself too in case the extra speed does eventually become usable.
I'm pretty sure most of it is usable right now.

In any case - haha - I just ordered the Crucial P3 Plus. We'll see how much I hate it.
 
Yes, unfortunately. Thunderbolt has always been like this - a certain number of PCI lanes are reserved for video, but video can take more than what is reserved. On Thunderbolt 3, ~8gb/s is reserved, which would support a 2k display, though up to 4k is typically usable without negatively effecting storage on the same bus. See this article if you want more technical details. It's probably best to think of Thunderbolt 3 and 4 as a combination of different technologies (PCIe, DisplayPort, USB) that add up to ~40Gb/s in each direction, though no single bit of the whole has access to all of the bandwidth.
So does that mean there's no penalty for using a hub on a port you're using to drive a DisplayPort monitor?

I'm not likely to up and buy one, just curious.
 
So does that mean there's no penalty for using a hub on a port you're using to drive a DisplayPort monitor?

I'm not likely to up and buy one, just curious.
It depends on the total bandwidth needs of what you plug into the hub, but generally speaking, that's correct. Also, it depends on whether everything plugged into the a single port actually gets used at the same time. I have a ton of things plugged into a single Thunderbolt port on my M1 Pro MacBook Pro, including four different SSDs, but I'm hardly ever using more than one SSD at a time, and most of the other things are low bandwidth.
 
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This is my 2022 Mac Studio's overpriced internal storage, and sometimes it tests a little higher. I promise you I'm not posting it to brag about the size of my hands, just to show why I'm sold on drive speed.


M.2 enclosure recommendations for Mac Studio
Yup, the internal storage on the new Macs is absolutely incredible.

It's synthetic, but as I wrote above, I'm still constantly surprised at how fast everything happens three months later, whether it's loading programs, opening System Preferences, and so on.


Again, I don't have programs on an external drive and I'm not a benchmark pervert, I'm just enjoying how fast this machine is, need some more external storage, and don't want to create bottlenecks.
A lot of this is due to the CPU, not the speed of the internal SSD. The Apple Silicon Macs are a lot "snappier" in day-to-day usage than the Intel Macs. This is noticeable even on the base model Macbook Airs which don't have the SSD performance of the M1 Pro/M1 Max Macbook Pros or the Mac Studio.
 
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So does that mean there's no penalty for using a hub on a port you're using to drive a DisplayPort monitor?

I'm not likely to up and buy one, just curious.
If you are driving a 1440P monitor, then there is no penalty. The monitor can use the portion reserved for display bandwidth (the part that is always reserved for display, even if no display is connected)

At 4K and up, however, the monitor needs more bandwidth, and will start to eat into the amount available for other devices.
 
A lot of this is due to the CPU, not the speed of the internal SSD. The Apple Silicon Macs are a lot "snappier" in day-to-day usage than the Intel Macs. This is noticeable even on the base model Macbook Airs which don't have the SSD performance of the M1 Pro/M1 Max Macbook Pros or the Mac Studio.

Absolutely, but surely Logic launching in 3 seconds and Affinity Photo in 2 would be mainly because of the storage.

If you are driving a 1440P monitor, then there is no penalty. The monitor can use the portion reserved for display bandwidth (the part that is always reserved for display, even if no display is connected)

At 4K and up, however, the monitor needs more bandwidth, and will start to eat into the amount available for other devices.
Thanks. If I ever need more TB4 ports, that's good to know.

It may or may not be squirrely, because auxiliary monitor is running at 1080p even though it's a 4K monitor, and it's reported to macOS as a 4K monitor
 
That’s a pci gen 4 ssd. Mine is a slower gen 3 pci ssd. I did not get a gen 4 because that faster drive would be wasted on the Acasis enclosure… no faster.
This one is on sale. The one that's a little slower is still at its regular price, which is actually a little more than this one.

Actually, if anyone is in the market for a 4TB m.2 SSD, $300 is a very good price - especially for one with a 5-year warranty. The link to Best Buy is above.
 
Update: I'm putting my recommendation for the Crucial P3 Plus on temporary hold. (It's sold out at Best Buy, by the way, but available elsewhere for the same price.)

The hold is pending the arrival of the Acasis enclosure I ordered. While this is their latest model, the one Acasis told me is the right one to pair with the Crucial P3, I've read reports from people saying that they only get 500 MB/S write from this particular drive.

Were they using an older model enclosure? I don't know, but I do know that the temporary USB 3.1 gen 2 one I got from Amazon (free - they will send things to some people to get reviews) is reading at almost 1000 MB/S, it's also writing at 500.

Hopefully it will work better in the Acasis, or I'm returning both.
 
That seems odd but it depends on the precise benchmark.
The issue with low end drives is that the sustained write speed can drop off a cliff once the cache is full.
This one will drop to 100MBs but the cache is large so it's rarely an issue, unless you want to write to more than a quarter of the drive in one go.

 
That seems odd but it depends on the precise benchmark.
The issue with low end drives is that the sustained write speed can drop off a cliff once the cache is full.
This one will drop to 100MBs but the cache is large so it's rarely an issue, unless you want to write to more than a quarter of the drive in one go.

Most likely I won't be saving a lot of 1TB files. :)

To me, $425 for a drive + enclosure isn't low-end or budget, it's just that others are more expensive! It should be able to read and write at acceptable speeds (2500 or so) according to the specs, and it has a 5-year warranty.

But if it doesn't work, I'm returning it right away. Hell with that.
 
To me, $425 for a drive + enclosure isn't low-end or budget, it's just that others are more expensive! It should be able to read and write at acceptable speeds (2500 or so) according to the specs, and it has a 5-year warranty.
Low end in terms of all-round performance, because its QLC and DRAM-less and has a 'native direct' write speed of 100MBs.
That doesn't make it a poor drive for hosting samples or other uses.
I mentioned it because it might help to explain your low write speeds.
Although that seems unlikely unless you tested it with a very large dataset.
If it was due to thermal throttling, I suspect the read speeds would also have been impacted.

Most likely I won't be saving a lot of 1TB files. :)
It's only an issue if you want to fully fill the drive quickly as it would take around 9 hours.
Not exactly an everyday task. :)
 
Update: I'm putting my recommendation for the Crucial P3 Plus on temporary hold. (It's sold out at Best Buy, by the way, but available elsewhere for the same price.)

The hold is pending the arrival of the Acasis enclosure I ordered. While this is their latest model, the one Acasis told me is the right one to pair with the Crucial P3, I've read reports from people saying that they only get 500 MB/S write from this particular drive.

Were they using an older model enclosure? I don't know, but I do know that the temporary USB 3.1 gen 2 one I got from Amazon (free - they will send things to some people to get reviews) is reading at almost 1000 MB/S, it's also writing at 500.

Hopefully it will work better in the Acasis, or I'm returning both.
The P3 is a QLC drive with no DRAM cache. Read speeds should be better in the Acasis, but write speeds will be limited due to the nature of how these specific types of SSDs function.

Most manufacturers have three SSD lines:

The budget line like the P3, or Samsung QVO, is QLC* with no cache. Slowest speeds, significantly slower write speeds, lowest TBW*, lowest cost per GB (sometimes by a large margin).

The midgrade line like the P5, or Samsung EVO, is typically TLC and may have cache. Better read speeds, significantly better write speeds, better TBW, higher cost per GB.

And the high-grade line like the Samsung Pro, is typically MLC and will almost always have cache. Highest speeds, highest TBW, highest cost per GB.

The speed difference between the midgrade and high-grade lines usually is not all that much. Often, read speeds will be identical and write speeds will get a small bump.

For an SSD that will purely be used for samples, QLC drives are often fine. This use case is 99% reads, the only time data is written is when installing a new library or updating a library. So the slower write speeds doesn't matter all that much. But for mixed use like what you want, you definitely want to go with a TLC or MLC model.


*QLC = Quad level cell. Four distinct bit values can be stored in one physical cell on the SSD. This allows more data to be stored, at the cost of longevity and performance, especially write performance. When one cell of a QLC SSD is written to, the existing 4 bits need to be copied to an empty cell, then the original cell is erased, then all 4 bits are re-written with one of them updated with the new data.

TLC = Triple-level cell. Three distinct bit values can be stored in one physical cell. Less writes are required to update one bit compared to QLC because there is one less bit stored in each cell.

MLC = Multi-level cell. Two distinct bits per cell. Technically TLC and QLC are also multi-level. But MLC SSDs with two bits per cell were the first to be developed, were called MLC, and the name stuck instead of being changed to DLC / dual-level cell.

*TBW = Terabytes written. It is a measure of the SSDs expected endurance. SSDs degrade whenever they are written to. Writing the same amount of data to a QLC model will require more physical writes than a TLC or MLC model due to how they function, so they have the lowest endurance.
 
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Samsung Pro have been TLC for years now.
They mask that to a degree by still using the term MLC, which is true in the original sense of the M standing for multi and three is multiple.
So this might be part of the reason why this erroneous information is propagated.
 
The P3 is a QLC drive with no DRAM cache. Read speeds should be better in the Acasis, but write speeds will be limited due to the nature of how these specific types of SSDs function.


The advertised spec is sequential read/write speeds up to 3500/3000 MB/S.

I'm just a dumb customer who doesn't know from DRAM. Of course I don't expect it to reach the maximum, but 1/6 of that (if it really is that bad in the Acasis enclosure) is false advertising and it's going back. Pity the poor foo at Best Buy who has to deal with me.

It doesn't help that I contacted Crucial to ask them for a recommended enclosure and they stonewalled me. F that.

Also, I wrote Acasis and asked them pointedly whether they had a model that would perform properly with this specific drive.

 
The P3 Plus is the same as the P3 but supports PCIe 4 as opposed to 3.
So used in an enclosure the performance should be the same.
Even in a desktop system that supports PCIe 4, I wouldn’t pay the current UK premium of £50 as I’d rarely if ever see a significant difference.
 
The P3 Plus is the same as the P3 but supports PCIe 4 as opposed to 3.
So used in an enclosure the performance should be the same.
Even in a desktop system that supports PCIe 4, I wouldn’t pay the current UK premium of £50 as I’d rarely if ever see a significant difference.
The P3 Plus is less expensive than the regular P3 right now in the US. It's on sale in multiple places.
 
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