What’s the Best SSD or HDD?
In PCs and laptops, we usually find that a high-speed SSD makes little difference to a system’s overall score. That’s because reading and writing files represents only a small quantity of the work involved in most computing tasks. The fastest disk in the world won’t magically let you finish a day’s work by midday.
Yet, if you regularly need to shift large amounts of data backwoods and forwards, an SSD can save a momentous amount of time. And if you use a fast SSD as your system disk, then you’ll notice an increase in responsiveness; programs and documents will open almost straight away and your PC will start up and shut down more effortlessly. Although the actual time-saving may be small, an SSD can give your PC a noticeable spring in its step.
To do some tests started with a Western Digital Caviar Green 3.5” Hard Drive.
The manufacturer does not openly advertise the speed at which this drive’s platters spin, but we suspect its 5,400rpm, equally slow by industry standards.
We say that because even though this disk has a rather generous 16MB cache of fast on-board memory, it took 1min 22 secs to shut down and restart our Windows 8 test system with this disk, and almost five minutes to copy a folder containing 5GB of data files. Opening a 1GB set of files in Photoshop took 23 seconds.
It was a similar story with Western Digital’s 1TB Scorpio Blue laptop drive. This model spins at an industry-standard 5,400rpm.
However, it’s smaller 8MB cache is a liability in real-world use, leading to results hardly any faster than the Caviar Green in our Windows and Photoshop tests. Only when it came to copying large files did we see an important benefit.
The SSD advantage
For the ultimate in performance, there’s no substitute for a real SSD. Equipping our test PC with Samsung’s SSD 840 Pro gave all of our tests a massive boost. Windows 8 rebooted in only 23 seconds, and the 5GB file-copy test completed in a lightning-fast 34 seconds – around a fifth as long as the hybrid drive took.
SSDs are undeniably expensive. The 256GB model of the Samsung drive currently sells for around £190, while the Western Digital Caviar Green offers around twice the storage for only £45. But if you want the most responsive PC you can get, an SSD can make a huge difference to the speed at which you can open, access and switch between applications.