Buying Guide: Hard Drives and SSDs

A new internal drive for your PC or laptop is a theme every few years. The market is changing rapidly and therefore it is high time for an update. Nowadays we mainly look at SSDs, but the good old hard disk still has a large market share. What is the best SSD you can buy right now? And what is the best hard drive?

Tip 01: HD vs SSD

So much has been written about it, so we'll keep it short: Simply put, there are two types of internal drives. The classic hard disk has moving parts and has the advantage of being cheap. The disadvantage is of course that a hard drive can break more easily due to these moving parts. An SSD contains no moving parts and is a lot faster. The biggest drawback is still that these drives are still pricey, although the prices are dropping every year. Nowadays you pay less than a hundred euros for an SSD of 250 GB, three years ago this was still around 150 euros. During a presentation by Intel in 2016, the company predicted that the price per gigabyte will fall below ten cents by 2020, which would mean that a 250 GB SSD in the Netherlands would cost around 25 euros in two to three years. It seems that this is not entirely true, partly due to the so-called nand crisis: due to a shortage of nand flash memory, the price has remained the same or even increased in recent months. Hopefully the prices will drop a bit in 2018.

Tip 02: SSD technology

We will initially focus on SSD drives: solid state drives. An SSD is in most cases a storage medium with a plastic housing. It weighs only a few grams and is therefore wonderfully light to build into a laptop. You can click the connectors of an SSD into the standard SATA port of your laptop or computer. An SSD consists of a printed circuit board, so-called controller chips to make a connection with your computer and the actual flash memory. We already talked about this in the previous tip, this flash memory consists of nand. This is a certain type of silicone that can store data. It is mainly used in SSD drives and (micro)SD cards. Since these cards are widely used in smartphones, tablets and photo cameras, it is logical that there is a huge demand for nand-flash memory.

An SSD weighs only a few grams and is therefore wonderfully light to build into a laptop

Tip 03: Format

Internal drives come in a few different sizes. Back in the day, there were really only two options: 2.5 inches or 3.5 inches. The classic hard drives can still be found in these two formats, but solid state drives are not available in the 3.5-inch format. If you want to install a 2.5-inch drive in a 3.5-inch shaft, you need special mounting brackets, which you can find at almost every computer store.

The 2.5 inch size is very common and almost every computer and laptop can handle this size. But actually, a solid state drive doesn't need such a large enclosure at all, most of it is empty. Hence, there are smaller options for solid state drives. Newer laptops and ultrabooks hardly use 2.5-inch SSDs anymore because it takes up valuable space in a small laptop. The first attempt to make an SSD smaller was mSata or mini-sata. This was actually a normal 2.5 inch PCB but without the plastic housing. Since mSata is otherwise exactly the same as a normal SSD, the bandwidth is limited to 6 gigabits per second.

A newer variant is m.2. This is even smaller than mSata, but the size may vary. Some m.2 ssds have a sata connection, others have a pci express connection. Each m.2 SSD is identified by four digits indicating its size: the first two digits indicate the width, the last two the length (for example, m.2-2280). Standard m.2 SSDs are 22 millimeters wide, the length is usually 60 or 80 millimeters. In many cases, a longer m.2 ssd contains more nand memory and thus has a larger capacity. You should check the technology that your laptop or computer uses in advance. If your laptop only supports m.2-sata, then you cannot put an m.2-pci-express variant in it. M.2-pci-express has a potential speed of 32 Gb/s (3.2 gigabytes per second) or 3200 MB/s.

Tip 04: Storage space

The most important thing about an SSD is of course the storage space. You'll find 128 gigabytes as the default option on most laptops these days. This is enough if you use the laptop to surf the internet, watch the occasional Netflix movie and edit some documents. If you are going to work with photos and video or if you want to store a complete music library on your computer, you will quickly reach your limits. Of course you also have to factor in the space for the operating system, a bare installation of Windows 10 64 bit will cost you at least 20 gigabytes. Add to that Microsoft Office and some programs from Adobe and you have 40 to 50 gigabytes in no time. Before you buy a new internal disk, it is useful to write down exactly what you want to store on your new disk. Do some math and reserve at least another 40 to 50 gigabytes extra for the future.

Before you buy a new drive, calculate what you want to store on that new drive

Tip 05: Expansion

When purchasing a laptop, it is often the case that it is better to order a larger SSD right away. Sometimes it is difficult or even impossible to upgrade an internal drive later, especially if it is a small size like m.2. With modern and small machines such as the Apple MacBook or the Microsoft Surface Book, upgrading an SSD is absolutely out of the question. In the case of Apple, the SSD is soldered to the motherboard and you can't upgrade it, the Surface Book does contain an m.2 SSD, but to get to this you have to disassemble almost the entire laptop, something that is not possible. recommended. Website iFixit gave the laptop a 1 on the repairability scale.

Tip 06: Hybrid drives

If you want to buy a large drive, but the price of an SSD puts you off, you can always go for a hybrid drive. This is also referred to as sshd (solid state hard drive). It combines a small SSD with a large hard drive. In most cases, however, the ssd portion is a fraction of the total size. For example, with a 1 TB disk, there is only an 8 GB SSD part. Still, this helps in some applications. The ssd part functions as a kind of stopover, also known as cache. Applications are opened faster and data is written faster. Files that are frequently used are nested on the ssd part. Files that are not addressed are moved to the hard disk area.

Hard Drive

In this article we are mainly talking about solid state drives, but for mass storage a classic hard drive can also work just fine. When purchasing a hard drive, it is useful to look at the rotational speed. Standard for a 2.5 inch hard drive is 5400 rpm, but if you want a better performance choose a drive with a speed of 7200. For many 3.5 inch drives this is the standard, some top models even have a rotation speed of 10,000 rpm.

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