When it comes to gaming, storage mediums such as hard disk drives (HDDs) and solid state drives (SSDs) are important components that can significantly impact gameplay experiences. With newer AAA titles requiring large install sizes and constantly loading assets in the background, the choice between an HDD or SSD becomes more relevant for gamers.
On one hand, HDDs offer large storage capacities for lower prices, making them ideal for housing game libraries. However, their mechanical nature results in slower read/write speeds. On the other hand, SSDs have much faster access times that reduce loading screens and boost overall responsiveness. But they still have higher storage costs compared to HDDs. With technology advancing rapidly, this storage debate is more pertinent than ever for gaming rigs.
In this article, we provide you with an objective analysis of HDDs versus SSDs for gaming to help you decide which type of storage best suits your needs and budget.
Can SSDs Cater to the Ever-Increasing Install Size of the Games?
Speaking from a purely gaming perspective, a modern-day game can range anything from 20GB to 200 GB. Some games, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, have breached the 200GB mark. Consider the different games within the same series, and why an avid gamer would like to have all of them in the collection.
The 1TB Hard Disk will be tiny in such a case. If we take 100GB to be standard, you can barely have 9 games in a 1TB SSD. With better graphics performances, faster processors, and better cooling mechanisms, the size standards will keep increasing owing to better game development technologies available.
There’s also the consideration that despite their low prices, SSDs aren’t comparable to the good old HDDs. The SSDs cost 9 cents a GB, while HDDs cost around 2 cents a GB. At up to a 1TB level, it doesn’t make much difference as the overall system performance is improved.
After that, though, it consistently costs more to have an SSD as compared to HDD. For heavy gamers with an extensive library, 1TB won’t be enough. There are also patches, updates, and releases for the games, which further increase the size of the games.
There’s also the case for backup solutions. Traditional HDDs work like a charm for backups in case you require restoring from one. There’s no point in backing up to an SSD because of the costs involved. Also, in backups, you don’t always need speed. You only require the stability and safety of the backup data.
Also, read Is 512GB SSD Enough For Windows & Macbook
SSDs vs HDDs: Where SSDs Truly Turn on the Magic!
SSDs don’t need defragmentation because they don’t suffer from file placement in non-sequential sectors, i.e., file fragmentation. The lack of moving parts and spinning platters make the file access time almost instantaneous.
To understand the power of SSDs, you need to understand that every click, keystroke, or touch is a code for the PC. With HDD, the heads need to be repositioned to the correct sector and the right platter of the spin.
A computer with a 1GHz processor can handle a billion computer operations every second. Consider the above scenario for each of the billion operations. The minor lag can be really huge. Therefore, the computers boot way faster on SSD than on HDD. Literally every operation you carry out is faster in SSD, including opening Chrome, browsing the internet, and even playing music.
If we talk about the average boot time, an SSD can boot a PC in 10-13 seconds on average, as compared to 30-40 seconds for an HDD. The fastest HDD can boot a PC in 20 seconds, while the fastest SSD can boot a PC in under 5 seconds.
The same boot speed comes into play while running apps and games on a PC. Since the games are heavier, if an SSD can boot a game in a third of the time of an HDD, it will save loads of boot time and help boost performance.
Modern PCs don’t often come without SSDs. They are faster, quieter, and more stable as compared to HDDs. This is the reason the SSDs have grown even in external storage solutions. SSDs also help in multi-tasking because of the faster operation speed.
Since most gamers won’t only indulge in gaming and will need their PC for other tasks, like file transfers, software usage, and content creation (especially for gaming bloggers), SSDs help serve a larger purpose to gamers.
HDD vs SSD: Picking the Winner for the Gamers
Let’s break down the various aspects of the debate in coming to the right conclusion about HDD vs. SSD Gaming Performance.
1) The Speed Game
SSDs provide us with unbeatable Speed, the single biggest reason for the popularity of SSDs. They can’t be beaten in this department owing to better mechanics, no fragmentation, and the ability to load both the OS and the applications faster. If speed were to be the only criterion, the debate would end at SSDs. The games would consistently load way faster than on HDDs. Often, getting into the in-game experience is one of the important criteria.
Yet the speed isn’t the only criterion. While in the game, the difference between SSDs and HDDs is negligible. It is like our experience of using applications earlier, and now. Our heavy software, like Adobe Premiere Pro, would run smoothly on HDDs earlier than it does on SSDs now. Only the loading times are different, and the other time difference is overall negligible.
2) Game Mechanics in HDD vs SSD
The difference in in-game experience is negligible because it is independent of the storage device. Once the in-game experience begins, the game divides the tasks between GPU, CPU, and RAM. Hence, the actual storage is barely used only for reading or writing games.
While reading a game means opening the game and getting into the in-game experience, writing games would involve saving the progress. The latter part isn’t heavy and doesn’t delay the gaming.
A factor that isn’t often discussed is the game mechanics. Often, games work better on one storage.
Therefore, some games can run better on HDD despite the lower speed factor. How does one know about the same? For those having both SSDs and HDDs in their system, can try to install the game on both drives and do manual testing for themselves. If the game doesn’t improve considerably while using SSDs, then the game can be saved in HDD.
3) Endurance and Energy Efficiency
SSDs and HDDs endurance depends on the type of SSDs and HDDs. SSDs come with a use-case scenario from the manufacturer. These are write-intensive, read-intensive, and multi-use. There are also different SSDs, like Single Level Cell (one bit per cell), Multi-Level Cell (two bits per cell), Triple Level Cell (three bits per cell), and so on. The higher the number of cells, the lesser the energy efficiency and speed. Hence, they are more suitable for reading-based operations, and writing will wear them out faster. An SSD may last as long as an HDD, or even longer.
The factor that helps SSD stand out for gamers, other than the speed, is the power consumption. For gamers, power consumption is already high. The lower power consumption of SSD helps compensate for other power-intensive operations for gaming. Durability and reliability are considerable factors for SSDs. An SSD may last years, and so can an HDD.
4) The Pricing Factor
The price factor is often the deal-breaker for the SSD vs. HDD battle. Despite the advancement of technology lowering the overall cost of SSDs, they are still 4-5 times costlier than HDDs. It means that a $100 HDD will cost $450 approximately for the same storage. This factor becomes important in case you must download games multiple times. Even with fast download speeds, the size of games makes sure that the net profit of time is negligible or negative. Hence, if you can get a higher storage HDD instead of a lower storage SSD, consider your network speed, how often you need to download games, and the data cap on your downloads.
The final factor is the multi-tasking feature. Do you plan to use the computer only for gaming or for other tasks as well? If they are nominal operations like opening and playing media and word processing, HDDs can handle them smoothly. The difference comes while using content creation applications. These applications involve real-time reading and writing, and a simple auto-save function can freeze the application. For the multi-taskers and content creators, the SSD is the likelier of the choice.
Pros and Cons of SSD for Gaming
Pros and Cons of HDD for Gaming
From SSD vs HDD Gaming to SSD and HDD: The Unbeatable Combination
Our discussion points to the pros and cons of both types of storage solutions. Since the PC is built for multi-tasking, even if it is gaming-optimized, a hybrid model is needed. By combining the pros of both types of storage, we can remove all the cons resulting from such a combination. Modern-day PCs often employ this hybrid solution to give them the best of both worlds—unbeatable speed and cost-effective storage.
The Operating System and some applications can be installed in the SSD drive. Here, you can test the games on both drives. If there’s no considerable difference in performance, install them on HDD. The overall PC speed and the game-loading speed will be faster even if installed on an HDD.
A 250GB SSD suffices to run an OS smoothly along with a few applications. A 500GB SSD will allow you to install and store some games on SSD. It will also allow for faster content creation, as the files in use can be stored in the SSD drive. Add an HDD of 1TB upwards storage, and you have a system that comprises the best of both worlds.
Which is Better: SSD or HDD for Gaming–The Concluding Words
In the end, it all boils down to the budget and the overall requirements. Is an SSD better than a HDD for gaming? For the gaming experience, not much. But for the overall experience, and getting into the in-game, SSD provides a magical upgrade. If you can spend, an SSD system is better. If you want plenty of games on a lower budget, HDD is the solution. For the best of both worlds, go for a hybrid PC with both SSD and HDD.