Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HDD vs. SDD: Which do I pick?

HDD vs. SSD: Which do I pick?

Data storage technology is a rapidly diversifying and expanding field, and there are very few better examples of this than the development of personal computers. With the onset of tablets and tablet PCs, producers have had to come up with new and innovative features to draw customer attention. A new piece of hardware that’s begun to crop up on the PC market is SSD hard drives.
            The phrase ‘SSD hard drive’ itself is a little bit of an oxymoron, as SSD stands for ‘solid state drive’, whereas a hard drive is another type of hardware entirely. Both, however, accomplish approximately the same purpose: storage and processing of data in computers. The aim of this article is to elucidate some of the differences between the two and whether or not it is worth it to make the upgrade to an SSD.
            The main difference between an HDD and an SSD is the price, and this is most likely what draws people away from SSDs and towards HDDs. SSDs can cost around $1 per GB, whereas HDDs cost just a few cents per GB. This means that for the price of an average sized SSD, around 250GB, you could get an HDD with over 1TB worth of storage. (Some have pointed out that the average computer user wouldn’t even come close to filling up 1TB worth of storage, which makes it worth it to purchase an SSD just for the performance upgrade). There are also hybrid drives, which combine aspects of the two, and are also much cheaper than SSDs, around fourteen cents per GB.
            Beyond price, then, what is the difference between the two? As this video shows, the performance of an SSD is vastly superior to an HDD, as indicated by bootup and application startup times. This is due to the fact that the data storage mechanism is digital, like a USB drive, rather than mechanical. This also lends another interesting advantage: hard drives contain a platter that holds the data, which must spin at very high speeds to be read. In contrast, there are no moving parts in an SSD, which means that it cannot be damaged as readily. HDDs can fail completely if bumped or jarred extensively, whereas SSDs are a lot more hardy and can withstand more bumps and bruises due to their lack of mechanics (think about what punishment your USB thumb drive probably goes through, and still works fine!)
            In addition, SSDs draw much less power, average between 2-3 watts, while HDDs draw between 6-7 watts. This means that with the exact same computer, using an SSD will extend your battery life by about 30 minutes, and produce less heat in the process.
            It seems like SSDs are superior from most angles, but they are also lacking in some areas. Due to their relatively recent appearance on the market, there aren’t many options available for those who do want to upgrade. The most popular SSDs have capacities of about 120GB to 256GB, whereas HDDs nowadays can go up to 1TB and beyond. If you wanted an SSD with that kind of capacity, you would have shell out quite a lot more money. SSDs also suffer from the same issues of longevity that HDDs suffer from – slowing down as their memory fills up and as they get older. They also have the added disadvantage of very little to no warning signs before shutting down completely, whereas hard drives tend to have a few failsafes and warning signals built in, to allow you to transfer your data before it’s too late.
            There are a few myths about SSDs, including the claim that SSDs wear out much more quickly than HDDs. This might have been true fifteen or twenty years ago, but nowadays, thanks to TRIM technology build into SSDs that optimize read/write cycles, you’re probably more likely to purchase a new computer or hard drive as an upgrade before you start running into errors and crashes.
            So what’s the general consensus? It seems that overall, SSDs are definitely making their mark on the PC market in a significant way. Although I personally do not own an SSD computer myself, I would highly consider purchasing one when I feel I need an upgrade, as the performance and physical superiorities far outweigh the disadvantages of using an SSD over an HDD. I, as an average computer user, do not use that much memory, and I value performance over most other features, and the SSD certainly delivers that.