SSHD: The Future of Hard Drives?
Solid-state hybrid drives (SSHDs) are emerging as the future of mass storage. Combining the blazing speed of flash memory with the low cost of traditional magnetic media, SSHDs provide significant performance improvements that ordinary laptop and desktop users can afford. Here's what you should know about this new tech that can rev up your old computer...
What is a Solid-State Hybrid Hard Drive?
I've written before about solid-state hard drives, also known as SSDs. Unlike a traditional hard drive which uses spinning magnetic platters, an SSD drive has no moving parts. And they're fast. See my related article SSD Hard Drives Offer Blazing Speed for some facts and figures on SSD drives.
The "problem" with SSD technology is that it's more expensive per gigabyte than a standard hard drive. So enter the hybrid. Solid-state hybrid drives combine magnetic mass storage with the speed of solid-state memory, plus a little software magic, to strike a beautiful compromise. A case in point is the evolution of Seagate’s hybrid drive product line.
Seagate’s Momentus series of 2.5-inch SSHDs for laptops was rebranded; it’s now called simply Seagate SSHD. A 3.5-inch form factor for desktops has also been added. Both versions come with 8GB of flash memory. The laptop version offers capacities of 500GB or 1TB, while the desktop versions range from 1TB to 4TB. The laptop version is a slim 7mm thick, while the desktop version is a standard 9.75mm.
Neither requires any special software drivers. Simply put, that means they appear just like any other hard drive, in terms of installation and usage. And they'll work in both PC and Mac computers.
Both drives support the latest SATA 3 (6Gbps) standard and are compatible with earlier SATA standards. Seagate’s SSHD technology automatically moves frequently-accessed (“hot”) data from magnetic (platter) storage to the flash memory portion, to optimize performance. Seagate has eliminated 7200 rpm spin rates in its laptop drives, which now spin at 5400 rpm. The desktop SSHD spins at 7200 rpm. The company claims a five-fold performance advantage versus standard HDD technology for its laptop SSHD and a four-fold boost for the desktop version. Overall system responsiveness improves by 20% or more, according to PCMark benchmarking.
SSHD Advantage: Speed and Price
How fast is that? Windows 8 boots in less than 10 seconds, reportedly, with an SSHD under the hood. The secret sauce is in Seagate’s Adaptive Memory software, that's baked into the SSHD. It identifies the most frequently-used files and moves them to the flash memory. This translates to quicker boot times, faster loading of applications, and makes the entire system feel more responsive.
The pricing of the new SSHDs is attractive. A 500GB pure SSD drive will carry a price tag of about $300. By contrast, the Seagate 1TB SSHD for desktops (ST1000DX001) sells for just $80 (with free shipping) on Amazon. You can also find them at Staples, B&H and other vendors. The 2TB model is $115, and the 4TB model is $181, so there's a good economy of scale if you need a larger amount of disk storage.
I bought the Seagate 1TB SSHD a few weeks ago, and replaced a pair of aging 500GB drives in one of my desktop PCs. I didn't measure the before and after times, but startup is definitely faster, and applications start faster as well.
Future SSHDs will feature larger flash memory components, and should offer even better performance. SSHDs are a compromise between cost and performance. But they are a very good compromise, delivering nearly the performance of pure-solid-state drives at a fraction of the cost. As the cost of flash memory falls, the edge enjoyed by SSHDs will shrink. But for the next few years, a SSHD should remain one of the best values around, and a compelling reason to upgrade your old-school HDD. Aside from adding more RAM memory, swapping in an SSHD is one of the more cost-effective ways to increase the performance of an older system.
Have you used a computer with an SSD or SSHD hard drive? Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Jun 2014
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- SSHD: The Future of Hard Drives? (Posted: 12 Jun 2014)
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