Hybrid Drive or SSD?

Hard drives are becoming a dying breed when it comes to primary drive choices. Flash technology is becoming more advanced and cheaper, but still not as cheap as an equivalent sized hard drive and that’s where hybrid drives come into the equation. So that leaves us with the question, which one is currently the better choice? A hybrid drive or an SSD?

Before the hybrid drive and SSD became more mainstream and affordable there were super fast hard drives (excluding server grade SCSI drives). An average hard drive runs at 7200rpm, increasing this speed (along with the speed of several other components within the hard drive) allows it to perform more quickly, the VelociRaptor by Western Digital being a good example. It spins at 10,000rpm and can read and write much faster than most other desktop and laptop hard drives. These super fast hard drives are still around today and are still a cheaper option than an equivalent sized hybrid drive or SSD, but they’re still slower than both and consume more power which is a potential issue for portable computers – with some laptop hard drives running as low as 5400rpm to save power.

Hybrid drives or “SSHD” have been around for a while but have only recently became more mainstream for use in personal computers. Hybrid drives combine SSD and hard drive technology in the one single unit and the idea is simple. Combining the excellent performance of an SSD with the afforable storage of a hard drive. What lets these drives down when it comes to performance is how data is managed on the drive. There is usually a classic hard drive of let’s say 1TB, internally connected to this drive is a small SSD chip which is say 8GB. The way it works is simple but not the most efficient. The data is permanently stored on the hard drive, the small SSD chip basically acts as a buffer between the rest of your computer system and the hard drive. It works in a similar way to RAM. Recent data is temporarily stored on the SSD chip and this is what gives the hybrid drive the advantage over the classic hard drive as the computer can more quickly execute what is on the SSD chip as SSD technology has much lower read and write times.

SSD is at the other end of the spectrum. SSD drives are significantly faster than a hard drive, when upgrading from a hard drive to an SSD you’ll instantly notice the difference. SSD does come with a few issues however. For one, it’s still quite expensive when compared to an equivalent sized hard drive. Another issue is that with an SSD you have to be careful what you’re doing with it, if an SSD is continuously written to, it significantly increases it’s chances of failure. Of course the same could be said for a hard drive, except with a hard drive the wear is usually much more gradual and it tends to be more than often a moving part that fails such as a motor or the drive head rather than the very structures that keep your data intact.

There’s no denying that SSD is getting cheaper and more reliable and I’m sure eventually it’ll become the standard. The best advice I usually give anyone who wants to choose between an SSD and a hard drive is to get both – prodiving your system can accommodate multiple drives. Run the OS and all of the applications from the SSD and keep all of your other data on the hard drive. A hybrid drive is a great solution for when two drives isn’t possible and for when an SSD is too expensive and a standard hard drive is just too slow.