Should I Buy a Solid-State Hybrid Drive?

Hybrid hard drives – also known as solid-state hybrid drives (SSHDs) offer some of the performance benefits of a solid-state drive with the capacity of a traditional hard disk drive.

Hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs) both have their advantages. SSDs, which store data on NAND flash chips, are much faster than HDDs, where the data is stored on spinning magnetic platters. Even though SSDs are increasing in storage capacity and coming down in price, HDDs still offer a better cost per gigabyte; a reasonably priced SSD might reach a maximum storage capacity of 500GB or maybe 1TB, but an HDD for the same price could offer in excess of 2 or 3TB of storage. While mechanical HDDs might not be capable of the fast read/write speeds that SSDs can reach, they offer a very large storage capacity for a comparably low cost.

Choosing between an HDD and an SSD really depends on the user’s individual needs; there’s no one size fits all approach to choosing a drive. If you require a fast drive for tasks like gaming or graphic design, an SSD might be for you. Likewise, if you require a drive with a large storage capacity and need all your data on-hand, an HDD might be better suited to your needs. Some users opt for both, installing both an HDD and an SSD in their systems. The SSD is used for anything that benefits from the speed that flash storage offers – things like application data, programs, and system files – while the HDD is used to store files which don’t need to be accessed quickly. This requires manually installing two drives to the system, and choosing what data to store on each drive. This may be beyond the technical capabilities of some users. This is where solid-state hybrid drives come in.

SSHDs combine the speed of an SSD with the storage capacity of an HDD. They contain both a mechanical magnetic drive, and a smaller amount of solid-state storage; crucially, it appears in your operating system as a single drive. The SSD component stores files which need to be accessed frequently like system files or programs, and because it’s stored in non-volatile flash memory, it speeds up the system’s start-up process. The rest of the data is stored on the magnetic HDD component of the drive. The SSHD handles everything on its own, so the user doesn’t have to manually shuffle files from one portion of the drive to another.

SSHD’s only contain a small amount of flash memory, normally between 8GB and 32GB. While this is a decent amount of space for your system and program files, it isn’t likely to be enough to hold all of them. But one of the main advantages of SSHDs over using separate HDDs and SSDs is that because they’re single drives, they can be used in machines with a single drive bay, like laptops. Essentially, it all comes down to storage space and cost; if you could get an SSD with the same storage capacity and same price as an HDD, there would be no need for hybrid drives. When the cost of flash storage cause SSDs to come down in price, you’ll start to see fewer SSHDs. But until then, investing in an SSHD will give you a much faster drive at a fraction of the cost of a full-flash SSD.

Solid-state hybrid drive