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Hybrid Hard Drives: What Are They And Why Should You Care?

Hybrid's are an emerging technology that marries the reliability of a hard disk drive with the speed of a solid-state drive

As the flash-memory storage market continues to mature, more and more manufacturers are beginning to forgo the standard platter style hard disk drives for the new hybrid designs in an effort to provide a low-cost alternative to the solid state drives. Currently, quality SSD storage devices have a price point of close to $1/GB and the older platter style drives run somewhere around $0.07/GB. The choice has been will you pay more for the lightning-fast access speeds of the SSD or spend 1/10th of the money on a huge storage drive that accesses data at nearly 1/10th the speed. Now, with hybrid drive designs, there is a middle ground of quicker access speeds and large storage profiles for a moderate price point.

So what is a Hybrid Drive or SSHD?

The acronym SSHD stands for Solid State Hybrid Drive and include drives that attempt to combine the best features of Solid State Drives (SSD) and Hard Disk Drives (HDD). On the one hand, the HHD style provides massive amounts of accessible storage on single or double stacked platters with access speeds determined by the rotations per minute (RPM) value. Opposite of the HDD, the SSD operates using NAND (Negated AND logic gate) Flash memory which offers superior access speeds while having a more limited size and self-life. The SSHD combines these two types of drive systems by including a small amount of NAND Flash memory with a large conventional HDD allowing for increased boot operation speeds and consistent and longer-life data storage.

Why Does This Matter?

The real benefit of the SSHD comes from the flexibility it provides to consumers looking to upgrade older systems or who are planning a new system build. Prior to the introduction of hybrid drive technology, the choices boiled down to SSDs with faster access speeds and smaller storage capability or slower access speeds and massive storage capability. The hybrid drive now falls into the middle category with faster access speeds on some, but not all, systems files and a large storage capability and all with a good price point of around $0.11/GB. As mentioned earlier in this post, the average cost per GB of the SSD style came around $1.00/GB and the older platter style drives delivered at or below the $0.07/GB number. At only $0.04/GB more than the platter drive, the hybrid design provides the benefits of both proven technologies with only a small increase on cost.
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