Choosing between a solid state drive and a hard drive is a bit like making the choice between lobster and fish sticks. One is sophisticated, limited in quantity and rather expensive but offers immense benefits to your health and status. The other is traditional, available in large quantities and cheap, but with far limited health advantages when compared to the former.
We’ll admit that our illustration may be a bit clumsy, but most people looking for a new storage device for their laptop have to pick between these two options, and the choice is not necessarily straightforward. Apart from their respective costs, you’d also have to carefully consider how each turns out, in terms of performance.
It’s always best to go for the one that best meets your needs. With that in mind, we’ve run the rule on the SSD and HDD, noting their differences, weaknesses and strong points. Knowing these will give you a better idea of what to expect from each, hopefully making the decision easier.
SSD vs HDD: Which Is Ideal For My Laptop?
Both SSDs and HDDs perform essentially the same functions in your laptop and until a few decades ago, we were doing just fine (or seeming to) without SSDs. Solid State Drives are a thing now, and their impact has been almost revolutionary. Nowadays, SSDs are the Optimus Prime of storage devices, with HDDs coming a distant second on almost all parameters.
Laptops that have SSDs as their primary boot drive are faster, quieter, more resilient, and more energy-effective than those that are equipped with HDD. As a matter of fact, most modern ultralight laptops make use of Solid State Drives and as more manufacturers embrace SSD technology, HDDs may become decidedly less prominent than they used to be.
On the other hand, HDDs have certain advantages which SSDs are unable to replicate, for now at least. For one thing, they offer more capacity than SSDs. HDDs also have a clear advantage in terms of cost per capacity. If you’re looking for lots of space to store your old pictures, music, video, and other media files, and you don’t need everyday access to them, a HDD will be great here.
The Benefits Of A Solid State Drive (SSD)
The major advantage that Solid State Drives have over Hard Disk Drives is speed, which is a big one, as those extra seconds may be the difference between a task completed in time or not. A Solid State Drive laptop makes your machine faster and more efficient, with better performance.
With a Solid State Drive, your laptop boots faster, loads and runs programs faster, multitasks better, and transfers files much faster. It’s also a lot quieter (almost noiseless) and emits less heat. Since SSDs are non-mechanical, they require less energy, which is good news for your laptop’s battery.
Crucially, SSDs are more reliable and better able to handle rough treatment. While HDDs do not take too kindly to getting shut off mid-task, an SSD enabled laptop will not be worse for wear if you suddenly have to shut it off and take off after a lead as a journalist, for example.
Benefits Of A Hard Disk Drive
HDD technology has been around for a long time, meaning it’s something that we’ve mastered. Although the mechanical components of the traditional Hard Disk Drive mean that there’s a limit to how compact it can get, it’s been reducing in size over the decades.
HDDs do offer a prodigious amount of storage space. The maximum storage capacity offered by a Solid State Drive is 4TB while a Hard Disk Drive can offer up to 14TB. You’ll also pay more for every single kilobyte of storage space with an SSD; hard disk drives cost only a fraction of the price of equivalent Solid State Drives.
So, if you’ve got loads of memories you’d like preserved, or you’ve got games and other files you want to keep, an HDD will make perfect sense for you.
SSD vs HDD: Does The RPM Rate Of A HDD Matter?
The short answer to this is yes, but only to an extent.
A Hard Disc Drive with higher RPM will help your laptop transfer large amounts of data to and from the hard drive, and also help new programs read your hard drive faster when you launch them for the first time. However, the RPM of a hard drive has a reduced impact on how fast a laptop runs a program after it is launched. The computer stores all necessary data for the program in its RAM for quicker access.
An HDD with a high RPM rate is also great for confirmed gamers as high-end games rely more on the laptop’s Hard Drive for dynamic memory.
In general, a high RPM Hard Drive will help your laptop launch programs and transfer files faster and ultimately improve its performance. However, the improvement will not be very significant and the performance of your laptop’s batteries will actually take a hit.
Explaining Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) and Solid State Drives (SSDs)
HDDs have been with us for a long time and have come a long way from their early humongous size. These days, hard drives consist of a circular, magnetic disk (called a platter), an arm with a read/write head for the platter, and a motor that moves the arm and spins the platter. The faster this motor can get the platter to spin, the faster the hard drive will work.
In comparison to the HDD, the SSD is fairly new. A solid State Drive is non-mechanical and has no moving parts, relying instead on flash memory, called NAND. More NAND memory chips in an SSD equates to more storage room.
SSD vs HDD Pricing
Prices of SSDs have decreased massively over the years and continue to do so. Even at that, however, there’s still a significant difference between SSDs and HDDs in terms of pricing and the difference becomes starker when you calculate the cost per gigabyte of both storage systems. For about $60, you can get a 1TB hard drive. The price for an equivalent SDD starts at around $100. You can get a more detailed breakdown of prices here.
Maximum and Common Capacities of SSD vs HDD
While there are SSDs that offer terabytes of storage, they are very expensive and as a result, are relatively rare in most consumer laptops. Most premium laptops offer between 500GB and 1TB while manufacturers of more moderately priced SSD-based laptops load between 128GB to 256GB. The maximum capacity of SSDs is 4GB.
HDDs offer considerably more storage capacity. Commercial hard drives offer between 40GB and 12TB, and these numbers are constantly being pushed up.
SSD vs HDD Performance
When it comes to performance, SSD comes out trumps in all areas. The absence of moving parts makes SSDs perform a lot faster than HDDs, at least four times faster on average. Further up the scale, however, the difference can be as much as ten times.
HDDs with a RPM of 7200 will deliver read and write speeds of 150MB/s. Compare that to around 600MB/s that a solid state drive with a SATA III connection can achieve.
Reliability and Durability of SSDs vs HDDs
The absence of moving parts in SSDs makes them the more reliable and durable option. SSDs are better able to survive bumps and scratches and general rough usage because of their more robust construction.
You’re also less likely to lose your data with an SSD. HDDs spin very fast when they’re working and as you can imagine, if their flow is obstructed mid-task, either due to the laptop getting dropped or being shaken, it will lead to loss of data.
Form Factor of SSDs vs HDDs
HDDs have evolved massively from their earliest appearance and would undoubtedly have shrunk even further in size by now but for their reliance on spinning disks, which restricts how small they can be. In the past, there were attempts to bring down their sizes to 1.8 inches, but that experiment was discontinued when the capacity of those drives could not be extended beyond the 320GB threshold.
SSDs do not have to contend with the same issues and we’re likely to see smaller and smaller sizes with time. They’re currently offered in 2.5 inch sizes, but with the increasing popularity of the M2 form factor, it may soon become more common to find them in much smaller lengths.
Noise, Power, and Lifespan of SSD vs HDD
HDDs have mechanical parts that keep up a constant hum when the laptop or device is in use and the faster the hard drive works, the more noise it emits. On the other hand, SSDs are almost completely noiseless since they have no moving parts.
By extension, since SSDs do not have to support moving parts, they generate less heat, negating the need for the laptop’s fans to work hard trying to keep the system’s temperature down. This will in turn reduce the strain on your laptop’s batteries, leading to more energy efficiency.
There are fears that SSDs wear out fast, a lot faster than HDDs, but with TRIM command technology, this problem is effectively solved. TRIM technology spreads out read/write cycles evenly across the cells in the flash memory, preserving the lifespan of individual cells and prolonging the lifespan of the SSD as a result.
Q: What about capacity differences between HDDs and SSDs?
A: In terms of capacity, HDDs offer more. SSDs offer between 128GB to 4TB of storage space while HDDs offer as much as 14TB maximum storage space.
Q: When is an HDD the better choice?
A: HDDs work best for people who don’t expect their laptops to do a lot of heavy lifting and for those who want to save lots of files on their laptops. Of course, budget should also be considered.
Q: How much faster are solid state drives compared to hard disk drives?
A: Up to four times faster. Depending on some other factors, however, the difference can be as much as ten times faster.