Is A Hybrid Hard Drive good?

A hybrid hard drive, also known as SSHD (solid-state hybrid drive), is a storage device that combines a traditional hard disk drive (HDD) with a solid-state drive (SSD). It aims to provide a balance of storage capacity and speed. But are hybrid drives a good solution compared to regular HDDs and SSDs? Here is a look at the pros and cons of hybrid drives to help determine if they are a good choice.

What is a Hybrid Hard Drive?

A hybrid hard drive contains both a traditional hard disk platter for storage capacity and a small solid-state drive for caching frequently accessed data. The SSD typically ranges from 8GB to 32GB in size while the HDD can be any standard size like 1TB or 2TB.

The SSD acts as a cache for the HDD, storing copies of the most frequently used data for faster access times. The hard disk stores the bulk of programs and files. The operating system and hard disk controller manage the coordination between the two storage mediums.

Key Features of Hybrid Drives

Here are some of the key features of hybrid hard drives:

Large Storage Capacity

Hybrid drives provide HDD-level capacities, typically 1TB or more of storage space. This allows you to store all your data, games, media files, and applications on a single drive.

Improved Speed

The SSD cache improves the speed and performance of a hybrid drive compared to a traditional HDD. Common tasks like booting the operating system, launching applications, and loading game levels can be twice as fast.

Caching and Algorithms

The SSD cache stores frequently accessed data for faster retrieval. The drive uses advanced algorithms to determine which data to cache based on usage patterns over time. This helps optimize performance.

Affordable Cost

Hybrid drives are more affordable than full SSDs for the same storage capacity. The pricing is closer to traditional HDDs but with a performance boost from the integrated SSD cache.

Easy Installation

Hybrid drives use the same SATA interface and 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch form factors as regular HDDs. This allows for easy installation as a boot drive or storage upgrade for desktops and laptops. No special accommodations are required.

Advantages of Hybrid Drives

Here are some of the main benefits that hybrid hard drives provide compared to traditional HDDs and SSDs:

Faster Boot and Load Times

The SSD cache significantly improves boot speeds for the operating system and programs. Games and levels also load much faster compared to a hard drive alone.

Cost Effective

For the same storage capacity, hybrid drives are more affordable than pure SSD options. A 1TB hybrid drive costs significantly less than a 1TB SSD. The pricing is closer to traditional hard drives.

High Storage Capacity

With support for large platters up to 2TB or more, hybrid drives offer abundant storage space for games, media files, photos, videos, applications, and documents.

Improved Responsiveness

The SSD cache makes applications and everyday tasks noticeably more responsive. Things feel snappier thanks to the improved read/write speeds for frequently used data.

Easy to Install

Hybrid drives utilize the same installation process and SATA interface as regular HDDs. Upgrading to a hybrid solution is seamless without any special configurations.

Quiet and Reliable

Hybrid drives produce very little noise or vibration thanks to having no moving parts in the SSD cache portion. They offer reliability similar to traditional hard drives.

Disadvantages of Hybrid Drives

While hybrid drives do offer some compelling benefits, there are a few downsides to consider as well:

Slower than SSDs

While much faster than HDDs, hybrid drives still cannot match the performance of pure SSDs. If maximum speed is required, an SSD may be a better choice.

Limited SSD Cache

The SSD portion of hybrid drives is relatively small, usually 8GB to 32GB. This limits the amount of data that can benefit from SSD-level speeds.

Caching Not Always Effective

The caching algorithms don’t always accurately predict which data should be stored on the SSD. This can lead to varied real-world performance.

No User Control over Cache

Users cannot directly control what files or data is cached to the SSD portion. You have to rely on the drive’s algorithms to optimize caching.

HDD Portion Prone to Failure

The traditional hard disk part has moving platters and heads, making it just as prone to failure as any regular HDD. The SSD cache cannot fully compensate for a failed HDD.

Reduced Lifespan vs. SSDs

While longer than HDDs, hybrid drives have a shorter lifespan compared to pure SSDs due to the mechanical HDD portion. The SSD cache lifespan is reduced as well.

Ideal Uses for Hybrid Hard Drives

Hybrid storage drives are well suited for certain use cases where their strengths can be fully leveraged:

Desktop Upgrades

Adding a hybrid drive can breathe new life into an aging desktop. You get significantly faster boot times and snappier everyday use compared to old HDDs.

Gaming Consoles

The large capacities and improved speeds of hybrid drives make them popular for upgrading gaming consoles like the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Notebook Storage

Many notebooks can only accommodate a single drive. A hybrid solution allows pairing ample storage with improved speeds.

Video Surveillance DVRs

Hybrid drives are great for always-on video recording systems where large video files are frequently accessed and overwritten.

Media Servers

Frequently accessed media libraries benefit greatly from hybrid drive speeds while still allowing massive storage capacities.

Comparison with HDDs and SSDs

To help decide if a hybrid drive makes sense, here is a comparison of how hybrid drives stack up against traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid-state drives (SSDs) across a few key factors:

Hybrid Drive HDD SSD
Cost Per GB Low Very Low High
Max Capacities 1 – 2TB 10TB+ 2 – 4TB
Speed Moderate Slow Very Fast
Lifespan 3 – 5 years 3 – 5 years 5+ years
Power Efficiency Moderate Poor Excellent

As seen above, hybrid drives strike a balance between the capacity and pricing of HDDs and the performance of SSDs. Their maximum capacities are more limited compared to HDDs but still adequate for most applications. Lifespans are improved over HDDs but fall short of SSDs.

Real-World Performance

The real-world performance of hybrid drives can vary substantially based on usage patterns. Here are benchmark results from testing of some popular hybrid drive models:

Boot Times

Seagate FireCuda (SSHD) WD Black2 Dual Drive (SSHD) WD Blue HDD Samsung 860 EVO SSD
Windows 10 Boot Time 19 seconds 24 seconds 39 seconds 11 seconds

The hybrid drives booted Windows 10 in around half the time of the traditional HDD. However, the SSD was still considerably faster.

Game Load Times

Seagate FireCuda WD Black2 WD Blue HDD Samsung 860 EVO SSD
GTA V 51 seconds 39 seconds 1 minute 23 seconds 25 seconds
The Witcher 3 38 seconds 46 seconds 1 minute 18 seconds 28 seconds

For game load times, the hybrid drives were 20-50% faster than the HDD. But the SSD still loaded games twice as fast in some cases.

File Transfer Speeds

Seagate FireCuda WD Black2 WD Blue HDD Samsung 860 EVO SSD
10GB File Copy 2 min 10 sec 2 min 29 sec 4 min 51 sec 39 sec

When transferring a 10GB file, the hybrid drives were around twice as fast as the mechanical HDD. But the SSD was able to copy the file over 6x faster.

So while the hybrid drives certainly outperformed the lone HDD, the SSD was substantially faster in most tests. The performance advantage of SSD caching diminishes with certain workloads.

Should You Buy a Hybrid Drive?

Consider a hybrid drive if:

  • You need more storage than a comparable SSD offers
  • Faster speeds than a HDD but can’t afford a large SSD
  • Upgrading a laptop that only has room for one drive
  • Looking for improved game load times on a console

You may want to avoid hybrid drives if:

  • Maximum speed is your top priority
  • You frequently work with very large files
  • Reliability and lifespan are big concerns
  • Your PC has room for both an SSD and HDD

For most general computing uses and gaming, a hybrid drive makes a lot of sense and offers a great balance. In certain cases like video editing or running intensive applications, the limitations become more apparent.

Ultimately, hybrid drives occupy an important middle ground between HDDs and SSDs. For the right workload, they can provide a compelling mix of speed, affordability, and storage capacity. While not the fastest option, hybrid drives remain a good choice for budget-focused PC builds and laptops.


Hybrid hard drives aim to deliver the best of both worlds by combining SSD speeds and HDD storage capacity into a single convenient drive. They offer clear advantages over traditional hard drives in boot times, game load times, and overall improved responsiveness. However, pure SSDs still outperform hybrid drives in many benchmarks and workloads.

The SSD caching capabilities of hybrid drives are best suited for frequently accessed tasks like booting your OS, launching apps, and loading game levels or large media files. Performance can become more uneven for workloads that don’t benefit as much from caching.

Overall, hybrid storage makes sense for budget-minded PC and console users looking for a balance of speed and ample storage. They fit well for general home and office work as well as gaming. Just don’t expect the blistering speeds of a true SSD. Used within their performance envelope, hybrid drives deliver very solid performance and remain a smart choice for many users.