Over the past days I’ve been experimenting a bit with SSD’s, traditional spinning hard disks and hybrid drives (SSHDs) to see how big the differences are between them when it comes to everyday tasks. To my surprise, the hybrid disk performed much better than I thought.
For my tests I compared a Samsung ST1000LM024 1 terabyte 2.5″ hard disk drive for notebooks with a 2.5″, 512 GB Seagate ST500LM00 Hybrid hard disk, i.e. a combination 8 GB of flash storage in combination with a 512 GB hard disk and a Samsung 840, 512 GB SSD. All drives were used in the same notebook, a Lenovo Thinkpad E330. The following table shows the time in seconds for a number of different operations.
The Traditional Hard Disk
It comes as no surprise that the hard disk was the slowest drive. Booting Ubuntu 14.04 took 33 seconds, twice as long as from the flash drive. An even bigger difference could be observed when logging into an account. With 45 seconds, it took an eternity compared to the SSD which performs the same task in just 6 seconds. Libreoffice started in 11 seconds while Gimp took 34 seconds to start. Compared to the SSD with which both applications are loaded in 3 seconds that’s again an eternity. Also, the system settings took 9 seconds to appear when loaded from the hard disk compared to almost instant availability from the same system installed on a hard disk.
The Hybrid Drive
With ‘just’ 8 GB of flash I actually didn’t expect much from the drive in terms of speed improvement. After restarting the OS and using the drive for a while to make sure the drive had enough time to find out which data blocks should go to the flash memory, the boot and login times were only slightly slower compared to the flash drive in the same computer. Libreoffice took 5 instead of 3 seconds to start but nowhere near the 11 seconds it took from the hard disk. Gimp took 11 seconds to start, only a third of the time it took to load it from the hard disk but four times longer than from the SSD. Perhaps this is because I didn’t use Gimp a lot from the hybrid drive before the test so it might speed-up if I used it a little bit more when the drive has determined that it is worth to copy more data blocks used by Gimp to the flash memory.
The Traditional Drive
Once you are used to an SSD, it feels sluggish at best. The numbers in the table above speak volumes that this is not only a feeling. Expensive 3.5″ desktop hard drives might be faster but since I only use notebooks these days I have no experience in that domain.
When looking at the numbers I am really impressed with the performance of the hybrid drive. A 500 GB hard disk can be had for around 40 euros these days while a hybrid disk costs around 20 euros more. From my point of view that’s the best 20 euros you can possibly invest in your computing equipment if you don’t want to go to the full SSD solution for 135 euros.