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So it sounds like it is best to edit 4k video on the internal SSD and use external devices as storage, at least for the 2015 MacBook Pro 15" with Thunderbolt 2.

I am running an external Helios drive from OWC. I have Blackmagic Speed Test clocking it as 500 write and 650 read. Fine for 1080p work.

I just read the topic of FCPX freezes on playback on 2015 MacBook Pro 15". I am on the fence between Resolve 15 and FCPX after years of working on Adobe Premiere. To continue with Premiere, it would take $20 a month to license. I am learning to use Resolve at work. I've paid for FCPX. Maybe I will try throwing some large files at FCPX to see if it freezes, all the while watching temperatures and fan speeds. I bought the 2015 MacBook Pro 15" for the legacy ports, because I didn't see anything with Thunderbolt 3 that looked interesting.
 



Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I have a spinning platter external USB3 hard disk drive that gets about 200MBps transfer speeds, but when I put my 4K ProRES footage on it and then try to edit in FCPX, playback is too choppy to be usable. I don't have that problem when played back from the internal 1TB SSD. So I am considered a faster external drive.
Here's one more option for the record:

Transcend JetDrive 825 - Thunderbolt PCIe Portable SSD - 960GB

It's an external, aluminum-encased SSD that you could just plug into your MacBook Pro's Thunderbolt port. While it's only 10Gbps Thunderbolt 1, that's probably not a major bottleneck for this sort of external SSD (though it pales in comparison to an internal NVMe drive).

(The product is sold as an upgrade for an internal Mac SSD, but I think you can just take the included SSD and put it in the included enclosure and be good to go without any internal swaps.)
 


Regarding the poor performance of an hard disk drive and worries about insufficient performance over USB3.0 or other external interfaces, just something to keep in mind while doing comparisons and shopping:

There is sometimes a tendency to focus on maximum throughput of a drive or interface. For some operations--for example, capturing or playing back single-stream high-resolution video--this is the most important metric. But in a lot of real-world use cases latency has a much larger impact on performance than simple throughput, and even at relatively slow bus speeds the latency advantage of an SSD can make a huge difference in measured and actual performance.

Basically, if your use case involves random access, an SSD, even if connected with a fairly slow bus, might perform better than the raw throughput indicates due to low latency.

Looking at a few samples of standard worst-case-scenario 4k read and write throughput benchmarks:

A 6TB 7200RPM hard disk drive, directly connected via SATA, clocks sequential read and write rates of around 200MB/s, but its random 4k read and write speeds are a paltry 5.5MB/s and 3.5MB/s, respectively. A 128GB SanDisk Extreme Pro USB3.0 pen drive has slightly slower sequential throughput rates, but clocks about 11MB/s on both of the same random benchmarks--two or three times faster than the hard disk drive. Which is to say that, even though the SATA interface of the hard disk drive and its sequential throughput are faster than the pen drive, for some tasks the lowly pen drive will actually be significantly faster.

A Samsung T5, which is more of an SSD in a USB3 case, manages about 450MB/s sequential, and somewhere around 30MB/s in random read and write. At the high end, a Samsung 960 Pro NVMe PCIe SSD can handle a staggering 2TB/s sequential throughput, the random numbers are 50MB/s read and around 150MB/s write.

None of this is to say that fast SSDs aren't astoundingly fast--they are--or that TB3 RAID-0 arrays of SSDs don't have legitimate use cases. Just that one shouldn't immediately assume that in all cases a "slow" USB3 interface will translate to proportionately slow performance, or that a many-times-faster PCIe interface necessarily translates into proportionately faster throughputs.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
There is sometimes a tendency to focus on maximum throughput of a drive or interface. For some operations--for example, capturing or playing back single-stream high-resolution video--this is the most important metric. But in a lot of real-world use cases latency has a much larger impact on performance than simple throughput, and even at relatively slow bus speeds the latency advantage of an SSD can make a huge difference in measured and actual performance.
As a good real-world example of that, I swapped a fast hard drive for an SSD in my old Power Mac G5, and the change was transformative, even though the SATA bus was limited to a paltry 1.5Gbps. The change can even be observed with an SSD via FireWire 800, whose bandwidth is slower than modern hard drives, let alone SSDs.
 


JDW

The problem is that Apple's computers do not have standard M.2 slots - hence the need for a very specific alternative (from MCE), instead of supporting all the M.2 options available to Windows PC owners.
Thank you for that information. I did not know the Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD was not drop-in compatible with my 2015 15" MacBook Pro! That would mean our options really are limited to MCE for an internal SSD in the 2015 MacBook Pro 15", correct?

I actually wrote to MCE yesterday, asking for more technical data on their 2TB SSD since their website is rather lacking in that regard. I told them flat out I was comparing with other SSDs like the Samsung 970 EVO, and I wanted to know how their SSD compared in terms of performance. I think that is important because there is a lot of technical things going on when we talk about "good performance." For example:
If you read through those articles, you, like me, will wonder where the MCE 2TB SSD stands in the performance mix with those other SSDs. Ric has essentially said the MCE 2TB is "faster than the Apple SSDs in the 2015 MacBook Pro," but I am curious under what conditions. I also wonder about heat and how the MCE drive is put together. If it is two 1TB SSD chips RAIDed together, it likely would run hotter than the standard Apple SSD, and with Apple notebooks already running fairly hot, heat of a replacement SSD is a legitimate consideration.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks.
 


JDW

Transcend JetDrive 825 - Thunderbolt PCIe Portable SSD - 960GB
It's an external, aluminum-encased SSD that you could just plug into your MacBook Pro's Thunderbolt port. While it's only 10Gbps Thunderbolt 1, that's probably not a major bottleneck for this sort of external SSD (though it pales in comparison to an internal NVMe drive).
It's terribly unfortunate the JetDrive is not also sold as an enclosure-only product for a reasonable price. I like the small size and fast interface. The MCE enclosure is $89 and only USB3. Speed-wise, the Thunderbolt 1 interface of the JetDrive is much better than USB 3.0 on my 2015 MacBook Pro 15".
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I also wonder about heat and how the MCE drive is put together. If it is two 1TB SSD chips RAIDed together, it likely would run hotter than the standard Apple SSD, and with Apple notebooks already running fairly hot, heat of a replacement SSD is a legitimate consideration.
If you look at the MCE link I posted previously:
it doesn't look like a RAID device (nor do they claim it is). Its performance is on par with the latest generation of other NVMe SSDs in the M2 form factor - it's just an altered package to accomodate Apple's perversely non-standard connector.

Please let us all know what you hear back from the company.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
It's terribly unfortunate the JetDrive is not also sold as an enclosure-only product for a reasonable price.
The lack of affordable/portable Thunderbolt enclosures really bugged me, too, and I asked someone in the industry about it. He said the problem was that companies couldn't get Intel/Apple certification for bus-powered enclosures that aren't populated with the SSDs. (Self-powered devices are apparently different, hence the availability of RAID enclosures.)

I actually bought an obscure portable Thunderbolt enclosure (from Delock), only to find out its performance was worse than USB 3, a huge disappointment for a pricy item.
 


JDW

I actually bought an obscure portable Thunderbolt enclosure (from Delock), only to find out its performance was worse than USB 3...
I found this JetDrive 825 review that shows 730MB/s read and 581MB/s write over its Thunderbolt 1 connection to an older 2013 MacBook Pro, which soundly beats what you'd get over USB 3.0 on the 2015 MacBook Pro 15".

I wonder if I could negotiate with them to sell me just the enclosure for $90 or so, getting them to turn a blind eye to Intel/Apple certification. If I could use my verbal persuasion skills to actually purchase the enclosure-only from them, it would clearly beat the MCE $89 USB3 enclosure to house the stock Apple SSD after I remove it for a 2TB upgrade. Performance matters! It's also very small and compact, too, which I like.

Anyway, I'm still waiting for MCE to reply back to me about detailed performance data and specifications, and I will post what they say when and if they do reply. If they never reply to me, I would take that as a dark cloud over my prospective purchase. So far 1 day has passed with no reply.
 


JDW

The problem is that Apple's computers do not have standard M.2 slots - hence the need for a very specific alternative (from MCE), instead of supporting all the M.2 options available to Windows PC owners.
What do you think about the Sintech NGFF M.2 PCIe SSD Adapter, Ric? Reading through the Amazon comments I see some people who have used that adapter successfully with Samsung 970 EVO 2TB.

The reason to consider the 970 EVO 2TB is that the cost of the SSD and the Sintech adapter is only $719, as compared with $949 for the MCE 2TB NVMe SSD. Another reason is because we know what the benchmark data is for the 970 EVO but we lack such data on the MCE.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
What do you think about the Sintech NGFF M.2 PCIe SSD Adapter, Ric?
Feel free to give it a try after you read the reviews, and let us know how it goes.
Another reason is because we know what the benchmark data is for the 970 EVO but we lack such data on the MCE.
I'm not sure what you're looking for, but MCE's description says:
2TB NVMe PCIe-Based 4 Lane (x4) SSD Flash Storage Upgrade
The MCE 2TB NVMe PCIe-based Flash Drive is the Fastest and Highest Capacity Internal Storage Upgrade Made for the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display (Mid 2015), clocking in at 2900MB/S Read and 2100MB/S Write speeds!
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Anyway, I'm still waiting for MCE to reply back to me about detailed performance data and specifications, and I will post what they say when and if they do reply. If they never reply to me, I would take that as a dark cloud over my prospective purchase.
Could be problematic...

I rescind my recommendation. :-(
 
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Am I the only one suffering severe sticker shock when looking at the cost of some of these SSD storage options? It takes me back the the early 90’s, when I spent $425 for an APS 700MB external drive for my IIci, which seemed almost cheap at the time, a year or two after shelling out over $500 to add a 240MB external to a Mac II at work. I’d like to get a 2TB SSD at some point, but can’t stomach the cost yet.
 


Ha! My first hard drive was a $440 40-MB drive, and I was ecstatic that the price had just dropped, since the original standard was 20 megs...! But backup to floppies was easier at that size. (Mac Plus.)

I, too, am seeing some sticker shock. I like speed, but anything Thunderbolt seems crazy expensive (except Thunderbolt 3 docks, which for whatever reason, are often quite cheap). Wish Apple would just use stock gear for replaceable parts....
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
I was looking for SSD historical pricing data and stumbled on this interesting history of the technology:
Zsolt Kerekes said:
SSD Market History
I published the world's first comprehensive history of the SSD market here (below) on StorageSearch.com which has been used as the primary resource for many other "so called" SSD history articles in other web sites and publications - although the attribution to my original article(s) here are often notable by their absence.

This article lists key technical, product and market milestones from 1976 upto the present day.
 


While I was waiting to have my 2012 Mini Server upgraded to SSD's, I got an Apple Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C) To Thunderbolt 2 Adapter (MMEL2AM/A), an OWC Express 4M2 4-Slot M.2 NVMe SSD, and a Samsung 970 EVO 500GB NVMe PCIe M.2 2280 SSD (MZ-V7E500BW) for my 2011 Mini Server all for $560 from Amazon.

Even with the Thunderbolt 1 of the 2011 Mini, Blackmagic Disk Speed Test showed 615MB/s write and 625MB/s read speeds. So, even the Thunderbolt 1 connections on older Macs can make enormous speed improvements, and the upgrade's speed can be comparable to an internal upgrade.
 
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Ric Ford

MacInTouch
So, even the Thunderbolt 1 connections on older Macs can make enormous speed improvements, and the upgrade's speed can be comparable to an internal upgrade.
That makes sense, as Thunderbolt 1 (in theory, at least) offers 10 Gbps, while the older Macs' internal SATA interfaces offer onlly 6 Gbps at best (and even less for earlier models). USB 2 is less than 0.48 Gbps, while FireWire 800 is 0.8Gbps, USB 3.0 is 5 Gbps, eSATA is up to 6 Gbps, and USB 3.1 Gen 2 is 10 Gbps, like Thunderbolt 1.
 


Could be problematic...
I rescind my recommendation. :-(
Ric,
After researching the options, I discovered MCE and their offerings, which are advertised as being superior to the competition. I recommended an MCE 512GB internal SSD to a client earlier this year as an upgrade. She purchased and received the SSD without delay and received notifications along the way. No issues and no complaints. So, it seems that MCE is able to process an order and deliver a product at least in some situations. Just offering my experience. My client is satisfied.
 


If you have the Apple 2TB option, you should see even faster performance with the MCE NVMe option (or a newer MacBook Pro), due to the much faster speed of the NVMe protocol (though it requires macOS 10.13).
Careful - Apple OEM parts (currently made by Samsung) come in both flavors. The well-known and easier-to-find SSUAX and SSUBX parts are AHCI-based, but there's an NVMe one as well, tagged SSPOLARIS. These will only work in a 2015 MacBook Pro or a MacPro6,1 (trashcan), but they are super fast, particularly on the 15" MacBook Pro. And, virtually alone amongst NVMe SSDs, they'll work off the shelf with macOS 10.12 (and possibly OS X 10.11, can't remember).

I don't have direct experience with the MCE NVMe drives, but I agree that from published specs, they look like by far the best option if you have a 2015 MacBook Pro and can't get an Apple OEM SSPOLARIS. MCE's performance numbers are nearly identical and the only ones I've seen that are close to Apple's.

Here's a nice guide that covers almost (but not quite) everything you might want to know if you're starting down this road from scratch:
Cody Henderson said:
The Ultimate Guide to Apple’s Proprietary SSDs

Apple's Proprietary Connectors

When Apple released their first “blade” solid state drive in the Late 2010 release of the MacBook Air, they still used established mSATA interface technology, but ditched the traditional SATA and mSATA form factors found in most laptops at that time, instead opting for a custom connector that’s never been used by another manufacturer before or since. With the 2010 MacBook Air, Apple began a new trend of developing proprietary connectors and form factors that eventually pervaded the entire Apple lineup and ushered in an era of drives that, while easily replaceable, were not so easy to source.

Many people incorrectly assume the connectors use one of the M.2 variants found in many PCs, but to date, Apple has still never used a standard M.2 connector. And unlike M.2 pin arrangements, Apple’s connectors were never given distinguishing names,
 


JDW

Could be problematic...
I rescind my recommendation. :-(
Ric, after reading your reply and seeing those links, with it having been two days since my email to MCE and still no reply, I sent the following email this morning to 6 different MCE email addresses (eliminating any excuses about spam filtering or "I never saw your email"):
I sent you an email 2 days ago, but no one from MCE has yet replied. I am aware of SPAM folders and server-side filtering, so if that is the reason I fully understand such things happen. Even so, I hope this email gets through to you.
But if you did in fact receive my previous email and for whatever reason chose not to make time to reply, that is an altogether different matter. Some of my online associates have alerted me to the following discussion threads, but I nevertheless wish to give MCE the benefit of the doubt. Whether you reply or not, I shall post the result in an online forum for other would-be PCIe NVMe SSD buyers to consider. Therefore, your kind assistance it replying back to me at your absolute earlier possible convenience would serve the best interests of us both.
https://www.complaintsboard.com/complaints/mce-technologies-c178110.html
https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/word-to-the-wise-never-buy-from-mce-tech.834171/
Thank you for your time and kind cooperation.
Sadly but not unexpectedly, Transcend sent me an email reply today saying, "I am sorry to report that we do not sell the enclosure for our JetDrive SSDs separately."

Big companies make no exceptions to the rule nor create special cases like small companies often do. It's a crying shame, but such is life. I have no regrets for asking, though. "Ask and ye shall receive" is still good advice for us all.

TomJ72... I was able to Google the OWC 4-Slot M.2 NVMe SSD enclosure. I still prefer Ric's original advice to me of simply buying a 2TB replacement for my existing 1TB Apple-branded SSD (in my 2015 MacBook Pro 15"), but your suggestion is a good idea for supplementary storage in the future.

I read the other replies and see there are still some supporters of MCE PCIe NVMe SSDs. But even if MCE finally replies back to me, the fact remains that no third party has benchmarked them. And the fact also remains that the MCE 2TB is $949, while the Samsung 970 EVO with adapter is only $719. Is the MCE really worth $230 more than the Samsung?

Surely there must be one among you who has an MCE SSD in their MacBook Pro who could run such benchmarks? Even so, the vast majority of the data out there shows how the Samsung 970 EVO 2TB performs, and you can see links to all of that in my earlier messages in this thread. Samsung also has a good reputation with regard to their SSDs, and I have purchased some SATA versions in the past. Since Samsung is a known brand to me, I am naturally bound to consider their SSD tech as a 2TB upgrade for my 2015 MacBook Pro.

Also, do any of you at least know someone who use uses a Sintech NGFF M.2 PCIe SSD adapter (or similar, sold on Amazon) in combination with a Samsung 970 EVO NVMe SSD in a 2015 MacBook Pro 15"? With prices this high, and with my living in Japan (having to get stuff transshipped to me from the US to get the best prices), I don't want to pull the trigger on a purchase until I am well informed about what I will receive.

Many thanks for all the information provided to date.
 


Ric Ford

MacInTouch
Is the MCE really worth $230 more than the Samsung?
The real comparison here is between the MCI upgrade and the Samsung + Sintech NGFF M.2 PCIe SSD adapter, which is a little more complicated than you imply. An obvious question: "How much is your time worth?"
 


JDW

The real comparison here is between the MCI upgrade and the Samsung + Sintech NGFF M.2 PCIe SSD adapter, which is a little more complicated than you imply. An obvious question: "How much is your time worth?"
That's what I am trying to determine, Ric. Precisely how much more of my time would be required for the Samsung + Adapter, $230 cheaper, route?

From what my eyes see, it would seem to take mere seconds to pop the Samsung 970 EVO into that adapter, but I've never opened my 2015 MacBook Pro before, so I don't know if that combination would even fit (thickness, I mean -- adapter thickness plus Samsung 970 EVO thickness combined). Apparently, it does fit, as per a couple comments I read on Amazon. But if I buy that combo, wait for it to get transshipped to me from the US to Japan, then find out it won't fit, it's quite messy to do the Amazon return, since I'd have to coordinate that with a family member in the US.

Still no reply from MCE. :-(
 


If you read through those articles, you, like me, will wonder where the MCE 2TB SSD stands in the performance mix with those other SSDs. Ric has essentially said the MCE 2TB is "faster than the Apple SSDs in the 2015 MacBook Pro," but I am curious under what conditions. I also wonder about heat and how the MCE drive is put together. If it is two 1TB SSD chips RAIDed together, it likely would run hotter than the standard Apple SSD, and with Apple notebooks already running fairly hot, heat of a replacement SSD is a legitimate consideration.
FWIW I recently replaced the 256GB SSD in one of my users' 2015 MacBook Pros with a 512GB model from MCE, and the drive I received is an actual Apple SSD — looked identical to the 256GB drive I removed and had all of the same ID stickers and everything. It was appreciably more expensive than the flaky OWC Aura I first tried to upgrade this computer with, but the MCE drive gave me zero problems during installation and continues to work perfectly.

I wasn't aware that Transcend also makes Mac-compatible SSDs at the time I bought the MCE unit... I might give them a try next time around.
 



You guys are giving me ideas about the Mini in the basement, which is dead slow (but shouldn’t be) and has Thunderbolt 2. I found the Transcend external drives and USB drives to be higher quality than most competitors — at least the ones I've gotten and as far as I can tell.
 


You guys are giving me ideas about the Mini in the basement, which is dead slow (but shouldn’t be) and has Thunderbolt 2. I found the Transcend external drives and USB drives to be higher quality than most competitors — at least the ones I've gotten and as far as I can tell.
My current flock of Minis all have Thunderbolt 2. One still has the original internal 5400-rpm drive installed by Apple. A couple of others were previously upgraded to 750GB 7200-rpm spinners. All now boot from Crucial SSDs in OWC Thunderbolt IV enclosures. A login script for the primary user on each machine executes a forced dismount of the internal drive. The big difference, aside from the SSD-provided speed improvement, is the return of drive activity lights to my life.

Another advantage of these enclosures is the ability to swap drives easily. This allows a production machine to safely serve as a beta test machine. They also facilitate regular offsite backup drive swaps. In my usage, each backup drive is permanently installed in a drive sled, which easily fits in a static free bag and takes a minimum of safe deposit box space. Each machine has a dedicated set of backup drives large enough to clone all active volumes on one physical drive. Currently, all backup volumes are HFS+. The transition to APFS boot drives just worked™.
 


JDW

Gentlemen, good things come to those who wait. Arnie Ramirez at MCE offered me the courtesy of a reply last night, which I followed up with more questions, and I received his answer this morning. The summary of his replies to me are given below.

Specifications for MCE 2TB NVMe SSD for Retina MacBook Pro 15" Mid 2015):
Random Read: up to 420,000 IOPS
Random Write: up to 350,000 IOPS
4KQD1 Read: up to 14,000 IOPS
4KQD1 Write: up to 48,000 IOPS
Endurance: 1,200 TBW
MTBF: 1.5 Million Hrs
DRAM Cache: 2GB
Operating Temperature: Not measured, but same as stock Apple SSDs
... MCE has tested write speeds on files up to 45GB with no appreciable drop in performance. This is an important consideration in light of PC World's Jon Jacobi finding that write speed of the Samsung 970 Evo slows to 600MB/sec when writing files larger than 22GB or so. That slowdown does not affect the Samsung 970 Pro, but there is no 2TB version of the 970 Pro.

MCE 2TB SSD shipping to Japan is currently US$30 by USPS Priority Mail and takes 7-10 business days. Shipping within the US is currently free.

MCE conducted this Blackmagic Disk Speed Test on their 2TB SSD in a 2015 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro. In order to obtain a true performance measurement of the raw input/output of the drive, MCE boots the 2015 MacBook Pro 15" from an external drive and then runs the speed tests on the internal NVMe SSD of the MacBook Pro. MCE states that this allows the internal SSD to be unbridled from having to perform housekeeping and system maintenance tasks if it were the boot drive. MCE went on to say that housekeeping tasks continue during the testing process and don't appear in the Disk Speed Test measurements, ensuring that extraneous I/O is minimized as much as possible to get a truer measurement of the SSD's speed capabilities.

MCE provided their SSD MacBook Pro Replacement Guide at my request, showing what is involved in the installation, including the two necessary tools, which apparently are included in the MCE SSD purchase.

So, at this point the primary point of consideration is price. The MCE 2TB SSD is $949, while the Samsung 970 EVO 2TB with required adapter comes to $719. Ric has properly pointed out that there are risks to the Samsung-and-adapter approach, and as an engineer, I am well aware that added complexity causes added risk of future problems or failure. But how practical those worries are is something untested by me, and I only read a couple comments on Amazon which praise the Samsung 970 EVO 2TB as having worked fine in their 2015 MacBook Pro 15". Even so, to get the comparatively lower risk MCE 2TB SSD will cost you $230 more.

And there you have it.
 


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