SSD vs SSHD: Are Hybrid Drives Worth It in 2020?

Featured Image Ssd Vs Sshd

In only a few years, the solid state disks (SSD) have nearly replaced magnetic hard disks (HDD) as the default storage option in laptops. However, a new solid-state hybrid drive (SSHD) has emerged, giving 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.

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You can find SSHDs with a capacity up to 14 TB and an 8GB SSD cache, whereas SSDs are usually capped at 2 TB.

SSDs come in two variants: SATA and NVMe. Only SSHD comes with SATA.

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1. Benchmark Speed Comparison

The effective read-and-write speed for SSD drives can be found at this link. The speeds can then be compared with any SSHD drives at this link. Another way to assess your current hard disk speeds is to download this tool by PassMark software.

In the following test, we compared a 240 GB Seagate SSD device that was released in 2013 with a 2016 version 2 TB Seagate Firecuda SSHD. Our test SSD device is ranked 404th out of 1026 SSDs, whereas the SSHD device is ranked 71st out of 1015.

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As per the results, even an older, lower-ranked SSD device clocks much higher read speeds (3.2 times more) and write speeds (2.7 times more) compared to a newer, high-ranked SSHD device. This means if raw speed is your only determiner, even an older SSD device is ahead of a newer SSHD device.

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2. Load Time Comparison

A gaming website, Eurogamer, tested load times for four heavy-duty games on a common test bench (e.g. same CPU speed). For this comparison, they used OCZ Trion 100 (an SATA-based SSD), Seagate Firecuda 2 TB SSHD (as above), and a 500 GB HDD stock drive.

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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 at approximately the same time as the SSD device.

To illustrate the boot data comparison, we will check the testing results by Seagate for their 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 vertical bar) are similar here for both SSHD and SSD because only the flash component is at use.

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3. Price vs. Capacity Comparison

You can easily pick up affordable SSD models in the 500 GB range for less than $80. Within the 1 TB threshold, a SATA-based SSD can be had for less than $100. However, high-capacity SSDs in 2 TB range generally cost much more (>$250), especially the NVMe SSDs.

In comparison, a 2 TB SSHD such as Seagate FireCuda can be had for approximately the same price as a 1 TB SSD. A 500 GB SSHD can be had for less than $60. Price per GB for an SSHD always beats SSD.

If you have a lot of data, you should consider SSHD over SSD, as it goes with the above advantage of faster load times due to a learning curve.

4. 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.

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Still, with SSHD, you are getting more lifespan. For instance, this Seagate FireCuda SSHD has a load/unload cycle of 600,000 as per its datasheet.

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, which is higher than SSD. 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.

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At present, both SSDs and SSHDs have very high lifetime values. So you don’t have to worry about hard disk failure even with plenty of usage for either. However, SSHD is still ahead.

Final Verdict: Which Storage Type Is Best?

If you are looking for pure speed, SSD is definitely better for you.

If you are budget constrained or need more storage space with equally fast boot-up speed and quick access to frequently accessed applications, then an SSHD is the one to go for.

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 backup like your photos, media files, etc.

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