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A2115 / 2019 / Processors from 3.0 GHz 6-core i5, up to 3.6 GHz 8-core i9. Released March 19, 2019.

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Which Purchasing Config is right to get two SSD's in 2019 iMac?

I’m thinking about buying a 2019 5k 27” iMac and I’m trying to figure out the best way of getting to my end goal. AKA what config I should purchase from Apple. I have two main questions that I am still trying to figure out:

Ultimately, I want two SSD’s - a proprietary/blade NVMe SSD with between 512GB and 2 TB of storage, and a SATA SSD with between 1-2 TB. I’m not opposed to taking the entire computer/motherboard apart, but if it’s possible to just do a standard main drive upgrade, that would be preferred.

  1. If I buy a standalone SSD config (no fusion/hdd), will it ship with an open port AND a SATA/Power cable sent to the spot where the usual Fusion/HDD would be? If it does NOT ship with that cable, does that mean that I will have to take apart the entire computer like in a usual blade SSD replacement to attach this cable to the motherboard?
  2. If that is the case, and I DO have to take apart the entire internals of the computer to attach this SATA cable like in the blade SSD replacement, it doesn’t seem worth getting a standalone SSD config. Should I then just buy the cheapest fusion drive config and then personally upgrade the NVMe drive and SATA together (using the correct adapters and compatible NVMe drives, obviously)? I understand that the speeds are relatively similar with Apple NVMe SSD’s above 512 GB and 3rd party NVMe SSD’s - I’m mainly thinking about cost. OR should I go with a beefy Fusion Drive option (for the upgraded blade SSD) and just replace the HDD with a new SSD?

Also, the thermal detector is no longer needed on models post 2013 because of SMART technology, correct?

Thanks for your help, iFixit!

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Frankly, I would just get the blade SSD only config (as large as you can afford) and buy an external RAID SSD drive as it will be massively faster than the SATA SSD. Just look at the performance differences and think about the cost and risks of opening your system.

OWC ThunderBlade

If you do go with a SATA SSD you would need to add the SATA/Power cable (which is not available yet) and will need replacement adhesive tapes iMac Intel 27" (2012-2017) Adhesive Strips following this guide iMac Intel 27" Retina 5K Display Display Replacement. You will need to pull the logic board forward (not fully removing it) to gain access to the header which is on the backside to plug in the SATA cable.

I don’t recommend using M.2 drives with the adapter in iMacs given the amount of work just getting to them. At least in a MacBook Pro its a lot easier to pull it when it fails (which it will) Stick with the original Apple blade SSD, yes its more expensive but you just bought an expensive system!

Think of it this way… You just bought a beautiful Bugatti would you take it to the local Jiffy Lube for an oil & filter change? I think not! They wouldn’t have the racing oil or the correct oil filter your car requires.

Please don’t mess up your system thinking you can do better. Get the best Blade SSD system you can get and then go with the external Thunderbolt3 RAID drives for the speed and the deeper storage. I’ve helped setup both audio engineers and video editors with Mac’s. This is what they go with and often times max out the RAM in your case your system can go upto 128 GB.

Update (06/15/2019)

The Thunderbolt3 ports are very fast! Each port is about 3 times faster than the internal SATA port. so that's not the issue here. Are you thinking USB connections then that would be slow!

Fusion Drives configs are slower! And you gain nothing when setting up a Fusion Drive with two SSD's! In fact you slow your system down Vs leaving the drives independent.

Stick with the largest blade SSD you can go with and then if you really want deep data storage internally put in a large 3.5" SSHD drive as the cheapest solution. Then jump to a large SSD (in both we are using them independently not doing any fusion setups).

Lets dig a bit deeper here on external drive configs within a multi-drive Thunderbolt3 case (RAID)

The setup of the drives them selves then becomes the bottleneck. So if you plugged in a single SATA HDD or SSD into the case then its no slower than what your internal SATA drive would be.

Now what if you use a faster case interface in the case, lets say a PCIe/NVMe with M.2 SSD's now just a single M.2 drive could be as fast as your internal Apple Blade SSD! But, now let’s add three more!! Now we are three to four times faster than what your internal blade SSD!!

Still not fast enough or deep enough storage!

OK, So now add in a second Thunderbolt3 RAID box and then stripe the data across both boxes you'll get close to eight times faster than your built in blade SSD!

As you can see a good RAID box even with just one drive is still better than using the internal SSD.

If money is tight get a single USB-C SSD drive. Get either one of these great drives!

I have four T5’s which are just great! The new X5 is still faster! As the flash chips are internally connected via PCIe/NVMe, access of the older T5 is with the slower PCIe/AHCI connection which is still faster than SATA!! Both are still faster than the best internal SATA connected drive you could get.

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@danj thanks for the reply! your answers are extremely helpful.

I feel fairly confident opening up an imac. I’ve never done it before personally, but I have a friend who’s opened a few and I have built a hackintosh. Given the amount of info online, i feel fairly confident in our ability to successfully get in and out.

I think i would prefer to go with the Apple SSD and use RAID, but my concern with external storage is that is seems to get no where near as quick of read and write speeds as internal SATA/NVMe (around 500 MB read and write as opposed to 2,500 MB). Am I looking in the wrong spot for these external drives? If so, could you point me to any external storage with comparable speeds? (RAID or not RAID).

By my logic, if we were to get into the iMac anyway, and we have to get to the logic board to add a SATA connection, we might as well replace the blade SSD (with the adapter obviously) while we are at it, correct? Once we’ve voided warranty, we might as well take the whole thing apart and get the best performance possible.

Still weighing out all the options, and deciding between the 512 SSD or 1 or 2 TB fusion configz with the upgrades, so i appreciate your help!!!

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Buy the largest SSD config you can afford! Don't mess with the blade SSD with those fangled adapters and M.2 SSD! Big mistake!! And stay away from the Fusion Drive setups!!

IF you do want some deeper for storage just go with the HD upgrade with a Seagate 3.5" FireCuda SSHD on your own as the cheapest config. I recommend with at least a 512 GB Apple blade SSD, that would be the cheapest solution.

FYI: Click on the Blue URL Links for the specs sheet here and what I posted in my answer.

Frankly, I would just get the iMac with the internal SSD (again get as large as you can afford) and then for now just go with an external USB-C/Thunderbolt3 connected SSD either in a RAID box like OWC ThunderBlade or OWC Mercury Elite Pro Quad with your own SATA drives

Or if you need a bit of time to recover just get an external single SSD drive like the Samsung T5 or X5 drives (see above)

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@danj The more I look into external storage, the more of an issue I am having with I/O though. I need to plug in one/two external monitors and an audio interface through the two thunderbolt ports and single thunderbolt bus. If I go external, I'll have to spend another 200-300 dollars on a dock and then I might be getting close to the total bandwith.

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Sounds like you're undersizing what you need. You need to jump to a iMac Pro! As you are doing audio work and need two-three monitors the iMac is not going to cut it - Sorry ;-{

Here's what you really need! iMac Pro! It offers what you need for performance and external I/O.

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