Posted on: March 31, 2011
HDD vs. SSD: the Battle for Memory Supremacy
Posted by: Brett Bisbe
Read Time (bolded): 6 Minutes
Read Time (comprehensive): 15 Minutes
Hard drives may very well be the most important component of any computer system. All the processing power in the world is useless without data to process. Storing information, be it music, photos, documents, or videos is a primary use of most personal computers.
We’ve seen hard drives grow and improve over the years, from archaic 100 megabyte, 2.5 inch drives released in 1991 to the multi-terabyte drives being manufactured today.
With all of this technological development, it was only a matter of time before some manufactures strayed away from the standard magnetic storage method used by most hard drives over the years.
Now we have a choice when selecting computer storage: standard hard disk (HDD) or the new kid – solid state. Let’s compare.
Solid state drives (SSD) have an awful lot going for them. First and foremost, they don’t have any moving parts. This means no mechanical arms, no rotating magnetic platters, nothing. From this, we can extrapolate a few important things:
- No parts to make noise
- No “fire-up” time
- No parts to BREAK
Solid state drives are essentially large-scale flash memory cards, and without the mechanical complexity of a standard HDD they are simply more reliable. In fact, most of the advantages of an SSD can be boiled to its mechanical simplicity.
Because a solid state drive doesn’t have to read from a moving object, no movement needs to be initiated, drastically improving read times.
Without spinning plates and an internal motor, an SSD won’t start whirring or clicking. They are silent.
There are definitely advantages to the SSD. It’s lightweight, not susceptible to magnetic damage, it’s quiet, and it has fantastic random read speed. It’s not perfect though. There are still some serious downsides.
For pure capacity, a standard HDD is still the best bet. Samsung has a prototype 4TB HDD, and there are plenty of 2 and 3TB drives on the market. Most solid state drives top out around 256GB.
Another setback, though maybe not a serious one to most, are the reduced write speeds associated with solid state drives. While the drives may read much faster, a typical SSD will have a much slower write speed than a standard HDD. This may be a nonissue for day-to-day computing, but could be seriously agitating while trying to do write-intensive work like video encoding or graphic rendering.
Now the biggest problem of all, the major thing separating standard and solid state hard drives: price.
Newer technology is always more expensive that its standardized counterpart, but the gap between the HDD and the SSD is massive. $69.99 will buy you a 500GB portable HDD. That same price will only get you 32GB of internal hard drive with SSD. The divide only gets bigger. For a terabyte of internal storage, an HDD will cost anywhere from $59.99 to $179.99. The same amount of memory in a solid state: $3,750.00!
It’s still a tough call. Both the HDD and the SSD have their ups and downs, though solid state drives are surely the way of the future. For now, selecting a hard drive (write speeds and size availability aside) comes down to a very simple question: is the reliability of a solid state hard drive really worth the price?