SSHDs and the gaming experience

For an efficient gaming experience, storage is usually a factor that is overlooked


By Vinoth Ramalingam

There are a lot of discussions about the key elements required for an efficient gaming experience. Hardware components such as processors and graphics cards are usually the decisive ones; while storage is usually a factor that is overlooked. However, in recent years, with the increase in graphics quality and the expansive open-world experiences that games are offering, both console and PC games are demanding more and more out of hard disks.

In 2008, one of the most demanding PC games in terms of storage requirements was Grand Theft Auto IV, which required a minimum of 16GB of free hard drive space. Fast forward to some of the most popular titles released over the past year: the PC version of Grand Theft Auto V is nearly 60GB, Assassin’s Creed Unity requires just under 40GB, and Battlefield: Hardline is slightly over 30GB. Looking at just Grand Theft Auto in particular, the latest game in the series takes up more than 4 times the amount of storage space than the previous game!

This trend is posing a challenge for gamers looking to upgrade a PC or a laptop with a Solid State Drive (SSD). Modern games are making them rethink the amount of money they can spend on a processor or a graphics card, simply because SSDs are at such a price premium. Even an entry level 1TB SSD today will cost around US$350, compared to US$60 for a HDD with an equivalent capacity.

Compounding the issue is the fact that most experts advise on using a maximum of 75 percent of an SSD’s capacity for the best performance. This is because SSDs start to slow down as it fills up because it will have a lot of partially filled blocks, which are slower than writing to empty blocks.

If you have a 256GB SSD that would mean you should only be using around 192GB in space to prevent any slowdowns. Installing the three games mentioned previously and you will be over 130GB, and that does not even include the space you will need for the operating system and other essential applications!

Enter the SSHD

The good news is there is an alternative to throwing more money at a bigger SSD. A Solid State Hybrid Drive (SSHD) is essentially a combination of a traditional hard disk drive with an SSD. It combines the best of both worlds – SSD and HDD – using just the right amount of ultra-fast NAND flash with the high capacity of disk platters to provide a richer gaming experience.

SSHDs of a leading data storage player can make all this possible through a proprietary technology called Adaptive Memory, which effectively identifies the most frequently used data and stores it in the NAND flash. Hard-coded into the SSHD’s firmware, it is a self-learning technology which makes intelligent determinations about which data to store in NAND flash memory, without any influence from the host or related storage device drivers.

Every gamer knows the importance of having a competitive edge in order to win and SSHD delivers by performing up to 5 times faster than typical HDDs and improving responsiveness by 30 percent. Basically, you can boot up faster to get in the game quicker, grab all the tools and power-ups, and access the perfect attack position before anyone else.

At the same time, with SSHDs available in capacities of up to 4TB for desktops and 1TB for laptops, gamers won’t have to uninstall games to make space for new ones.

However, these benefits are not only limited to PC and laptop users. Sony PlayStation 4 users are realizing faster boot and load times with an SSHD as well. IGN sums it up best: “a SSHD hybrid drive provides the speed improvements of a traditional SSD, but greater affordability and total storage capacity.”

Ultimately, SSHDs provide the most cost-effective way to get the solid state speed you crave, with the hard drive capacity you need, all at a price that is only slightly more than traditional hard drives.

The author is Senior Applications Engineer, Seagate Technology.


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