SSD vs HDD: Which is better for a laptop?

The SSD vs HDD debate is one that isn’t going away any time soon – not when laptop buyers care about which one performs better than the other. Traditional hard disk drives (HDD) differ from solid-state drives (SSD) in more ways than one. However, each one of these storage options has its advantages and disadvantages.

While some laptop manufacturers use SSD or HDD exclusively, others combine the two to enhance performance. For example, ultraportable laptops tend to feature SSDs instead of HDDs. That’s also true for the latest Chromebooks and other entry-level laptops.

When it comes to gaming laptops, you are likely to find a combination of SSD and HDD. In that case, SSD is for fast booting and file loading, while HDD is for enhanced storage. So, you may choose between a gaming laptop with HDD alone or one that also has SSD.

In this article, we shall compare the two laptop storage options in terms of the areas in which they excel and the ones they don’t. But, we shall kick it off by defining each one of these storage types.

What is an HDD?

An HDD is a storage device with spinning disks that store data magnetically. In desktops and older laptops, it holds the operating system, programs, and files. It has an arm with a transducer head, which spins as it writes and reads data on the disc.

SSD vs HDD
An HDD has moving parts and is larger than an SSD

Thus, the speed of the hard disk drive depends on how fast it can spin. Consequently, a fast-spinning HDD loads an operating system, files, and programs more quickly.

HDDs connect to the PC’s motherboard in two ways – older ones rely on an IDE cable while newer ones utilize SATA connections. Even so, SATA has undergone a transformation, the latest and fastest being SATA III.

What is an SSD?

An SSD or the solid-state drive has no moving parts and relies on integrated circuits to store data. Compared to HDDs, SSDs are smaller and faster. Despite their small sizes, modern SSDs have the same capacity as HDDs. Therefore, it is not uncommon to find an SSD with 1TB capacity.

SSD vs HDD
An SDD is smaller and more portable than an HDD

Most laptops released in 2019 and 2020 have SSDs as the primary boot and storage drives. The major determinant of SSD capacity is the number of Negative-AND (NAND) memory chips. Initially, manufacturers could only fit a few NAND memory chips into these devices. However, with advanced technology, they have equipped more NANDs, raising the capacity of SSDs to rival that of HDDs.

SSDs may connect to the laptop’s motherboard via SATA III or PCI Express (PCIe). Between the two, SATA III is older and slower compared to PCIe. If you buy a 2020-released laptop, it is likely to be labeled SSD PCIe, meaning it has the latest technology. Thus the SSD slots into the motherboard’s PCIe lane for blazing speed.

Moreover, some smaller SSDs connect via M.2. Interestingly, installing this type of SSD is much easier than SATA III or PCIe. Reports from other platforms indicate that the latest SSD technology is the Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). Even though faster, it is yet to gain broader applications in laptops.

SSD vs. HDD: Which has the highest speed?

In the SSD vs HDD debate, one of the things that stand out is the differences in speed. From the first time they were released, SSDs have been faster than HDDs. The reason is that the HDD’s speed depends on how fast it spins inside. We measure that speed in terms of revolutions per minute (RPM). Thus, HDDs with a higher RPM perform more quickly than the rest. At a lower price, you can get a drive with 5,400 RPN. However, for a premium price, you can have a disk with 10,000 RPM or more.

Away from the RPM measure, the read and write speed of a storage drive is measured in megabytes per second (MB/s). With the main determinant factor being the HDD’s RPM, lower-end disks can give you 100 MB/s. That can rise to more than 200 MB/s for the high-end HDDs. Even so, the capacity of the HDD also plays a significant role in determining its speed.

Now, a look at SSDs, whose speed doesn’t depend on RPMs but the type of connection. With a SATA III connection, an SSD can deliver an average of 535 MB/s for the read and write speed. Comparing a SATA III HDD with a SATA III SSD, the latter is four times faster than the former.

The latest PCIe or M.2 SSD connections provide an average speed of 1.3GB/s with the potential of reaching 2.2GB/s. Therefore, SSD drives have the possibility of making your laptop ten times faster than one with an HDD.

SSD vs HDD: Which has more capacity?

When it comes to capacity, HDDs carry the day. Commercial HDDs may have an ability between 40 GB and 12TB. In laptops, an HDD can have a maximum of 2TB capacity, which is big enough to store many files and programs. However, higher capacity HDDs are popular in NAS devices and servers.

As far as SSDs are concerned, the transformation from low-capacity to high-capacity drives continues. Today, you will find SSDs with 1TB storage capacity. However, laptops with such drives cost a premium. Luckily, most modern laptops now feature SSDs with up to 512GB capacity at an affordable price. Alternatively, you could buy a laptop with both an SSD and HDD. While the SSD to boot and load programs, the HDD will provide higher storage capacity.

SSD vs HDD: Which is cheaper?

One of the most significant differences between SSD and HDD is the price. In that case, the newer SSD technology is more expensive per GB than HDD. Thus, HDDs provide more storage capacity at the lowest possible price. That’s because the technology behind them is older and cheaper.

When it comes to SSDs, price differences exist based on the connection type. Thus, those that utilize SATA III are more affordable than the PCIe and M.2 varieties. The price difference also applies to laptop computers that use different types of SSDs.

SSD vs HDD: Which one is better for gaming?

Are you a gamer? A good gaming laptop should have a storage option that loads files and programs fast. That means an SSD is better than an HDD when it comes to gaming. A single video game contains elements like models, audio, high-resolution textures, and so on. Some high-end games may carry more than 100GB data and require fast, high-capacity storage.

When it comes to loading speed, SSD is three times faster than HDD. After loading, the game keeps accessing data at every stage. For example, when a gamer moves to the next level, the game needs to load new data. Any delay in accessing the data can disrupt the flow of the game. That’s why an SSD is better when it comes to helping you maintain your pace as a gamer.

Conclusion

So is an SSD or an HDD better for you? Well, it depends on your needs. If you want your computer to boot and load programs fast, then you should buy an SSD. However, you should be ready to pay more. On the other hand, if you want greater storage capacity at a lower price, then an HDD is what you need. Even so, you can combine the best of both worlds by getting a laptop with both an SSD and an HDD.

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