Storage: is speed always best?

Hard-disk drive or solid-state drive? It’s been one of the biggest questions asked of system builders for years. CMS Distribution’s Jennifer Eltringham settles the score.

When you buy a new laptop or computer, the decision has to be made between choosing an SSD or HDD as your storage component. If you were to go to Google to try and find the answer, you’d be met with a considerable number of websites and reviews comparing the two. Price per GB, performance and user requirement present a dizzying array of facts and figures that you can easily become lost in. With all of these considerations, should speed be the biggest deciding factor?

It is often asked why we need speed. Four out of five adults in the UK own a smartphone and two-thirds have access to a tablet, both of which provide us with lots of content, really quickly. 

This is because smartphones are built with flash memory, the same as SSD, as opposed to a mechanically driven HDD. The speed in which smart phones and tablets work has had an impact on our perception of speed, so that when we click on something, we expect it to open immediately.

When you look at the pros and cons you’ll see that, in terms of speed, SSDs far outpace the performance of HDD in random performance, which is particularly beneficial for operating system boots. 

SSDs are more durable as they have no moving parts, removing mechanical failure risks altogether, and they are much less prone to physical damage during transport, operation or unexpected clumsiness.

“What it really comes down to is the individual’s needs: cost, speed, capacity or durability?”
Jennifer Eltringham, CMS Distribution

On the flipside, HDDs have much larger capacity options than SSD, up to 10TB, so they’re particularly useful for large capacity archive storage. HDDs also tends to be cheaper than SSDs, especially with the current shortage of NAND flash pushing up the prices of SSDs.

If you take a look at the gaming market, for example, there used to be a point where it was a definite advantage to be able to load a game quicker. But nowadays when a game is built, the designers tend to adjust them to make exceptions for people who are gaming from a device without an SSD, or with slower broadband speeds. Many games now wait until everyone has loaded in, or there will be short pauses to ensure the next part of the game has loaded to the same point for everyone.

So what it really comes down to is the individual’s needs: is the focus cost, speed, capacity or durability? These are just a few of many considerations for storage components with many applications.

With more and more people choosing to upgrade instead of buying a new laptop or PC (more on this on page 17), and with the increasing popularity of gaming, the demand for memory will only increase, bringing a boost to the channel in years to come. We should support our retailers to improve the consumer’s knowledge of memory and how both HDD and SSD can work in their favour. 

Jennifer Eltringham is a marketing executive at CMS Distribution.

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