With data consumption at an all time-high, storage and protection solutions are in demand. The demand is driving new technologies to market, and buyers have more choices than ever before. Mechanical hard disk drives (HDDs) have been around for years—and still have their place in storage solutions from PCs to network attached storage devices to data centers—but flash-driven solid state drives (SSD) outperform them by nearly every metric. There are also solid state hybrid drives (SSHDs), which combine features from both types—but do they add up to a best-of-both-worlds solution?
This article looks in detail at SSDs, HDDs, and SSHDs to explain the benefits and trade-offs of each option to help you make the right choice for your needs.
Table of Contents
- SSD vs. SSHD vs. HDD at a Glance
- What is a Hard Disk Drive?
- HDD Features
- HDD Price and Use Cases
- What is a Solid State Drive?
- SSD Features
- SSD Price and Use Cases
- What is a Solid State Hybrid Drive?
- SSHD Features
- SSHD Price and Use Cases
- Choosing the Right Storage Solution
- Bottom Line: HDD vs. SSD vs. SSHD
SSD vs. SSHD vs. HDD at a Glance
The following chart summarizes at a high level the differences among the three types of drives discussed here: HDD, SSD, and SSHD.
|Storage Type||Flash memory||Hybrid (HDD + integrated SSD)||Magnetic platters|
|Storage Capacity||128 GB – 8 TB||128 GB – 2 TB||500 GB – 18 TB|
|Read or Write Speeds||Faster||Faster than HDD but slower than SSD||Slower|
|Moving Parts||No||Partial (HDD portion)||Yes (spinning disks)|
|Power Consumption||Lower||Lower than HDD but higher than SSD||Higher|
|Price per GB (Entry Level)||$0.20 – $0.40||$0.10 – $0.20||$0.04 – $0.08|
|Use Cases||High performance computing, gaming, video editing, etc.||Gaming, multimedia applications, general computing, etc.||Storing large media libraries, backups, archival data, etc.|
What is a Hard Disk Drive?
HDDs have dominated the storage economy for decades. These traditional drives have a spinning platter covered in a magnetic material and use mechanical components such as read or write heads to store and retrieve data. Due to their mechanical nature, HDDs are comparatively slower and more susceptible to mechanical failures than flash-driven SSDs, but they offer greater storage capacities and a wallet friendly price tag, making them an excellent choice for users seeking large space without draining their bank account.
Here are the most important features of using traditional mechanical hard disk drives.
Larger Storage Capacity
HDDs shine when it comes to raw storage capacity. They can provide storage capacities up to 16 TB.
Lower Cost per Gigabyte
HDDs are known for their cost effectiveness. They offer a lower cost-per-GB that averages between $0.03 to $0.06.
The mechanical nature of HDDs introduces a level of fragility to their design. The spinning disks and moving read or write heads make them more susceptible to physical damage, like drops or impacts.
Slower Read and Write Speeds
Although HDDs excel in storage capacity and affordability, they tend to fall short in terms of speed. The common rounds per minute (RPM) speeds for consumer-grade HDDs range from 4,200–7,200 RPM, and on average, they have a read or write speed of around 100-200 MB/s.
Susceptibility to Failures
HDDs are prone to mechanical failures, leading to heavy data loss, and even complete drive failure, in some cases.
HDD Price and Use Cases
HDDs are suitable for use cases where high capacity is a priority, such as storing large media libraries, backups, and historical records. HDDs are also used to store data in network attached storage (NAS) devices for small enterprise deployments, and in homes with limited storage requirements.
HDDs also complement SSD and SSHDs as secondary devices for gaming consoles, facilitating downloads of large-file-size content and graphics. In data transfers with limited bandwidth, HDDs transfers datasets without hassle.
General pricing ranges for consumer-grade HDDs run the gamut as follows:
- Entry-level (1TB – 4TB ): $15-$50
- Mid-range (4TB – 8TB ): $50-$100
- High-capacity ( 8TB – 18TB ): $100-$200
Learn more about hard disk drives.
What is a Solid State Drive?
Solid state drives, or SSDs, use flash memory chips to store data and have no mechanical storage mechanisms. This makes them less noisy, more power-efficient, and more resistant to shocks and vibrations. While the price-per-gigabyte of SSDs is higher compared to HDDs, their performance and reliability are ideal for users seeking speed, responsiveness, and longevity.
Flash Memory Technology
SSDs employ flash NAND chips, which can retain data even when power is removed. This technology allows SSDs to offer fast and reliable data storage, making them up to 20 times faster than HDDs.
Faster Read and Write Speeds
SSDs are faster than traditional drives, along with faster boot times, software loading, and file transfers. Solid drives can achieve sequential read and write speeds of up to 540 MB/s and 500 MB/s.
No Moving Parts
SSDs’s non-mechanical nature contributes to their high reliability and durability. Without any spinning disks or read or write heads, SSDs resist mechanical failures, and minimize the risk of data loss. Iproved durability makes SSDs an ideal choice for portable devices where data integrity is crucial, and the risk of accidental drops is higher.
Lower Power Consumption
SSDs have low energy requirements. During idle or standby mode, SSDs typically consume only around 20-100 mW.
Moderate Pricing and Lifespan
SSDs have a high price-per-gigabyte, and have a limited lifespan in terms of the number of write cycles they can endure.
SSD Price and Use Cases
SSDs are generally more expensive than HDDs but have become more affordable in recent years. They are well suited for tasks that require high performance storage, like gaming, video editing, and OS booting. SSDs can also be used to program high productivity computing systems (HPCs) in data centers to accelerate data analytics and operations. Smart homes and industrial automation also use SSDs to minimize power consumption.
SSDs come in both serial ATA (SATA) and non-volatile memory express (NVMe) formats, offering faster speed, reliability, and compatibility.
General pricing ranges for consumer-grade SSDs run the gamut as follows:
- Entry-level (128GB- 250GB): $50-$100
- Mid-range (250GB- 500GB): $100-$200
- High-performance (500GB- 1TB): $200-$400
Learn more about solid state drives.
What is a Solid State Hybrid Drive?
As technology progresses, so does innovation—enter the SSHD, which combines the benefits of HDDs and SSDs into one cohesive package. SSHDs consist of a traditional HDD with a small amount of integrated flash memory.
SSHDs boast the speed advantages of SSDs for frequently accessed data while still offering a large storage capacity for rarely accessed files. SSHDs balance the best of both worlds by offering meta performance, and generous, yet affordable storage capacity.
Learn more about SSHD performance.
Hybrid Combination of HDD and SSD
SSHD’s hybrid architecture integrates a traditional HDD and a small SSD cache. SSHDs typically pair 1 TB-HDDs with 8-32 GB SSD cache.
Faster Performance for Frequently Accessed Data
The SSD cache in SSHDs unlocks performance for frequently accessed data. By storing frequently used files and data in the SSD cache, SSHDs deliver faster access times, sometimes up to five-times faster boot times.
Larger Storage Capacity
The mechanical HDD component of SSHDs offers storage space as high as 4 TB. The average SSHD size is around 500 GB.
SSHDs offer a cost effective alternative to pure SSDs. While SSDs are known for their high performance but relatively higher price tags, they still bridge the gaps between performance and affordability.
However, SSHDs have limitations—the flash memory portion of an SSHD is typically smaller than that of a dedicated SSD, resulting in limited performance gains for frequently accessed data. Also, the overall performance of an SSHD may not match that of a dedicated SSD. SSHDs only support the SATA format, look similar to hard drives, and can be connected to a SATA port only.
SSHD Price and Use-Cases
SSHDs find a use-case for consumers with high performance and storage needs. Currently, SSHDs are used in personal computing, creative workstations, entry-level servers, gaming consoles, and data centers, or enterprise environments. SSHD are highly adaptable, so the system configures space options itself based on what kind of data is stored.
General pricing ranges for consumer-grade SSHDs run the gamut as follows:
- Entry-level (1TB – 2TB): Approximately $50-$100
- Mid-range (2TB- 4TB): Approximately $100-$200
- High-end (4TB- 8TB): Approximately $200-$400
Learn more about SSHDs.
Choosing the Right Storage Solution
Generally, performance is a function of use cases—people with limited computer use will have different performance requirements than a gamer or Udemy course creator, for example. If speed is of the utmost importance, SSD is a clear choice. SSDs offer lightning fast read and write speeds, reducing load times, and providing a snappy computing experience. They are perfect for tasks that demand quick data access, or operating system booting. SSDs can be manually programmed, so users can customize the storage space.
On the other hand, an HDD might be the way to go if you are primarily concerned with storage capacity and cost effectiveness. HDDs provide ample space for your files, making them suitable for storing large media libraries or archival data.
SSHDs bridge the gap between HDDs and SSDs. For gaming, multimedia applications, or general computing, SSHDs can provide a significant boost in performance compared to traditional HDDs, without sacrificing the large storage space.
Price plays an important role in any purchasing decision. While SSDs have become more affordable in recent years, they are still pricier. If your budget is limited and you require a large storage capacity, an HDD or SSHD can offer a cost effective solution.
SSDs are complex, and offer low return on investment (ROI) on the storage vs. price front. At times, the intermediate users overpay for an underutilized storage. However, if you have some space in your budget, and prioritize performance and reliability, investing in an SATA SSD can be a good long term investment. NVMe SSDs are still expensive, and beyond storage requirements for personal desktops.
By and large, a 2 TB SSHD under $100 is the best middle path here. Note that it’s likely that the SSHD cost will shrink in coming years as more and more SSDs are dominating the market by reducing their per GB storage price.
Use Cases and Workload
HDDs are well suited for users who require decent storage capacities at an affordable price. If you are dealing with massive media libraries, or need a lot of space for backups, HDDs are the perfect choice to meet your storage needs.
SSDs are an ideal choice for content creators with heavy workload, or in enterprises requiring higher virtual memory, and cloud storage. Moreover, SSD’s low latency and high input/output operations per second (IOPS) makes them a natural pick for HPCs and embedded systems.The speed and responsiveness of SSDs eventually will improve your workflow and overall productivity.
Bottom Line: HDD vs. SSD vs. SSHD
Traditional mechanical hard disk drives are proven solutions, and still offer higher capacities for lower costs. But SSDs are the proven winner when it comes to performance and durability. Solid state hybrid drives offer a middle ground, best-of-both worlds solution for certain use cases that looks more like a compromise for others. Which is the drive of choice depends upon budget and application.