Using a Hybrid Hard Drive (SSHD) For Gaming

In the past, particularly a decade ago, there was only one type of storage device with which users can configure their system, and that was the traditional mechanical hard disk drive (aka HDD). In 2007 a new alternative, yet very expensive, storage solution emerged and presented itself as a super-fast replacement for the currently commonly-used mechanical drives. In the early years of SSD emergence, they were unbelievably expensive to the extent that only rich people can obtain one for their computers.

Although SSD prices have fallen dramatically in the last two years, they are still very expensive to most users compared with hard disk drives. Plus their other disadvantage is the limited capacity they come with that could not exceed the 2TB limit. (see the largest SSD available for example)

There are two main technologies used for implementing hybrid drives: dual-drive hybrid systems and solid-state hybrid drives. In dual-drive hybrid systems, separate SSD and HDD devices are installed in the same computer, having the data placement optimization performed either manually by the end user, or automatically by the operating system through creation of a “hybrid” logical device. In solid-state hybrid drives, SSD and HDD functionalities are built into the same physical storage device, by adding a certain amount of NAND flash storage to a hard disk drive; the data placement decisions are performed either entirely by the device (self-optimized mode), or through placement “hints” supplied by the operating system (host-hinted mode).

Hybrid Hard Drive

Hybrid Hard Drives are also used in PlayStation 4 as a good and speedy replacement for the standard hard drive that comes from the manufacturer. A PS4 SSHD can increase the gaming experience a bit but we don’t really advise of it for PS4 in specific. By ditching the relative slothfulness of moving parts, solid-state drives deliver much better performance. They’re the fastest storage option available. And not only can SSDs read and write data much faster than hard drives with most workloads, but they can also access the data much more quickly as well.

Whereas the fastest hard drives can read and write data at about 200MB per second and access data in a few milliseconds, the fastest solid-state drives can achieve 550-MBps (or higher) transfers that essentially saturate the SATA interface, and their typical access times are a fraction of a single millisecond. In a nutshell, SSDs make for a much snappier, much more responsive system, with lightning-fast boot times, application launch times, and file-transfer speeds. Even a laptop SSHD can be more speedy than a regular hard drive.

Modern computers utilize advanced microprocessors capable of many millions of complex computations every second. But they can only go as fast as your storage allows. All of the digital information stored on your computer hard drive—images, videos, documents and more—are fuel for your microprocessor. The faster you can deliver this digital fuel to your computer’s microprocessor, the faster your computer will perform and the richer the applications it can support.

SSD technology has some very attractive benefits, the most important of which is performance. An SSD will deliver significantly more overall computer system performance compared to a traditional hard drive. Unlike a hard drive which has spinning disks and moving parts as key elements of locating, reading and retrieving digital data, SDDs use no moving parts and deliver data to your computer microprocessor effectively and quickly.

Why Going For an SSHD?

To get the advantages of both, many power users and PC gamers use both a solid-state drive and mechanical drive in their systems. The solid-state drive is used for system files, programs, application data, and anything else that really benefits from the speed. The larger mechanical drive can be used for long-term storage of files that don’t need to be accessed as quickly — a media or photo collection, for example. This requires installing both drives in the computer and choosing which files and programs to place on each drive. If you want to move a file to a different drive, you’ll have to move it yourself. If you want to move a program to a different drive, you may have to uninstall it and reinstall it at a different location.

Dual-drive hybrid systems combine the usage of separate SSD and HDD devices installed in the same computer. Overall performance optimizations are managed either by the computer user (by manually placing more frequently accessed data on an SSD), or by the computer’s operating system software (by combining SSDs and HDDs into hybrid volumes, transparently to the end-users). Examples of hybrid volumes implementations in operating systems are bcache and dm-cache on Linux, and Apple’s Fusion Drive.

Hybrid storage products monitor the data being read from the hard drive, and cache the most frequently accessed bits to the high-speed NAND flash memory. The data stored on the NAND will change over time, but once the most frequently accessed bits of data are stored on the flash memory, they will be served from the flash, resulting in SSD-like performance for your most-used files.

Speed Matters

In reality, what the computer industry needs is a storage technology that provides the capacity and price profile of a hard drive with the performance of an SSD. Seagate solid state hybrid drives (SSHD) deliver it. SSHD technology integrates a small (and very affordable) amount of solid state memory into the core architecture of an HDD to produce an incredible combined benefit: the capacity of a hard drive, speed similar to an SSD and a price that is slightly more than a traditional hard drive.

A common implementation of the dual-drive system seen in the laptop computer category is through the use of flash cache modules (FCMs). FCMs combine the use of separate SSD (usually an mSATA SSD module) and HDD components, while managing performance optimizations via host software, device drivers, or a combination of both. Intel Smart Response Technology (SRT), which is implemented through a combination of certain Intel chipsets and Intel storage drivers, is the most common implementation of FCM hybrid systems today.

It sounds so simple and straight forward when you describe it, but the secret sauce at the core of the SSHD platform is sophisticated software that keeps track of frequently used data and stores it in the fast, solid state portion of the system. Seagate is the only hard drive company currently offering an SSHD, and it’s secret sauce is called Adaptive Memory™ technology. The results are impressive, delivering boot times and overall system responsiveness far in excess of systems utilizing traditional hard drives and very near the results of the much more expensive SSD-based systems.