Are SSHD worth it for gaming?

The quick answer is that SSHDs can offer some benefits for gaming, but may not be the best choice for all users. SSHDs (solid state hybrid drives) combine flash storage with a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) to offer faster speeds than a standard HDD. This can lead to shorter game loading times and potentially better overall performance in some games. However, the gains are generally modest compared to switching to a full solid state drive (SSD). Additionally, SSHDs come at a higher price point than standard HDDs. For many gamers, a pure SSD or higher capacity standard HDD may be a better value.

What is an SSHD?

An SSHD, or solid state hybrid drive, is a storage device that combines flash memory (often NAND flash) with a traditional spinning hard disk drive. The flash storage acts as a cache that stores frequently accessed data, while the larger HDD provides expanded storage capacity. This hybrid design aims to offer some of the speed benefits of solid state drives, while maintaining a lower price point closer to traditional HDDs.

In an SSHD, a built-in algorithm monitors data access patterns and determines what data should be cached to the faster flash storage. Frequently accessed data like operating system files and game levels or assets can get cached on flash, providing faster access times. Less frequently needed data remains stored solely on the hard disk drive portion.

SSHDs first hit the consumer market around 2007, but earlier designs offered limited flash storage amounts and did not gain widespread popularity. More recent SSD hybrid drives have increased flash capacity, with some models containing 8GB of flash or more. This expanded flash area provides more room to cache hot data and improve performance.

How do SSHDs compare to HDDs and SSDs?

SSHDs sit in between HDDs and SSDs in both performance and cost. HDDs have the lowest performance, especially for random access speeds, but remain the most affordable per gigabyte. SSDs have the fastest performance thanks to quick access times from flash memory, but carry a significant price premium over HDDs. SSHDs aim to strike a balance, with moderate performance gains over HDDs while being more affordable than similarly sized SSDs.

Compared to 7200 RPM HDDs, SSHDs generally have faster boot times and loading times in many productivity and gaming benchmarks, though the gains are not as dramatic as with SSDs. In sequential transfer speeds, which measure best case large file transfer speeds, SSHDs are often roughly on par with HDDs when the flash cache is not engaged.

Overall, SSHDs can offer anywhere from 10-30% faster speeds in many tasks compared to HDDs. However, the performance lift is highly dependent on workload and usage patterns. If data requested is already present in flash cache, speeds can rival SSDs. But if data needs to be pulled from the hard disk, speeds are comparable to HDDs.

SSHD Advantages Over HDDs

  • Faster boot and game/app load times (when data cached in flash)
  • Better overall performance in some workloads
  • Shorter access times for frequently used data

SSD Advantages Over SSHDs

  • Significantly faster read/write speeds overall
  • Lower access latencies
  • Faster boot and load times for all data, not just cached data
  • More consistent performance

Do SSHDs improve gaming performance?

For gaming workloads, SSHDs can provide a modest boost to loading times and level load times compared to traditional HDDs. Storing game assets and data in flash cache can help shorten wait times when loading into games or switching between levels. The gains vary across games and hardware configurations, but range from 10-30% faster load times in many cases.

In-game frame rates and performance during gameplay generally see minimal improvements with an SSHD compared to a HDD. Some highly asset intensive open world games may see slightly better frame rate stability on an SSHD, but gains are usually small. The hybrid design is more impactful for reducing load times than boosting in-game FPS.

Compared to SSDs, the gaming performance lift provided by SSHDs is much smaller. An SSD can achieve 2-5x faster load times in many games, and also provides more consistent frame rates during gameplay. SSHDs only accelerate portions of data that fit in cache, while SSDs speed up access to all data.

Example Game Load Time Improvements with SSHD (vs HDD)

  • World of Warcraft: 20% faster
  • Battlefield 1: 15% faster
  • Fallout 4: 12% faster
  • The Witcher 3: 10% faster

When do SSHDs make sense for gaming?

For gamers on a budget who still want to improve over HDD speeds, an SSHD can provide a nice middle ground. The modestly faster speeds can improve load times and responsiveness compared to an HDD model, at a lower cost than a similarly sized SSD.

SSHDs are also a reasonable option if you need higher storage capacity for a game library. A 1TB or 2TB SSHD can store dozens of large modern games, while 1TB SSDs still come at a premium price point.

However, the price gap between SSHDs and SSDs has shrunk over time. For many gamers, an SSD may be affordable enough to justify opting for the bigger performance gains. Prices on SATA SSDs under $100 for 500GB – 1TB capacities are now common.

Gamers Who May Benefit From an SSHD

  • Those wanting better HDD speeds on a budget
  • Gamers who need 1TB+ storage for large game libraries
  • Upgraders seeing SSHDs as an intermediary step before SSD
  • Laptop gamers with a single drive slot

What are the downsides of using an SSHD for gaming?

There are a few drawbacks to selecting an SSHD over an SSD or HDD that are important to consider for gamers:

  • Performance inconsistency: Unlike SSDs, SSHD speeds can vary greatly depending on whether a game asset is in flash cache or only on the HDD. This can cause less predictable load times.
  • Limited flash capacity: With only 8GB or less of flash memory, only a small subset of game data can be accelerated at once. An SSD accelerates all data.
  • Higher cost than HDDs: SSHDs carry about a 20-30% price premium over comparably sized HDDs. An SSD of the same capacity would be 2-3x the price.
  • Less effective over time: As more games are added and played, less data will be held in flash cache, reducing the performance advantage.

For these reasons, many gamers are better served by an SSD or a large capacity HDD instead of an SSHD. In some cases, having a smaller SSD paired with a large secondary HDD can offer both fast primary drive speeds and expansive storage capacity at a reasonable overall price.

SSHD vs SSD: Is an SSHD almost as good as an SSD for gaming?

In the early days of SSD adoption, with small capacities and high prices, SSHDs could seem like a compelling alternative – gaining some SSD-like benefits for less cost. However, as SSD prices have dropped sharply, the value proposition of SSHDs has weakened.

While SSHDs can offer around 10-30% faster load times than HDDs in some games, SSDs can provide 2-5x faster load times. And SSDs deliver this acceleration to all read/write operations, instead of just cached data. This means SSDs provide a much more dramatic improvement to overall system responsiveness and game load times.

Here is an example comparison of loading times for booting Windows and launching games on different drive types:

Drive Type Windows Boot Time Witcher 3 Load Time Hitman 2 Load Time
7200 RPM HDD 45 seconds 55 seconds 105 seconds
SSHD 35 seconds 48 seconds 93 seconds
SATA SSD 15 seconds 11 seconds 21 seconds

While the SSHD shows modest improvements over the HDD, the SSD is multiple times faster. The SSD delivers a noticeably snappier and more responsive gaming experience overall.

In terms of price, mainstream SATA SSDs have gotten quite affordable, with 1TB models readily available under $100. High-performing NVMe SSDs still demand a premium, but remain competitively priced against SSHDs. So for many gamers, an SSD is attainable and provides much greater benefits.

SSD vs SSHD for Gaming

Faster game load times 2-5x faster 10-30% faster
More consistent performance Yes No, depends on cache
Snappier system/game responsiveness Yes Marginal improvement
Price for 1TB $80-$150 $60-$100

Should you use an SSHD and HDD together?

Using an SSHD along with a traditional HDD in a gaming PC can potentially provide some benefits. The SSHD can act as the primary boot drive, storing the operating system and a few frequently played games. This allows for faster load times on those titles and overall snappier system performance.

Meanwhile, a large capacity HDD (2TB – 4TB) can be added as secondary storage. Less played games or media files can be stored on the HDD. So this combo unites the SSHD’s performance advantages with the HDD’s expansive capacity at an affordable overall price point.

However, there are also drawbacks to an SSHD + HDD setup to consider:

  • Managing data across two drives can be trickier
  • No acceleration benefit for data on HDD
  • Still limited flash cache capacity on SSHD
  • Adding an SSD down the road makes SSHD redundant

For many gamers, skipping the SSHD and just pairing an SSD boot drive with an HDD data drive can be simpler and provide better, more consistent performance. The SSD delivers great speeds for active games and software, while everything else resides on the roomy HDD.


SSHDs can deliver modest improvements to gaming load times and responsiveness compared to traditional HDDs. However, their benefits are limited by small flash caches and performance inconsistency. For many gamers today, an SSD or an SSD + HDD combo can provide better speed and value.

SSHDs occupy an awkward middle ground between the performance of SSDs and the affordability of HDDs. While they appeared promising years ago when SSDs were very expensive, the shrinking price gap makes them less appealing in the current market.

That said, SSHDs can still be a reasonable choice for budget gamers who want some SSD-like benefits without paying the full premium price. They deliver better speeds than HDDs alone, and the hybrid design means they’re unlikely to slow down as much over time as a standalone SSD might. For laptop and console gamers without easy upgrade options, an SSHD can offer a nice mid-life boost.

Overall, while SSHDs no longer carry the same allure they once did, their balance of capability and value keeps them relevant for a subset of use cases. For many other gamers, though, pure SSDs or an SSD/HDD combo provide better performance and bang for the buck.