If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you’ve come across the decision between an SSD vs. HDD. What is the difference, and which should you choose to get? Have a look below for some insight in the final shakedown of SSD vs. HDD.
Before looking at the pros and cons of an HDD, let’s take a look at its history. HDD stands for hard disk drive. Originally invented by IBM in 1956, it quickly gained in popularity, and became the preferred version of storage by the 1960’s. At the time of its inception, hard drives were enormous. With time, however, companies successfully shrank hard drives while increasing storage size, leading to those that we are used to today.
Hard drives are made up of moving parts. Inside, a disk covered in a thin material spins. The material is split into sectors. When data is written, the material is magnetized in a certain way. Each magnetized sector will then be in one direction or another, creating the 1s and 0s of binary code for the hard drive to read. When the disk spins, a small needle over the disk reads the magnetic direction, and converts it into the data you see on your screen, such as a photo.
What does all this mean in real use though? Because of the extensive history hard drives have, companies have been able to produce them at incredibly cheap prices. The standard 500GB hard drive can be obtained for less than $50, a bargain compared to competing technologies. Storage is also generally much higher in a hard drive, due to price being not much higher. However, hard drives can be more fragile than the competition. Since it is a mechanical device with moving parts, a drop could result in the drive breaking, making all of its data essentially lost. Having moving parts also means that it can be loud and annoying at times due to spinning. When you want to relax and browse online quietly, the whirring of the spinning disk can sometimes be a nuisance.
With that said, who would benefit most from a hard drive? In general, an HDD will be enough to satisfy most people. Those in the market for a cheap Windows laptop will likely have to settle for an HDD. For people who store a ton of multimedia, like photos and videos, a hard drive would probably be the best bet as well. For students in college who plan to use their laptops for basic tasks like research, documents, and video streaming, a hard drive will more than suffice.
A solid state drive, or SSD, is the main competing technology of hard drives. These storage devices originally began in the 1970s, but were too expensive to use over other technologies. Gradually, companies began using SSDs and a form of RAM, a form of memory that the computer has quick access for temporary use. Later on, when the storage size of SSDs increased to one that was reasonable for normal use, manufacturers started to sell them as permanent storage devices. Now, SSDs are more common than ever, and quickly coming down in price to directly compete with hard drives.
Unlike an HDD, a solid state drive has no moving parts. Instead, it uses flash memory, a type of storage that needs no power to keep storage on the device. The flash memory on board is similar to the kind found on your usual flash drive, but is faster and more expensive, as well as more reliable. Because of this, no magnetic components can be found on an SSD. To read and write all the data found on the storage device, an SSD contains a controller. This gives the computer immediate access to all parts of the SSD, allowing the computer to read any bit of data almost instantly.
How does this all affect real world use? For starters, because there are no moving parts, SSDs are much more durable. They can take quite a few drops while still protecting your data. The lack of moving bits also means that it will never make a sound. Its instantaneous reading of data results in battery perks as well. SSDs use less power than other storage devices, meaning a laptop with an SSD will see a hefty boost in battery life. Most importantly though, an SSD flies. A computer with an HDD will take upwards of several minutes to boot, while a solid state drive will take just seconds so the SSD wins the SSD vs. HDD debate in this sense. Solid state drives also come in smaller sizes, allowing computers that implement them be thinner and lighter than competing products. If you are looking at a thin ultrabook, chances are the ultrabook comes packaged with an SSD inside. However, these benefits come at a cost – an expensive one, that is. An SSD is significantly pricier than an HDD at the moment. To get a 500GB SSD, one would have to spend about $200, or four times the amount a similar size HDD would cost. The high price has also made manufacturers avoid making any with higher storage options, meaning SSDs with more than 1TB of storage space are a rarity.
For those that can swallow the price tag that comes with SSDs, the benefits are worthwhile. Tech enthusiasts who need the extra speed would feel right at home with an SSD, and engineers who work extensively in CAD and other graphic modeling software will immediately see the benefits of using an SSD. Gamers can also see a benefit, though the gains will vary from one game to the next.
For those who want the speed of an SSD and the storage size of an HDD, SSHDs exist. An SSHD, or solid state hybrid drive, is a single device with a hard drive integrated with the flash memory found in solid state drive. When this Frankenstein-like device is used, the device determines what kind of data is being written on it, then selects an appropriate location. If the data will be accessed frequently, it is placed on the flash memory for quick access. All other memory is then stored on the hard disk. The result is fast speeds for software you need it most with, such as the Windows OS
SSHDs are great devices for those who want fast speeds, but don’t want to shell out the cash for an SSD. It’s helpful to get your computer up and running in a flash, and can supply plenty of storage space for all your needs. For a balance of storage size and performance, SSHDs are the best bet.
SSD vs. HDD: A Direct Comparison
Below is a comparison of an SSD vs. HDD. + is best, 0 is neutral, and – is worst.
Which is Best?
As a college student, the best storage for you boils down to needs and preference in the debate between SSD vs. HDD. If you are on a budget, or are planning on using your laptop for basic essential student needs, like typing up documents and browsing the web, an HDD will be the best option. It offers plenty of space at a cheap price for when you need it. If you need speed and performance and have a bigger budget, an SSD is the way to go. The benefits will more than justify the initial cost, granted you don’t plan on storing a ton of photos, videos, and other miscellaneous files on your laptop. If you want a mix of speed and storage space, or don’t want to spend a fortune on getting performance similar, but not as good as that found on an SSD, get an SSHD. In the end, you, the college student, will have to prioritize your needs to make a decision. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the pros and cons of each storage type, and which will fit your needs best. The real answer is that it depends on what you need, so there is no straight answer for everyone is the decision of SSD vs. HDD, you have to decide for yourself.