Having difficulties choosing between an SSD (solid state drive) or an HDD (hard disk drive) for your gaming escapades? Do you really want to know for sure if the additional cost for an SSD is worth the money? Or, are you thinking you’re better off with an HDD when you’re on a tight budget?
Well, the common perception is that a gaming computer should have a strong video card (like an NVIDIA GTX 1080) and a powerful processor (like an 8th generation Intel Core i7 processor), along with an efficient cooling system to run any game.
The focus is primarily on these components, which is why many users often neglect the importance of data storage disks and its role in giving you smooth gameplay performance.
Truth is, you can still encounter major problems that can negatively affect your gaming experience even if you have a laptop with all the latest specifications like a powerful CPU, sufficient RAM resources, a seriously cool video card and so on.
That’s because you also need to have the right type of data disk and storage capacity, which should match your gaming habits and other day-to-day computing tasks. Otherwise, you’ll end up needing to remove previously installed programs and games each time you want to install a latest game title.
You could also get frequent low disk space notifications here and there, which will affect the performance of your operating system (OS), games and other applications (aside of course from irritating the hell out of you!).
Many users consider that the long standing SSD vs HDD debate is all about data storage capacity, cost and form factor. Well yes, these are all significant components for a gamer to consider when trying to decide whether to go with an SSD, or an HDD.
However, there are more crucial differences between these two types of hard disk drives. Our objective here is to help you make a more informed buying decision by clearly describing the importance of all significant features and main differences between an SSD and an HDD.
Types of Hard Disks
There are two major types of data storage disks at the moment. These are solid state drives (SSDs) and hard disk drives (HDDs). Both of these data storage disk types are equipped into the latest laptops and desktops in the market today. However, what are the most important differences between an SSD and an HDD? Read on to find out!
Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
A hard disk drive is an electromechanical type of data storage disk. The magnetic properties of its components are used to store and retrieve data. One of its internal components is called a platter, which is a flat disk with magnetic coating where all data is stored and retrieved from.
Drawing power from your laptop battery (or direct from the wall if your machine is plugged in), this platter spins continuously while the hard disk is in use. Its speed is measured in RPM (revolutions per minute), so an HDD with higher RPM is generally faster than those with lower RPM.
Another mechanical component of an HDD is called an actuator arm. This moves on top of the spinning platter according to the commands issued by the operating system and applications.
Its main task is to write and read data in certain sectors of the platter as specified by the computer. The standard form factor of recent HDDs for the latest laptops today measures 2.5 inches in length and width, and around an inch or more in thickness.
Solid State Drive (SSD)
SSDs were invented around 40 years ago as a replacement for traditional HDDs. This data storage disk type continues to rapidly grow in popularity since then. Unlike the mechanical components of HDDs, solid state drives use integrated electronic circuits to store and retrieve data.
An SSD does not have a spinning platter or a moving actuator arm. It doesn’t have any moving internal component at all. A solid state drive stores data in the form of electrical charges stacked together in sectors. Data can be retrieved and written quickly through the help of wires and circuits.
The data storage capacity of SSDs and HDDs vary with each product. The latest ones in the market today usually have 50GB to 1TB or more of data storage capacity. There are also older HDDs with 10 to 20GB or so. Keep in mind that 1GB is equivalent to 1024MB, while 1TB is around 1024GB.
Now that we’ve nicely squared away these preliminaries, let’s tackle whether gaming SSDs or gaming HDDs can best serve your purpose of achieving the optimum gaming experience that you want. So, read on to learn more.
SSD vs HDD
In order to decide which hard disk is better, we need to explore certain parameters that can help us distinguish between the overall performance of an HDD and an SSD.
Ultimately, our common objective is to arm ourselves with useful information that can help us make a more informed buying decision. So, here are the following parameters that are vital for deciding to correctly choose an SSD or an HDD for your gaming needs:
The speed of a data storage disk generally refers to the time it takes to complete its I/O tasks. These are read and write processes that are carried out by the disk through commands issued by the computer.
In this particular domain, SSDs have an upper hand over HDDs. SSDs are way faster than HDDs. The reason for this difference in speed is that HDDs have a platter that must spin while the disk is in use, along with a mechanical actuator arm that moves in order to write or retrieve data from a particular sector of the platter. This mechanical movement requires time.
On the other hand, there aren’t any moving components inside an SSD. Electrical components and digital processes are used by an SSD to write and retrieve data.
These I/O processes are generally completed for every 10MB or more in just a few nano seconds. As a result of this difference in design, SSDs are faster than HDDs. They’re also highly recommended for gamers.
Many gamers complain about the noise of their computers, especially during gameplay. Most of them have gaming laptops and desktops with HDDs. This mostly comes from the fans of their HDDs and CPUs, which move faster as these components heat up, thereby increasing noise.
HDDs require fans to cool it down during prolonged use. That’s because constant friction is produced by its continuously spinning platter and rapidly moving mechanical actuator arm. In turn, this friction heats up the internal and external components of these HDDs.
As more heat is generated, its fans are programmed to move faster in order to effectively cool down its platter and arm. And since more power is required to run its mechanism, this adds up to the heating issues of HDDs.
On the other hand, gaming SSDs are likely to be more suitable for fulfilling your purposes. An SSD does not require any sort of fan to cool it because data handling is carried out by electronic systems. Although SSDs still heat up after prolonged use, it doesn’t produce as much heat as an HDD for the same use cases.
In case you find your laptop heating up often, here's a list of the most recommended laptop cooling pads to help you deal with the issue.
Data Storage Capacity
Lots of gamers normally prefer to install multiple games in their machines. Most of them also have other productivity programs, office applications, digital tools and multimedia products.
They also ensure that their OS, firmware components and third party applications have the latest updates, in order to maintain the smooth performance and seamless compatibility of their OS, games and programs with the internal and external components of their devices. This of course requires data storage space.
Keep in mind that FIFA 19 and Witcher 3, which are some of the most popular game titles today, already consume around 150GB or so of data storage space.
This means an SSD with 50GB or so of data storage capacity won’t cut it for a gamer who doesn’t want to constantly remove programs here and there just to download and install a new game.
HDDs with 1TB or more of data storage capacity are common in the market today. On the other hand, the most common SSDs come with 250 to 512GB of available disk space. There are 1 to 4TB SSDs, but they’re more expensive than HDDs with the same capacity and are usually harder to find.
The solution of some gamers for this dilemma is to have an SSD and an HDD in their gaming laptops and desktop computers. They install their OS, games and other third party applications in their SSD, while they store their media collections and files in their HDD.
Many of them have a 512GB SSD and a 1TB HDD, and this provides them with the balance that they need in terms of speed, performance and data storage capacity.
Portability & Maintenance Accessibility
The mechanical components of an HDD make it more fragile than an SSD. Physical damage to any of these components can destroy stored data and could also often slow down the performance of the HDD.
This is why HDDs are normally found protected by a metal case inside a laptop or a desktop computer. However, this makes it harder for you to pull it out and have it checked or replaced.
On the contrary, an SSD is lighter, thinner and generally more accessible. These internal SSDs are often just connected to a thin cable and placed in a more accessible area inside your computer.
This makes it quicker, simpler and easier to pull it out when you need to have it checked or replaced. It’ll also be easy for you to add more internal SSDs when required.
There are also external HDDs and SSDs. These generally come in a slightly bigger form factor than their internal counterparts. However, external HDDs are bulkier than external SSDs.
That’s because an external HDD requires its own power source, especially since it consumes a lot of electricity while in use.
On the other hand, external SSDs are lighter, smaller and are powered up by simply connecting it to the external ports of your computer. These also consume less electricity.
Also read: Best Gaming Laptop Reviews for 2018
At this point, the winner of the SSD vs HDD debate has become quite apparent. Everything discussed above indicates that SSDs are much better than HDDs for that ultimate gaming experience. SSDs aren’t just faster, more power efficient and portable than HDDs, but they’re also more durable.
Some users continue to complain that they lose their stored data when they leave their SSDs for long periods of time without any activity. Experts say this can happen because some of the electronic components of lower quality SSDs tend to die out when it stays turned off for a long time. This problem has already been fixed with the more recent SSDs in the market today.
Another drawback for a few users is the significantly lower data storage capacity of most SSDs in the market at the moment. Many brands have already started to release new SSD products with higher data storage capacity, but some users are again complaining about the high prices of these models.
However, many believe that in time, economies of scale in the production and manufacturing processes of these companies will kick this down to more reasonable prices. Even now, we’re seeing some SSD models with high data storage capacity at fairly affordable prices.
So, an SSD for gaming is much better on many levels. And, an effective solution for some gamers on a tight budget is to get a 512GB SSD and a 1TB HDD for their computers, especially for those who want to keep lots of programs and multimedia data in their machines.
ASUS North America compared a HDD and SSD on various other factors such as boot time etc. Here's a glimpse below.