When it comes to storing memory on your computer there are two options - solid state drives (SSD) and hard disk drives (HDD). For anyone who uses a computer and especially gamers, choosing the right hardware is crucial for a seamless computing experience. Both HDDs and SSDs offer advantages and disadvantages which we discuss in-depth in this ValueGamers analysis.
Quick Answer: SSD for Performance, HDD for Budget
For those looking for the short of it, the SSD is vastly better in terms of performance while the HDD is a much better price. SSDs rely on flash memory and not moving parts like HDDs thus can boot and operate a computer much faster. For gamers or anyone who wants a faster computer, the SSD is the way to go. If you are on a tight budget however, HDDs are the way to go.
As it stands in 2018 (and this may change as the technology evolves) HDDs are around $0.05 to $0.10 per GB. SSDs on the other hand are about $0.20 to $0.30 per GB - 3 to 5x more expensive. Opting for an SSD with a healthy amount of memory can set your budget from $50 to $150 more. If you are in need of a lot of storage - over 5 TB- HDDs may be your only option as SDDs do not generally have that much storage.
SSD vs HDD: Comparison Table
|Which is Better?
|Read and Write Speed
|Up to 130 Mb/s
|Up to 550 Mb/s
|$0.5 to $0.10 per GB
|$0.20 to $0.30 per GB
|Up to 6 TB
|Up to 2 TB
|5 to 10 years
|5 to 10 years
|Can be noisy
|2 to 3%
Read: The Best HDDs for Gaming
Who Should Get SSDs
- Gamers: Faster writing and reading times make a better gaming experience
- Travelers: SSDs less likely to break through rugged travel
- Musicians: Background noise from HDDs is bad for recordings
Who Should Get HDDs
- Budget buyers: Self-explanatory - HDDs are far cheaper
- General home computer users: For videos, pictures and files a HDD does the job
- Heavy data users: If you download large files, only HDDs can top over 5 TB
Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs
As we allude to above, SSDs are generally better than HDDs in all performance metrics, but are disadvantaged when it comes to price.
SSDs are quiet, energy efficient and fast. This all stems from how it reads and writes files. SSDs use flash memory chips to store memory without a need for a power source. This differs from HDDs which have literal mechanical parts that spin in order to write and read data. It's like trying to research a topic by going to the library vs google searching it. Googleing is much faster than physically going out and doing the research. As such, since there are no mechanical parts SSDs generate very little noise. SSDs also have the option of being connected via PCIe rather than SATA connection to the motherboard of the computer. A PCIe connection means your SSD will deliver even faster performance.
The biggest disadvantage of SSDs are the price. A 500 GB WD Blue HDD costs about $45 while the 500 GB WD Blue SSD costs about $110 - more than double the per GB cost. This can be a major issue if you are on a tight budget or if you are building a PC from scratch. We would recommend you balance and be honest with what you want out of your PC. If speed and performance are most important it may be worth spending the extra money for an SSD. Another disadvantage of SSDs is that generally you only find them up to 2TB worth of capacity. HDDs on the other hand you can readily find up to 6 TB.
Advantages and Disadvantages of HDDs
HDDs use mechanical parts and magnetism to physically read and write data. Its the oldest form of storing data and currently the cheapest.
Where the biggest disadvantage of SSDs are price, the opposite is true for HDDs. As we say above, hard disk drives are roughly $0.05 to $0.10 per GB of storage. You will likely spend half as less on your HDD than a SSD. Not only does that mean spending more now, but it also means spending more when you have to replace the hard drive. Another big advantage of HDDs are they are available in more storage options. On Amazon you can find the best HDDs up to 6TB whereas SSDs generally only go to 2TB. That is why we recommend users that have many large files opt for HDDs.
Slow and prone to breaking is the easiest way to sum up the disadvantages of HDDs. Hard disk drives are moving parts and moving parts are prone to break and fail. Physically moving something is also always going to be slower than electronically delivering it. On top of those serious disadvantages, HDDs are also far noisier and energy consuming than their solid state disk counterparts. The physical spinning of the parts in the HDD create noise. HDDs can also consumer upwards of 5x more energy than SDDs.
HDDs vs SSDs: Gaming
At ValueGamers the most important thing to us is finding the best products to create the best gaming experience. When it comes to choosing a hard drive, we can't deny that SSDs are far better. The seamless gaming experience is all about speed and the SSD will be able to retrieve your games and save them much faster than a HDD is able to. The lower fail rate of SSDs also gives you a little bit more comfort that your precious games and their saves will be safe from being lost forever (though most platforms like Steam allow cloud storage).
A Hybrid Solution for Gamers
It's not entirely black and white however. There does exist a compromise - one that keeps costs down and storage high. You can use a 500GB SSD as your system hard drive - thus experience fast boot times and overall better performance. For your games and files however, you keep them on a 2TB or higher HDD. You are essentially taking advantage of the higher capacities and cost per byte of HDDs while maximizing the speed of your system with the SSD. The 500GB SSD will likely cost close to $100 while the 2TB HDD will cost you $60 making your total $160. For reference a 2TB SSD will likely cost you $200 - saving you $40.
HDDs vs SSDs: Speed
When it comes to boot times, reading and writing, SSDs are far faster than HDDs. In the video below testing HDDs and SSDs by Asus, the computer with the SSD boots up over 2x as fast. When it came to loading Adobe Photoshop, the computer with the SSD did it 6x(!) as fast as the one with the HDD. For an interesting study on the cost to speed analysis of HDDs and SSDs you should check out this study by Dell.
HDD vs SSD: Reliability and Longevity
When it comes to reliability and longevity, it's a tie - but for different reasons. In terms of the hardware's ability, the HDD will outlast a SSD. The cells in the memory bank of a SSD can only be written and erased a finite amount of times thus after 5 to 7 years, a HDD may still be operating while the SSD may be failing.
On the other hand, SSDs have a lower fail rate than HDDs. SSDs can withstand shocks and damage much better than HDDs as well due to their be no moving parts. So while the HDD may technically be able to work for a bit longer, it just takes once big drop of your computer to damage your HDD. That is why we say it is virtually a tie when it comes to reliability and longevity. If we were forced to pick, we would still say SSD, since we think you are more likely to break a HDD within 5 years than the SSD failing after 7.
HDD vs SSD: Memory and Capacity
When it comes to massive amounts of storage, the HDD actually surpasses the SSD. SSDs generally only go up to 2 TB whereas HDDs can go upwards of 8TB. The only SSD over 2TB we see readily available is the Samsung 860 EVO at 4TB, but that will run you over $1,000 or $0.25 per GB. By comparison a 4TB HDD will be about 10x less - $100. That being said, for a majority of users, 2TB is likely more than enough memory for your system - especially if it's just used for gaming. With 2TB you can fit about 200 games (assuming each game takes up 10GB). If you are a user however who anticipates using over 2TB worth of storage, then you may need to go with the HDD. You can also abide by our hybrid strategy which we discuss above.