What is an SSHD?

Solid-state hybrid drive, or SSHD for short, is a conventional spinning hard drive enhanced with a small amount of quick solid-state cache memory and additional firmware to control the caching processor, all in one closure. Simply put, by combining the capacity of a hard drive with the reduced boot and access times ensured by an SSD, a hybrid device can offer an optimal solution for both data storage and performance within a budget. Now let’s discuss things in order.




A Closer Look

Basically, SSHD is a compromise between a hard disk drive and solid-state technology. While it will never deliver the same performance as a speedy and dexterous SSD, in many ways a hybrid drive is simply immeasurably faster than a conventional HDD. But how significant can this performance boost really be?

In terms of write and read speed, it makes practically no difference, except for data caching speed. The main advantage of SSHD here is that it writes the most frequently used data — that is, the operating system and everything associated with it — to an integrated cache based on high-speed NAND memory rather than on a magnetic hard drive, which allows these files to be loaded much faster: while it takes about 40-60 seconds to boot the system on a regular HDD, with an SSHD this time can be effectively reduced to 20-25 seconds, depending on cache capabilities. Given this, the first thing to look for when buying a hard drive is the amount of cache, and it can be from 8 to 32 GB.



Now, both SSHDs and SSDs can provide much faster processing by using NAND technology. How about the rest of the characteristics?



Since SSHDs are essentially traditional hard disks, hybrid models offer about the same capacity as their magnetic siblings, meaning they can go anywhere from 250 GB to 14 TB — against SSDs for computers being available in 120 GB to 4 TB capacities.



SSDs come in two basic types these days: SATA and NVMe. SATA SSDs are physically similar to laptop hard drives and are connected to the SATA port on your PC or notebook. In turn, crammed into a much smaller size which is comparable to a stick of chewing gum, NVMe goes into an M.2 slot on your computer or laptop, and ensures much faster speeds.

As for SSHDs, they are only presented in SATA format, and tend to be laptop size, commonly referred to as 2.5″.



A hybrid drive does cost slightly more than a magnetic HDD, mainly due to the addition of a more expensive solid-state cache and extra firmware. Prices are ranging from 10% to 20% more than a regular hard drive.

Compared to SSDs requiring more expensive NAND memory chips, investing in a hybrid device can actually save a ton of money: based on capacity specifications, the price of a solid state model is currently five to twenty times higher than that of an SSHD, which will often be the deciding factor when choosing between the two options.


Who Should Consider an SSHD?

As the limited space in these systems typically prevents more than one drive from being installed, laptop owners are the first to consider SSHDs. No doubt, a solid state drive can provide your machine with excellent performance; however, its smaller sizes limit the amount of data that can be stored on an SSHD, making it a trickier decision.

Also, not only do solid state drives have confined storage options, but they are also expensive in your pocket compared to discussed hard disk alternatives. An SSHD makes a smart choice as it would cost you just a quarter of the 1TB SSD, while offering a balance between performance and space.

As for the desktop computer users, it wouldn’t make much sense for them to acquire an SSHD since most PCs can accommodate multiple drives. In addition, a lot of newer computers come with both a traditional hard drive and a solid state one — with the operating system installed on the smaller capacity SSD, and user’s data mostly stored on the hard drive — which in fact represents an ideal solution for most needs and purposes. 


Wrapping It Up

Despite the fact that SSHD isn’t devoid of disadvantages of a hard drive (in particular, its susceptibility to mechanical failures), it can become an excellent option for those who would like to upgrade their machine without wasting all their savings.

Interested in learning more about other options? Read also: HDD vs SSD: Pros and Cons of Using Each