Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD): the next big thing?

Friday, 20 September 2013 by Pedro Vasconcelos

Over the past few years we have seen the gradual introduction of Solid State Drives (SSDs) in to the hard drive market. Although they have made a big impact within the industry, some consumers still have concerns over price and questions over reliability when looking for data storage media for their PC or laptop. We have seen many different types of SSD with varying types of failure in our lab, and combined with the relatively higher cost-per-gigabyte when compared to traditional hard drives, it can be argued that they are not a very cost-effective option for the average user.

There is however, a new kid on the block: the Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD). In a nutshell, this type of device bridges the gap between a mechanical hard drive and 'standard' SSD.

SSHD uses a traditional platter-based design for the bulk of the data storage, but the clever part is that the SSHD has on-board flash (NAND) storage for faster access speeds. For example, you may buy a 500GB SSHD which will come with around 8GB of on-board flash storage which the drive will use as a cache. The drive then works out which files, folders and programmes you access most often and uses this 8GB as a cache for this data, making access speeds much faster.

The main advantage of SSHD is that it offers similar read/write speeds as SSD, but with the price-per-GB of storage closer to that of traditional mechanical hard drives. This means that you can still have a fast drive in your laptop or desktop, but still have plenty of storage space for your files.

However, all the potential risks for data loss associated with mechanical hard drives are still present: this can include physical media damage, electronics failures and susceptibility to environmental damage. All of these vulnerabilities are applicable to SSD and SSHD.

Whether or not this new technology will become popular with consumers remains to be seen, but drives offering near-SSD read/write speeds combined with the storage capacity and similar pricing to traditional mechanical drives can only be a good thing.