In only a few years, the solid state disks (SSD) have nearly replaced magnetic hard disks (HDD) as the default storage option in laptops and PCs. However, there is also now an option of a solid state hybrid drive (SSHD), offering the best of SSD and HDD. So which one is better? The only way to find out is through a head-to-head comparison as shown here.
Differences Between SSD and SSHD
SSD is flash storage similar to a USB drive but is much faster, as it uses NAND memory. On the other hand, SSHD contains both a regular hard disk and NAND memory, which serves as a big cache buffer (generally 8 GB). Unlike an HDD, both the SSD and HDD components of SSHD are wielded into a single piece of hardware.
Both disk drives are available in 2.5- and 3.5-inch size variations, though SSD also comes within the M2 form factor, which is much smaller in size.
SSDs come in two variants: SATA and NVMe. Only SSHD comes with SATA.
1. Raw Speed Comparison
To determine whether an SSD (or SSHD) device will be the right fit for your personal computer, test its raw speed using Anvil’s Storage Utilities. It gives a very accurate picture of SSD performance. The following results are for a slightly older stock of SSD (circa ~2017) that I use, whose overall score is 102.83.
A newer SSHD, like the Seagate Firecuda 2 TB, generates a higher Anvil’s score of 220.86 in comparison to older SSD devices, according to an Eteknix study.
Another Anvil’s Storage Utilities Benchmark study shows that a Seagate SSD model OneTouch 500 GB has an overall score of 2070.95, which is more than ten times higher than Seagate’s own SSHD device.
In terms of raw speed performance, a newer SSD scores better than SSHD devices. Some SSHD models, though, may give better performance than older SSD devices. Another way to assess your current hard disk speeds is to download this tool by PassMark software.
2. Benchmark Speed Comparison
The effective benchmark speed for SSD drives can be found at this link. These benchmark speeds can then be compared with of any SSHD drives at this link. There are very few SSHD devices in the market so they’re all clubbed under Hard Disk Drives (HDD).
In this test, we compared a much lower-ranked, older release, Samsung SSD, with a 2 TB Seagate Firecuda SSHD. The SSD device is ranked 1053 out of 1058 SSDs, while the SSHD device is ranked 55th out of 277 hard disks.
As shown below, for nearly 130000 user benchmark tests, the average read-and-write speed for FireCuda SSHD is 136 MB/second with an overall score of 116 MB/second.
Let’s check similar data for SSD. The Samsung 870 QVO SSD device is ranked among the very lowest of all SSD devices.
According to 28,279 samples, the read-and-write speeds for Samsung 870 QVO SSD stands at 483 Mb/second and 411 Mb/second respectively.
Examining the benchmark performance results, even an older, lower-ranked SSD device clocks much higher read-and-write speeds (3.2 times more) compared to a newer, high-ranked SSHD device.
3. Load Time Comparison
A gaming website, Eurogamer, tested load times for four heavy-duty games on a common test bench (i.e. same CPU speed). For this comparison, they used OCZ Trion 100 (a SATA-based SSD), Seagate Firecuda 2 TB SSHD (as above), and a 500 GB HDD stock drive.
As shown here, in the first load time comparison, the SSD was consistently ahead of SSHD across all games. With SSHD, the initial application loading time in these games lags behind because they are launched from the HDD component.
SSHD’s SSD component is associated with “frequently accessed data” and “boot data.” As an illustration of the former, by the fifth test load, all the games downloaded in SSHD at approximately the same time as the SSD device.
To illustrate the boot data comparison, we will check the testing results by Seagate for its own HDD, SSHD, and SSD products run on an Intel Core i5 processor and Windows 7. They used a 7200 RPM HDD, a Seagate Desktop SSHD, and an Intel 320 SSD. The boot times (shown in the second panel) are similar here for both SSHD and SSD, as only the flash component is at use. In terms of application load testing time (first panel), the SSHD device is just a few seconds behind the SSD.
4. Price vs. Capacity Comparison
In the recent past, SSHD devices had a slight advantage over SSD because of their ability to carry more capacity at a fraction of the cost. But as of the last two years or so, that advantage has been lost, as SSD prices have fallen considerably. A 500 GB SSD by reputed manufacturers can be bought for only $50. If you want more storage space, you can go for a 2 TB SSD model for less than $150. This is even cheaper than Seagate Firecuda’s 2 TB SSHD model.
5. Life Expectancy: SSD vs. SSHD
There is a widespread belief that SSD storage wears out over time because the NAND cell gets degraded over each use (similar to USB drives). That is actually true for earlier models, but later generation designs have lower failure rates. Today’s commercially available SSDs are far more durable for a realistic life cycle.
For SSD, an important life expectancy parameter is TBW (Terabytes written), which indicates the terabytes of data you can write to the disk in its lifetime. Consider the following Barracuda SSD 500 GB with 320 TBW. Even if a user writes 100 GB data every single day (extremely unlikely in a consumer environment), it will take 8.7 years to reach this SSD’s life expectancy. Indeed, the most recent estimates put the age limit for SSDs around 10 years, but the latest SSD models can easily go longer than that.
This refers to a software-controlled power on/off cycle. Even if you restarted and booted your SSHD system 150 times a day continuously (extremely unlikely in a consumer environment), the SSHD should last 10.9 years. In reality, SSHD lasts even after its load/unload cycle rating has been crossed. Its failure rate due to program cycles is much less because it uses both the SSD and HDD portions more efficiently than if they were separate.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are SSDs more prone to failure than SSHD?
A few years ago, SSD devices weren’t expected to last long because of their Flash memory systems. Today’s SSD devices are as reliable as SSHD in terms of the number of times you can write data without encountering errors. Moreover, SSD devices don’t have moving parts like the magnetic disks in SSHD, which greatly reduces the chances of failure.
Which is better: SSD or SSHD?
If you are a gamer who is looking for pure raw and benchmark speeds, SSD is better. Additionally, both are similar in cost. If you need more storage space with equally fast boot-up speed and quick access to frequently accessed applications, then an SSHD may be a better choice, as it delivers faster load times with repeat use.
If storage space is all you need, you can also make use of a combo of SSD and HDD (as a secondary drive). The SSD is for system files and applications, while the HDD is for storing backups, such as your photos, media files, etc.
How can I extend the lifespan of my SSD/SSHD device?
Although most modern SSD/SSHD devices come with at least a five-year warranty and deliver many more years of reliability, you can take precautions to extend their lifespan. Some of these lifespan extension Windows techniques include updating the SSD/SSHD firmware, keeping Windows DeFrag on, enabling AHCI, and configuring write caching.
Image credit: Unsplash Screencaps by Sayak Boral
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