Up For Debate - Hard Drives v SSD v Hybrid SSHD Vs M.2

Written by Jon Sutton on Sun, Jan 3, 2016 4:00 PM

Game downloads have never been bigger. Grand Theft Auto V nearly gave my broadband a coronary when it tried to chug down 60 gigabytes of the stuff. Aside from the time taken to download, there’s a whole other issue at play now - space. I’ve got a 1TB SSHD and I run out of space with alarming regularity. Which isn’t that surprising when you consider it can only fit 20 modern AAA games.

So it’s usually this time of year, around the Steam Winter Sale of course, that many of us consider upgrading our hard drives. The question is, which do you go for? Right now you’ve basically got a four-way choice, each with their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. From the most affordable all the way up to eye-wateringly expensive, you’ve got Hard Drives, Solid State Drives, Solid State Hybrid Drives, and the new M.2 form factor.

Hard Drives (HDD)

Bog standard hard drives are the bread and butter of large-scale storage. You can pick up a 4TB (4000GB) internal hard drive for somewhere in the region of £110 right now. Cheaper can be found if you dig around, but you’re sacrificing quality. The name of these drives prefers to the spinning magnetic discs on which the data is stored. In terms of performance they are the slowest of the lot, but they are also the cheapest per gigabyte. Reliability can also be an issue for hard drives, with drops and shocks causing potential data loss.

Solid State Drives (SSD)

Then you’ve got Solid State Drives. SSDs are basically an enhanced version of the Flash-based memory used on USB sticks. Compared to HDD’s they are much, much faster, with lower power consumption and less prone to data loss. If you install anything to an SSD you’ll notice much quicker loading speeds, with operating systems booting almost instantly. The catch is of course cost. Prices are steadily dropping, but a 2TB (2000GB) SSD will cost you in the region of £500, which is close to ten times the cost per gigabyte of HDD.

Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD)

Straddling the two of these options are Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD). These comprise a larger HDD segment paired with a smaller SSD, located in the same component. The SSD part is usually very small, often 8GB, but it intelligently learns what your most accessed files are and automatically transfers them to the solid state storage. In theory this means faster loading times for Windows and your most used applications. Unfortunately this makes the SSD portion too small to install most games on, so you aren’t going to see any gaming benefits. What it does mean is that SSHDs are very cheap. In fact, they’re often pretty much the same price as their HDD counterparts. A 4TB SSHD can be had for £120, which is very comparable to a 4TB HDD.

M.2 

Lastly then there’s the relatively new M.2 standard. SSDs are really fast, but they are still limited by the 6Gbps transfer speeds of their SATA III spec. M.2 drives are the answer. These sticks of storage plug straight into the PCI Express lanes on your motherboard, and they’re capable of even faster transfer speeds of up to 10Gb/s. If you want blistering performance then these are the answer, but such performance comes with a fairly hefty price tag, and of course requires space in your system to install it. Prices are coming down pretty fast on these M.2 sticks though, and it’s not uncommon to see a 250GB for around £75. That said, 500GB is the limit for commercially available M.2 these days, which just won’t be enough to satisfy most gamers’ needs.

With all that said and done then, which do you think is the best buy for those looking to pick up some new storage? Does the sheer capacity of HDDs make them a winner, or is speed the key? Would you opt for a combination of two or more different types? Let us know!

Which is your preferred storage medium?

Login or Register to join the debate

Rep
13
Offline
admin approved badge
16:51 Jan-05-2016

Just an SSHD is enough for me, I'm really not fussed about knocking off a few seconds here and there.

4
Rep
97
Offline
07:10 Jan-08-2016

me too :)

1
Rep
327
Offline
admin approved badge
01:48 Jan-05-2016

I love the SSDs installed in my laptop. I have gotten so use to their performance that I don't think I could ever go back to using a traditional HDD again. It is nice to have the loading screen for games like Skyrim or Fallout 4 only last 2 to 3 seconds instead of the 7 to 15 second waits on a traditional 7200rpm HDD.

1
Rep
30
Offline
18:21 Jan-04-2016

M.2 for OS and a couple primary programs. So much in love. This needs to become standard.


SSD For games and secondary programs.


HDD for actual storage (pics, movies, mp3, docs, etc.) and backup. Plus External HDD for extra backup. I can't wait until large capacity portable SSD becomes affordable.

0
Rep
58
Offline
15:23 Jan-04-2016

m.2 as boot medium
SSD for games I play regularly
HDD for other games and all other stuff I don't need all that often.


That said I had to give up 2 sata ports on my board to install the m.2

1
Rep
58
Offline
15:31 Jan-04-2016

One thing I do hate about a HDD in your system is that they spindown when there's less to no action going on and they have to spin up if you say want to shutdown your pc.
I know you can disable the spindown but everyone likes a little quiet sometimes

0
Rep
9
Offline
12:58 Jan-04-2016

I hadn't heard of M2 drives until now.
Since I need the extra speed I think I may save up for one of those and also a HDD of 2TB or more (will see how it goes) for everything else :))

4
Rep
49
Offline
admin approved badge
13:15 Jan-04-2016

Yea its pretty cool. On my mobo though it uses up 2 sata ports so if i use m.2 id go from 6 sata ports to 4 which SHOULDN'T be a problem but i do have a dvd drive, 2HDDs and 1 SSD. Also for extra speed there's now PCIe ssds with nvme which are even faster, i believe up to 2gb/s actual transfer speed.

1
Rep
58
Offline
15:23 Jan-04-2016

same here, but I really wanted that m.2

1
Rep
6
Offline
18:38 Jan-04-2016

But you gotta make sure your motherboard has an M.2 slot. Keeping in mind that only the newest 1150 socket motherboards and most 1151 socket motherboards from Intel have that slot, I think that you don't have a slot (due to the Athlon CPU).

0
Rep
49
Offline
admin approved badge
19:06 Jan-04-2016

He can always get the pcie card one that has an m.2 slot built in haha. Some new ones even come with two slots. From reading reviews only thing i dont like about m.2 is they get crazy hot, hotter then GPUs

1
Rep
45
Offline
12:55 Jan-04-2016

hdd for games,programs&other stuff.on a 128gb ssd i keep my windows and gta v only.

3
Rep
45
Offline
10:44 Jan-04-2016

Hdd for games. Ssd for windows. M.2 just there cuz.. Ummm. Reasons

0
Rep
50
Offline
12:11 Jan-04-2016

Ummm...Aaaaa...Ohhh

0
Rep
50
Offline
12:11 Jan-04-2016

Didn't find it..hahaha

0
Rep
53
Offline
admin approved badge
10:40 Jan-04-2016

I have an ssd for os and programs,and hdd for storage.If i wanted to save some money o would go for an sshd.Never again an hdd for os though.

0
Rep
34
Offline
10:13 Jan-04-2016

SSD the dream

0
Rep
4
Offline
10:08 Jan-04-2016

If SSHD isnt 7200rpm then dont waste your maney. I have a WD black 7200rpm and my friend with a sshd 5400rpm, mine is much faster. If you want to upgrade from a HDD how for SSD or stay with the HDD and just get a fast 7200rpm

0
Rep
1,041
Offline
senior admin badge
17:18 Jan-05-2016

yup, because SSHD is basically HDD with only SSD caching portion, doesn't actually storing things on the fast SSD piece, it would be more efficient to have RAM used for caching (which already is, called Prefetch and Superfetch in Windows systems)

0
Rep
58
Offline
admin approved badge
21:35 Jan-08-2016

What? It absolutely does store data on the SSD piece lol

2
Rep
1,041
Offline
senior admin badge
16:27 Jan-09-2016

oh I see I'm a bit misleading, using terms "caching" and "storing",
SSD portion of SSHD is used only for caching, which means firmware of the drive determines what sectors (files) of HDD are accessed most often and so it mirrors them onto the SSD - from this point of view it actually is storing, so my apologies for misunderstanding;
but regular SSD drive is actual storage space which can be used to install operating system, programs, games, store user files etc. and that's what I call "storing" - from this point of view SSHD is not capable of allowing that

1
Rep
58
Offline
admin approved badge
12:20 Jan-10-2016

Thanks for the info!

0
Rep
8
Offline
10:07 Jan-04-2016

when ssd prices/gb are less than 2x hdd prices/gb,
hdd's will have become obsolete in my book
i will, literally, go to the store, immediatly
and get an ssd that matches my current hdd in size
copy the hdd contents over, then use the hdd for a compressed backup of everything else
and take it out of my system
#ssdo

1
Rep
8
Offline
10:14 Jan-04-2016

...nly_ftw

0
Rep
50
Offline
12:13 Jan-04-2016

Oh..really.
Then wait for 2-3 years

1
Rep
8
Offline
22:17 Jan-04-2016

that sounds quite reasonable, actually
i will xd
time goes quite fast doe
especially when you look back

0
Rep
50
Offline
05:32 Jan-05-2016

Oh...YEAH!!!!

0
Rep
47
Offline
09:21 Jan-04-2016

been rocking hdds for years but now im seriously considering getting an ssd.should i?

0
Rep
4
Offline
10:52 Jan-04-2016

For me going from 80gb -5400rpm hdd to a ssd was night & day difference. A denser & faster hdd to ssd would see less gain; tho still worth the upgrade imo.


Looking at your rig, if it was me I'd spend on graphics first. But if that's not a concern to you then yeah, ssd is a solid upgrade.

0
Rep
6
Offline
18:39 Jan-04-2016

totally... I had never owned an SSD before my new Gaming PC this Xmas and I'm telling you they are worth every single dollar. So amazingly fast.

0
Rep
58
Offline
admin approved badge
03:14 Jan-04-2016

I jumped on the SSHD bandwagon right away. In my opinion this is the best compromise between them all. I have 10 second boot-ups and instant turn off's and on average my SSHD is around 2x faster then a regular HDD. My SSHD is also 1TB which can hold all my games and applications! GD really needs to adjust the SSHD rankings as they are currently ranked a 4 which is silly to say the least. I would say SSHD's should be ranked a 7 at the very least...

1
Rep
-33
Offline
03:02 Jan-04-2016

when get enough money together gonna buy
3 2TB HDD, 1SDHD 1TB, 2 SSD 1x125MB + 1x500GB, and 2x 500GB SSD,
but before i do that i need to wait for the next dvancement in AMD Ddr 4 motherboards
but its gonna be epic though

0
Rep
-33
Offline
03:07 Jan-04-2016

ONE hdd for old use un-used images and art and videos the other for games and windows back up and apps and software
the 128GB ssd for windows OS and currently used apps and programs
the 500GB ssd for everyday used games
and the SSHD for cheak files safe of viruses and malware locked from rest of rig

0
Rep
58
Offline
15:29 Jan-04-2016

I used to have just 2 2tb drives in my previous system, it was so loud.
You want 4 (the sshd also has a spinning part) it's going to sound like an aeroplane taking off :)

0
Rep
29
Offline
02:26 Jan-04-2016

HDD's are my preferred medium of storage because how cheap it is. I would go for SSD but they are too expensive. maybe later I'll get an 60gb (maybe 32gb) SSD for my Operating System only.

1
Rep
50
Offline
02:01 Jan-04-2016

I have an SSD in my laptop, my desktop is an array with a hybrid drive and a pair of HDD, I honestly have had good success with my rig with good load speed with HDD's (sans SolidWorks, everything is on par with my SSD), I honestly don't plan on using an SSD any times soon, I would rather avoid a 'vanishing' SSD

0
Rep
106
Offline
admin approved badge
01:20 Jan-04-2016

SSD for OS, Hybrid HDD and SSD for games I want to load a bit faster for better experience like Arma 3, Dayz, Ark and Fallout 4, then HDD for all the other games I have. that is how I use it. SSD for me is just for Windows and programs nothing more really

0
Rep
14
Offline
23:35 Jan-03-2016

240gb ssd for sistem and games(lets face it u aren't playing 30 games at once)
1tb hdd for music videos movies
1tb hdd with copies od music videos movies(i don't like raid)

4
Rep
28
Offline
22:33 Jan-03-2016

Isn't M.2 more of a form factor thing than a new class of storage? Some M.2 drives use PCIe to give you a 10 gb/s transfer rate, but there are lots of M.2 drives that still use SATAIII. The ever-popular 850 EVO is available in M.2 form factor, and it's SATAIII, not PCIe. It wasn't until the 950 EVO that they moved to PCIe. It seems to me that it's less SSD vs. M.2 and more SATAIII vs. PCIe.

4
Rep
4
Offline
00:52 Jan-04-2016

Yip, exactly right.

0
Rep
8
Offline
10:11 Jan-04-2016

ohh
that explains why i saw all these m.2 ssd's with regular ssd transfer speeds (500mb/s)
yes pcie ftw

0
Rep
19
Offline
admin approved badge
21:45 Jan-03-2016

I have games installed in Disk Drive SSD and HDD. I do not notice the difference when I play. The SSD makes the system fast, quick restart, etc.


M.2 theme is interesting. But I read also find limitations in sharing bus with other PCI ports, especially graphics cards

0
Rep
60
Offline
22:10 Jan-03-2016

Most of the motherboards that offer M.2 support also have multiple pci slots, and indeed usualy one of them won´t work at the same time if you use a m.2, but this should only be a problem if you like 3 way sli. (atleast most motherboards I saw had atleast 3 pci lanes and 1 m.2 which would cause 1 pci to not work)

0

Can They Run... |

Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Gainward Ghost 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 7 3750H 4-Core 2.3 GHz GeForce RTX 2060 Mobile 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600H 6-Core 3.3GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Mobile 16GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
FX-6300 Radeon RX 550X 4GB 16GB
| Medium, 1080p
FX-6300 Radeon RX 550X 4GB 16GB
0% No [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
FX-6300 Radeon RX 550X 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, High, 720p
Core i3-4170 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 750 EVGA 2GB Edition 8GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 30FPS, Medium, 1080p
Core i5-10400T 6-Core 2.00GHz GeForce GTX 1650 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS,
Ryzen 3 2300X 4-Core 3.5GHz Radeon RX 6500 XT 4GB 16GB
| 60FPS, Medium, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, High, 1080p
Ryzen 5 5600X 6-Core 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 720p
Core i3-4170 3.7GHz GeForce GTX 750 EVGA 2GB Edition 8GB
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Core i7-10700K 8-Core 3.8GHz GeForce RTX 3070 Colorful iGame Advanced OC 8GB 16GB
Core i7-10700K 8-Core 3.8GHz GeForce RTX 3060 Ti Gigabyte Eagle OC 8GB 16GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 30FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i5-8600 6-Core 3.1GHz GeForce GTX 1650 8GB
Core i5-2400 3.1GHz GeForce GTX 460 MSI Hawk v1 1GB Edition 8GB
Core i5-11400 6-Core 2.7GHz GeForce RTX 3050 Mobile 8GB
100% Yes [1 votes]
| 60FPS, Ultra, 1080p
Xeon E5-2690 GeForce GTX 1080 Ti ASUS Turbo 11GB 128GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
| 60FPS, Low, 1080p
Core i7-9750H 6-Core 2.6GHz GeForce GTX 1650 Mobile 16GB
100% Yes [2 votes]
Core i5-4590 3.3GHz GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB 16GB
100% Yes [3 votes]