You might have seen it when window shopping for laptops in the recent past; one model is more affordable than the other simply because it has HDD or Hard Disk Drive in its specs. Meanwhile, the more expensive laptop has an SSD or Solid State Drive for its storage. Sometimes it’s a combination of both to save costs. It’s a common case of SSD vs HDD.
As a basic consumer, what does this mean for you, and how does it affect you? Are those numbers and letters merely buzzwords that the website or salesperson doesn’t care to elaborate? Or do they have far-reaching implications for how you operate your hardware? Well, the answer is thankfully simple; just go with the newer technology.
SSD is the newer technology here. The HDD is an old computer technology dating back from 1956, while SSDs have been around since 1978, though they only started seeing mainstream use in the early 2000s.
So the easy answer here, especially if you’re not tight on budget, is to always opt for an SSD. Because in summary, they are significantly faster than HDDs. Of course, they tend to be more expensive, but there are certain types of HDDs, so we’ll be elaborating more on the pros and cons of each of these storage technologies to explain how much would you be losing out and if it’s worth it for you as an individual to opt for an older technology to save money.
But for those in a hurry, there’s a rundown of SSD vs HDD when it comes to advantages:
- Much faster data transfer speeds
- Generates little to no noise
- Theoretically more durable
- Consumes less power
- More affordable
- Offers more storage space per dollar
- Better for storing photos and movies
The differences between and SSD vs HDD
We’ll need to clear some things up first for more clarification. Why is HDD or Hard Disk Drive called such and how does it differ from SSDs? A decent analogy for the two mainstream storage technologies would be the old telephone and the smartphone.
What is an HDD?
The HDD or Hard Disk Drive is like the analog telephone that’s more or less obsolete now (though we’re not implying that HDDs are obsolete yet). Both of them have solid, bulky mechanical parts that handle the operation. In the HDDs case, it has solid spinning disks inside its metal shell.
These disks handle the read and write operations necessary for transferring files, booting up Windows or macOS, and sometimes program installation. Due to its mechanical limitations, most HDDs have spatial and mechanical constraints, often limiting their disk’s maximum rotational speed. Thus, the usual fastest consumer-grade RPM (rotations per minute) for most HDDs is 7,200 and can read and write at around 80MB/s to 200MB/s.
The fastest ones today that won’t break the bank tend to have over 200MB/s of read or write speeds. HDDs also tend to have the advantage when it comes to storage space as they can offer more terabytes of storage per dollar than even the most expensive SSDs. Even so, that still pales in comparison to SSD speeds.
What is an SSD?
An SSD or a Solid State Drive is the smartphone equivalent of storage tech. Instead of having spinning disks, SSDs use an integrated circuit and usually flash memory to store and move data.
This allows SSDs to have significantly smaller form factors compared to HDDs. They have fewer moving mechanical parts and aren’t as prone to physical damage as HDDs. Because if you drop an HDD accidentally, there’s a chance it will damage the disks inside and lead to mechanical failure and lost data.
The same doesn’t usually happen to SSDs. Apart from size, SSDs also have the advantage of having blazing transfer speeds. They don’t rely on mechanical rotations to read and write data so they can go as fast as their interface in the motherboard allows them.
The fastest SSDs can go up to sustained read and write speeds of 7000MB/s and are no larger than a couple of fingers. Compared to an HDD’s near-300MB/s read and write speed, there’s already a clear winner in the SSD vs HDD debate.
Even a cheap SATA connection (the same connection used by HDDs) SSD with a larger form factor is still faster than an HDD at nearly 600MB/s.
SSD vs HDD speed’s impact on your life & productivity
So how do those buzzwords about data transfer speed affect your life? Well, which do you prefer: starting up your Windows in five seconds or less from a cold start or waiting a minute or more before Windows welcomes you? For sure, it’s the former since it’s a massive saving on time if added up.
That’s why SSDs typically win most of the time. Apart from starting up windows fast, they also install programs faster and load games faster as well. The difference can be night and day depending on the application. In games like Total War: Warhammer for example, loading battles on an HDD can take as much as 4-5 minutes while loading up battles on an SSD can take as little as 20 to 30 seconds.
All that time saved is important for most working adults.
Other SSD advantages
Apart from speed, you also have to consider how much space your laptop has available. Because generally, you’d want your laptop to weigh as little as possible. Here, SSDs are almost miracle devices since they don’t weigh more than a few coins.
Full-size HDDs, on the other hand, weigh around 700 grams. Smaller ones used on laptops weigh only slightly above 100 grams, but they have less RPM and thus, less read and write speeds.
Using SSDs on laptops has allowed manufacturers to cut the computer’s weight or even reduce its noise while also giving it much faster data transfer speeds. All in all, it’s a win on most fronts. The only downside is the lower storage capacity, something cloud storage can easily alleviate.
So what’s the use for an HDD?
Despite being left out in the dust, HDDs are still not obsolete yet. They have one of the most important advantages over SSDs, and that’s the fact that they do a better job at being basic storage. You can store more data in them as they’re typically inexpensive per terabyte compared to SSDs.
It’s just that you don’t get to transfer this said data around fast enough. So it’s best to dump data such as photos, movies, or separate small files in the HDD. The SSD will then handle Windows/other operating systems, games, and other productivity applications.
Hence, these two devices can complement each other well. And with the smaller prices for HDDs, you don’t have to pick too hard on whether it’s one or the other; you can have both (external HDDs are available for slim laptops that don’t allow internal HDDs).
Of course, if you really only need to pick one in the SSD vs HDD feud, then the money has to go to SSDs.