Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD) are a combination of a Solid State Drive (SSD) and a platter-based drive (HDD). The main idea here is to combine the speed of the SSD technology with the storage space of the HDD, so that you are getting the best of both worlds.
The main question here is obviously when using SSHD drives makes sense, and what you need to take into consideration before you buy a drive for your system.
While SSD prices have dropped significantly in the past, the Gigabyte to Dollar ratio is still everything but good, especially when compared to conventional hard drives.
Samsung's excellent 840 EVO Series with 250 Gigabytes is for instance available for $165.99 currently on Amazon, while Seagate's Barracuda 3 TB HDD for $118.55. If storage would be your only criteria, you would make a much better bargain buying Seagate's drive.
A hybrid drive that combines an 8 Gigabyte SSD with 1 Terabyte of HDD storage on the other hand is available for about $100. While you get less platter-based storage and less Flash memory storage, you get to use them both in a single drive.
Most SSHD solutions on the market combine 64 Gigabyte SSD technology with 512 GB or more HDD storage and 8 GB of Flash Drive cache.
Solid State Hybrid Drives FAQ
The following FAQ looks at common questions that you may have in regards to hybrid drives. While I can't promise that it will answer all of your questions, it is likely that it addresses main concerns and issues.
If there is something left out, let me know in the comments.
Are SSHDs as silent as SSDs?
Since hybrid drives are a combination of different drive types, that is not the case. While the SSD-part is still as silent as it gets, the platter-based part of the SSHD is however as noisy as other platter-based hard drives.
If you want a silent system, SSHDs are not an option.
What about mobility?
If you drop a laptop with a SSD inside, you can be sure that this won't impact the drive or the data on it (provided that you do not throw it off the Empire State Building). Impacts may however render conventional hard drives unusable as they are not as shock-resistant as SSDs.
The same is true for hybrid drives.
How fast are SSHDs?
Most Solid State Drives are way faster than conventional hard drives. Hybrid Drives on the other hand are not. Depending on the model, you may notice improvements when you are launching applications, booting the system, or performing other read operations.
You will however notice that write operations do not really benefit from the SSD cache, and that data needs to be on the SSD-part of the drive to benefit from faster access times and loading times.
Companies like Seagate have developed algorithms like Adaptive Memory Technology to determine which files benefit the most from being cached on the Solid State Drive.
Since most hybrid drives come with 8 Gigabytes of cache currently, it is fair to say that data will be frequently shifted around and replaced on the drive, and that it is unlikely that you will get all your important data cached by it permanently.
Note: To see improvements in regards to operating system boot times, you need to have booted the OS at least once before that kicks in. So, first boot will be comparable to HDD load times, but consecutive boot times will be between HDD and SSD boot performances.
All in all it is fair to say that you will see improvements over conventional HDDs, but not as much as if you would be using a Solid State Drive.
Generally speaking, if you want the biggest (noticeable) performance increase, the SSD is the way to go. If that is not an option for whatever reason, SSHDs may be an option as they speed up some operations on the system.
What are the benefits of SSHDs?
Besides what has already been mentioned in the article, SSHDs offer other benefits over other single-drive or multi-drive solutions.
One being that they are easier to install. Since you only have to handle one drive, you can't really do a lot of things wrong during installation of it or setup of the operating system. In a multi-drive system, you need to make sure to install the operating system on the correct (faster) drive for example, while there is no such obligation in regards to hybrid drives as they are accessed as single-drives.
Should you buy a SSHD?
There are situations where your computer may benefit from a SSHD. This is a great option if you only have space for one hard drive and need both speed and capacity. So, replacing your notebook's slow 512 GB platter-based hard drive with a 1 TB hybrid drive will be very beneficial to the overall performance of the system. It is also a solid option if you are on a budget.
On desktop PCs, it usually makes more sense to buy a SSD drive and a storage drive that is platter-based provided that you have enough cash for that option. While that is the most expensive option available, it ensures that you get maximum performance and enough storage at the same time.
Depending on how you use your computer, you may find a 64 GB SSD sufficient. I personally would pick at least a 128 GB drive, especially if you are using Windows. You can get Samsung's 840 EVO 120 GB drive for about $100 currently for example, and pay another $100 for a 2 or 3 TB drive.