Hybrid drives, also known as solid state hybrid drives (SSHDs), aim to combine the best features of traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) into a single storage solution. But are they truly better than HDDs or SSDs on their own? There are a few key factors to consider.
Hybrid drives contain both a hard disk and a smaller solid state drive. Frequently accessed data and programs are cached on the faster SSD portion to improve performance. This means boot times, launch times, and data transfer speeds are much faster than a traditional HDD, though not quite as fast as a pure SSD.
In benchmark tests, hybrid drives achieve speeds around 1.5-2x faster than HDDs for common workloads like booting Windows or launching applications. For sequential reads/writes though, speed is closer to a HDD as that data is stored on the platter portion.
The SSD portion of a hybrid drive only ranges from 8GB to 32GB typically. The rest of the capacity comes from the HDD portion. This means hybrid drives can offer massive storage capacities similar to HDDs, from 1TB to even 5TB on some models.
SSDs currently have much lower maximum capacities, with 2TB models just emerging in the consumer space in 2022. For users who need high capacities for media, games, or business applications, hybrid drives can offer SSD-like performance with HDD-like capacity.
One of the main appeals of hybrid drives is they can provide SSD-like benefits at a lower cost per GB compared to SSDs. A 2TB hybrid drive often costs around $100-150, compared to $150-250 for a 2TB SSD. The table below compares current prices on some popular models:
|SSD||Samsung 870 EVO||2TB||$200|
The hybrid drive sits squarely between SSD and HDD pricing. For budget-focused upgraders who want improved speed without going all-SSD, hybrid drives can be a cost-effective choice.
Hybrid drives have more components and moving parts than SSDs, so may theoretically be less reliable in the long run. However, most are built to fairly rugged standards these days. Leading models from Seagate and WD quote annual failure rates around 1%, similar to mainstream HDDs.
SSDs still win for shock and vibration resistance thanks to no moving parts. But hybrid drives aren’t necessarily prone to early failure if used in normal desktop environments. As always, it’s wise to keep regular backups of critical data regardless of drive type.
The ideal use case for a hybrid drive is in a desktop PC, home media server, or gaming console where you want to speed up OS, program, and game launches without paying the premium for a large SSD. The flash portion caches the most accessed data for snappy performance on common tasks.
Hybrid drives allow booting into Windows or launching a game like Battlefield in under 30 seconds, versus 60+ seconds on a HDD. This delivers a very noticeable speedup versus HDDs for typical consumer workloads.
Hybrid drives are also popular among creative professionals who need high capacities for media files, but also want improved speeds for editing workflows. The flash caching accelerates apps like video and photo editors.
Hybrid drives can deliver tangible speed benefits over regular HDDs for improved responsiveness across common tasks like booting, application launches, and game loading. The performance is not quite as fast as SSDs, but hybrid drives cost substantially less per GB while still offering high storage capacities.
If your goal is accelerating a HDD-based PC without breaking the bank on a full SSD upgrade, hybrid drives are a viable middle ground. They shine for users who want SSD-like performance but HDD-like capacities, especially gamers, media enthusiasts, and budget-focused upgraders.