You may not have heard about the new hybrid hard drives yet but they are quickly taking over the internal hard drive market place. Hybrid hard drives are basically a new take on combining a small SSD and traditional hard drive to give a big performance boost without the higher cost of the new Solid State Drives. When you combine a fast 7200 rpm Sata hard drive with a 32 gig SSD for the front end cache of often used files you get a great performance increase and large size hard drive.
Both Seagate and Samsung began producing these hybrid drives in 2007 but they really didn’t start selling well until the recent price drops. The software in the hard drive takes care of doing all the heavy lifting in regard to what resides where to get the best performance. And with 512 gig SSD units running well over $450, you can get a 750 gig hybrid drive with a 32 gig SSD for around $120. While the performance of the hybrid drive is not the same as a pure SSD drive, the boost is considerable and you can definitely feel the difference.
These drives come in both 2.5 inch and 3.5 inch formats (laptops and desktops). The two leading manufacturers of hard drives, Seagate and Western Digital, both have hybrid hard drive models available. Seagate seems to have an advantage at this point in both price and performance. But both manufacturers are bringing out new models often so the best deal might jump back and forth.
The best performance hybrid hard drives all have 32 gig SSDs and Sata 7200 rpm drives of 500 gigs or more. The larger the SSD size and the faster the rpm of the traditional hard drive dictates the real world performance. Are they as fast as a pure SSD? It really depends on your computer and daily computing habits. In my tests on both a newer Macbook Pro and Sony Windows laptop the boot times were much quicker and many daily activities were noticeably faster. Especially with iTunes and other intensive applications on both units.
Both the Mac and the Sony originally had 5400 rpm drives so the boost came from SSD and 7200 rpm traditional hard drive. Both units had much smaller hard drives too so the extra space was a good benefit too. These units were both about 2 years old and the new hybrid hard drive really made it like having a new computer. Both already had an Intel I3 chipset so they should be good to go for at least another 2-3 years.
Right now I would say that this is the best bang for the buck in upgrades for older laptops and desktops. You could go to a straight 128 gig SSD for about the same price and get a better boost but 128 gigs really doesn’t cut it anymore when basic OS and applications take up almost 85 gigs. And given that many users have up to 50 gigs of music alone, 128 gigs is not going to be enough space for many users.
Seagate does have software that allows you to easily clone your current hard drive and it takes about an hour or better to clone most 300 gig hard drives. All in all it took about an hour and a half for me to upgrade each laptop. You could also do a clean install and get rid of the cobwebs which would certainly help in the overall performance. But it works well either way, just a matter of personal choice.