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SSHD vs HDD: a guide to hybrid drives

Hybrid drives are becoming a popular storage option. But what is a hybrid drive? Read on to find out about hybrid drives and how they compare to other types.

This blog was updated in June 2022.

When it comes to computer storage, you’re probably aware of the standard internal and external hard disk drives and perhaps even the more modern solid-state drives. But did you know there was another storage option out there?

SSHDs are rapidly becoming more popular in the computing world thanks to the various benefits they offer, but what is an SSHD, and is it the right storage type for your needs?

In this article, we explain what an SSHD is and break down their advantages and disadvantages to give you a thorough understanding of hybrid drives.

What is a hybrid drive?

SSHDs, also known as hybrid drives, stand for solid-state hybrid drive. Without getting too technical, SSHDs are basically a traditional hard disk drive and SSD storage in one – hence the name hybrid. The HDD is adapted to house a small amount of SSD storage built into the drive’s hybrid enclosure.

How does an SSHD work?

The partnership of an SSD, a storage type designed for quick access to data, and an HDD, which is optimised for long term inexpensive storage, means that users of SSHDs have the very best of both worlds when it comes to storage and speed.

Traditional hard disk drives operate using common read and write tech. This tech is fine on its own, but the addition of an SSD enhances the drive’s capabilities thanks to the use of integrated circuit assemblies that store data persistently using flash memory. This makes the solid-state drive the definition of quick and accessible.

Essentially, fast access and commonly used data is stored on the SSD portion of the drive, and the larger, less used bulk of data is housed on the HDD.

On a more technical level, SSHD technology works by using a relatively small amount of high-performance NAND flash solid-state memory to store the most frequently used data. This is the SSD portion of the drive, typically around 8GB in size, meaning that vital files can be accessed far quicker than on an HDD.

The rest of the SSHD is made up of traditional HDD storage, usually 1TB and above, to hold the bulk of your lesser-used files. This could be anything from games, to videos, music, and documents.

Since an average computer workload accesses a relatively small portion of the entire data stored, most of the frequently used data needed by the host computer will be located in the solid-state memory when requested for maximum performance because there is less time spent locating, reading, and delivering data to the computer.

Hybrid solid-state storage: advantages and disadvantages

As we all use different data at various stages of our computing day, SSHDs need to be adaptive when it comes to what files are stored where on the drive. Naturally, this combination of HDD and solid-state storage has advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages

One of the primary advantages that come with using SSHDs is adaptability. SSHD pioneers, Seagate, developed a series of advanced algorithms to track data usage and prioritize frequently-used data for storage in the fast, solid-state portion of the drive.

This technology is adaptive, so as different applications request data over the course of a day, the system changes what data is prioritized as needed. The results are a performance profile very similar to native SSD products, with the added benefit of a much higher total storage capacity.

But this begs the question, instead of upgrading to an SSHD, why not just buy an SSD? This is where the second advantage of SSHDs comes in. Cost-efficiency.

SSHDs are currently the most affordable way to add both speed and capacity to your computer. Standalone SSDs have the speed but are currently still quite expensive for capacities over 240GB.

HDDs are certainly cheaper in terms of capacity for money, but they lack the speed NAND flash storage provides. So, why not have your cake and eat it?

Whether you’re into gaming, HD video, photography or music, digital content is getting better and bigger. With SSHD technology you don’t sacrifice massive capacity when you choose faster performance.

The SSHD design also allows for minimal writes to the NAND while simultaneously reducing wear and tear on the HDD portion of the drive-by reading frequently from the flash.

When combined, HDD and SSD technologies actually complement each other in terms of reliability The HDD handles most writes while reads come mainly from the NAND.

Disadvantages

While the benefits of using an SSHD are undeniable, there are a few drawbacks.

For starters, while you might think that having two drives in one will give you two sets of storage, the reality is that if one part of the drive dies, the entire device stops working. This is due to the complex nature of SSHD construction that links the two drives together.

SSHDs have also not been around long enough to have a good idea of their long term reliability.  This means there’s potential for SSHDs to actually have worse long term reliability than SSDs and HDDs separately.

Is SSHD compatible with legacy operating systems?

Yes, it’s a so-called ‘black box’ solution. An SSHD looks and communicates just like a traditional HDD, so it’s 100% compatible with your old system.

Can SSHDs be used in RAID configurations?

RAID 0 and RAID1 configurations have been tested with excellent results. 2 SSHDs in RAID 0 deliver performance as much as 70% higher than a single-drive configuration.

However, Seagate doesn’t recommend mixing SSHDs with standard drives in RAID configurations, as this will negate the SSHD benefit. Further, Seagate has not conducted testing in common multi-drive configurations, such as RAID 5, 6, or 10, as current drives are not designed for multi-drive vibrations.

Who can benefit most from SSHD?

If you’re looking for the best of both worlds, SSHD is for you. Whether you’re into gaming, HD video, photography, or music, digital content is getting better and bigger, so storage and speed are at a premium.

With SSHD technology, you don’t sacrifice massive capacity when you choose faster performance. Gamers in particular can benefit from using SSHD drives – there are 3 main usage scenarios for which SSHD drives are ideal.

Upgrade your Playstation4 drive 

Upgrading to the 1TB version doubles the standard storage capacity of a PS4, while also reducing boot-up time and loading times for games, levels, terrain, and maps. Reducing load times by even a few seconds per load increases the amount of time available for actual gaming.

The main drive for a value or budget gaming PC

Desktop SSHDs can load the latest games twice as fast as a standard 2TB HDD. This drive provides a hefty chunk of storage while saving money to spend on enhancing other parts of your gaming PC, such as a better GPU, CPU, or peripherals.

The performance of some cheap SSDs can drop dramatically when they become full of data. In a desktop SSHD, 8GB of NAND cache is only used for data that needs to be accessed fast, meaning they provide consistently fast performance.

A second drive for the ultimate gaming PC:

A 250GB SSD is no longer considered large-sized when it comes to gaming. 250GB SSD equates to around 230GB after formatting, you need 20GB for Windows 8, another 10GB for Program files, and new games can take up to 50GB each.

Data consumption is growing faster than the price erosion of SSDs. The problem is that 500GB can be too expensive and 250GB too small, so, realistically, with a 250GB SSD, you’ll be left with only 3 or 4 new games installed on the SSD. Everything else will have to go on a 2nd drive.

If you’re buying the ultimate PC, why would you want a standard HDD for your second drive, when you can simply upgrade to a 2TB SSHD and have the best of both devices?

Hybrid drive vs SSD vs HDD: which is right for you?

With all the benefits of a hybrid drive on display, you may be wondering why you would ever need an HDD or SDD to begin with.

But whether or not an SSHD is right for you will always come down to your needs and budget. If all you’re using your computer for is browsing the internet and general admin tasks, then there’s no need for anything more than an HDD.

If, however, you’re a gaming enthusiast with a high budget, you might actually prefer to install two or more large SSDs for permanent storage and use.

And if you sit somewhere in the middle and want adaptability, then you might want to opt for a hybrid drive.

SSHDs at Ebuyer

Regardless of what type of drive you prefer, we’ve got all types of drives available for you to browse in the Ebuyer store. Solid-state storage, HDDs, and even SSHDs. And don’t forget to visit the Ebuyer blog for more articles like this one.

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