There is a valid argument in the gaming community when it comes to what type of storage you should have in your system. While different storage types offer benefits for certain types of work loads, the differences between them and how many you have in your system can make all the difference in your custom gaming PC.
But, when it comes to SSDs vs HDDs for gaming, which is better?
Generally, SSDs are preferable for gaming. Their enhanced speed outpaces HHDs which helps reduce load times.
In this article, Apex covers the differences between SSDs and HDDs when it comes to PC gaming. We'll also cover the advantages and disadvantages of both.
What Are SSDs and HDDs?
An SSD (Solid State Drive) and a HDD (Hard Disc Drive) have a multitude of uses in a system. An SSD is a more streamlined storage solution refined over the past decade into a faster, more affordable, option to the average enthusiast. HDDs are a legacy storage solution that offer cheaper storage at marginally slower speeds in larger amounts of space.
On paper, an SSD outweighs a hard drive in every competitive gaming advantage, however there are some special considerations when discussing the benefits of long term storage solutions like hard drives.
Advantages and Disadvantages of SSDs and HDDs
Between an SSD and a HDD, certain games have characteristics that would make them advantageous to put on a SSD rather than a HDD. Everytime a game loads a level, the software makes a request to the storage to fetch certain textures and assets. Depending on your storage solution, the time to load all of the textures will be different due to the different mechanics involved.
A Hard Drive has an “actuator arm” system that mechanically flicks a laser reader from point to point on a disk. This limits the speed of the read and write to the time it takes for the arm to travel creating lag time and longer loading times. However, the use of large file types that get written passively on the games cache (Mods, Steam Workshop Content, etc.) become easy to write in the background.
An SSD takes the premises of a hard drive and uses a vast amount of controllers and dedicated RAM to better read and write storage. Without getting too much into detail, these controllers enable SSDs to go two to three times as fast than a conventional Hard Drive. This is why, until recent NVME’s, SSDs were the default option for running windows and accessing more popular programs.
Along with this increase in production and integrity. They are prone to the same failures as their hard drive predecessors when it comes to controller integrity and drive failure.
With a general summary out of the way, let's get into the important distinctions between HDDs and SSDs like price to capacity, performance, and integrity along with trusted brands that Apex uses in all of our systems.
Price and Capacity
The first distinction between a HDD and SSD is their price per gigabyte. Sites like PC partpicker have a great metric for discerning the amount you can pay per storage capacity. Here is an example.
Above is a 1 TB Seagate Barracuda Hard Drive that we use in our systems. At its general listed price of $40 to $45 for this type of drive. If you divide 1000GB (1TB) into $45 you would get 22.2 cents per Gigabyte. This is a fairly good value for a slower storage solution. Lets see what we can get for the same storage size out of an SSD.
This is a Standard 1 TB TeamGroup CX2 SSD that we also use for our systems. At a general price of $89, the total price/per gigabyte is 89 cents. With this uptick in price, you can expect to see double to triple the performance for some workloads.
Speed, Durability, and Lifespan
As stated above, an SSD beats a hard drive in read and write speeds over being more expensive for larger storage options. While SSDs have the advantage of speed, they are inherently more complex and prone to failure when subjected to stresses. SSD’s have an average of five controllers that range from flash memory, SATA, error correction, and DRAM.
Hard Drives on the other hand, relies on mechanical and digital processes in order to retrieve or write data at a more economic cost. The mechanical is the actuator arm and laser subjected to high speed disk rotations clocked at 5400RPM or the more common 7200RPM. The onboard controller on the back of the hard drive handles this data. This controller is in charge of decoding, error correction, and SATA conversion. The final product is a slower storage solution that is a fraction of the price of an advanced storage solution like an SSD.
In the end, the amount of storage that a system needs is all dependent on its use and price point. This can also figure into how long these storage solutions can last.
Personally, I've had high end SSDs like my old Kingston HyperX 500GB SSD last for seven years only for it to become unusable from the plastic SATA connector snapping. There was no component failure in the memory models.
So for good measure a SSD can last upwards of five or more years.
Hard Drives are more or less in the same ball park depending on stresses. A good window is between three and five years if you care about the stored data.
Noise, Profile, and Power
HDDs in recent years have followed the standard 3.5 inch width for hard drives cases. While they are not the most compact in nature, their wide adoptions have brought on an insurmountable amount of versatility in the gaming and enterprise business. If you don't mind the occasional noise, Hard Drives periodically spool up to retrieve or write new data with their dreaded arm clicking noise. However during engaging games, it is more than likely that the background noise will drown out the clicking.
2.5 inch SSDs on the other hand are completely silent in their operation. Every action is internally done within the confines of the storage drive with the only byproduct being heat.
Speaking of heat, Hard Drives are more power hungry than SSDs. The standard power consumption is roughly 1.8 Watts every hour in normal operation.
An SSD can consume roughly .833 watts every hour in normal operation.
If you would like to know more about the calculations of power draw this site was very enlightening
Benefit of having both SSDs and HDDs
While you can opt for having a majority of HDDs or SSDs on your system, it's good to strike a balance. Depending on how much storage you need, creating a hierarchy of storage needs depending on what you use your system for. A rule of thumb is to have a majority of the programs that you would use everyday and distinguish them from the programs or games that you would play every so often.
Games that you hop in and out of every few months can get away with being on a hard drive. Everyday games should be on an SSD to reduce wait times.
Take away form ever expanding storage solutions
For gamers, ever expanding storage needs have been clashing with storage upgrade costs for years. Lower end systems are especially feeling the brunt as cheap hard drives are the only solution to expanding game sizes, which causes longer load times. This is why SSDs are the best options for games that you play daily. That said, don't be so quick to dismiss the potential of hard drives in a gaming system. Large game files that don't rely on asset streaming like online games are great for hard drives. Whatever your price point may be, don't discount any storage solutions for their potential in alleviating clutter on faster drives in your system!
Be sure to check out our storage solutions in such cases such as the LiLan 2 Cool Mesh in the Gaming Merchants line of Prebuilts that can support up to 3 Hard Drives and 2 SSDs for expanded capacity. Whatever your storage needs, we hope to fulfill them at Apex!
Written by William Wilson