Data storage is a contentious topic, and critical to a successful project workflow.  If you’re planning to use an external drive, there’s an important decision you have to make. Do you want an SSD or HDD? Hard disk drives (HDD) are more commonly used, while a solid-state drive (SSD) is generally smaller, faster, and more expensive. However, the SSD vs HDD debate has intensified in recent years as more affordable SSDs like the Sandisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 have been released.

If you’re not sure which type of external drive you should use, we’ve broken down the pros and cons of both below. But first, what’s the difference?

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

The internal mechanics of a hard disk drive
The internal mechanics of a hard disk drive | photo by Benjamin Lehman

A hard disk drive is a data storage system used in most computers and servers. A HDD uses moving electromechanical parts coated in magnetic material to read and write data. Most HDDs contain circular, flat disks made of glass or metal called platters. The platters rotate, while magnetic heads on a moving arm read and write data to the surface of each platter. The mechanism looks like a small, metallic record player. 

If you’ve used an external HDD before, you may have been warned to be careful about moving it, and not to move it at all when it’s in use. That’s because a physical jolt could potentially disrupt the moving parts as they are reading and writing data.  Imagine if you dropped an actual record player on the ground while it was playing music. Wouldn’t you be surprised if it continued playing? Similarly, if you’ve ever dropped a computer on the ground and experienced data loss, it’s because the mechanics of the internal HDD were damaged.

Solid State Drive (SSD)

The SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 in use | Photo by Dani Diamond

A solid-state drive also stores data, however it uses different internal components.  The name, solid-state, references the fact that an SSD does not contain moving parts. Instead, an SSD uses two microchips: a flash memory chip that stores the data, and a controller chip. The controller chip manages the data and communicates with the computer or electronic device that’s using the SSD.

While they may not be as prolific as HDDs, SSDs are not new. The founders of SanDisk filed a patent for a flash-memory alternative to a magnetic disk drive in 1989, and released the first commercial solid-state drive in 1991. The SSD had a 20MB capacity and cost $1000. Today, SSDs have much larger capacities and much lower price tags. They are used inside smartphones, tablets, and some computers, including most Apple computers. 

SSD vs HDD

The obvious advantage of an SSD is the lack of moving parts. As a result, an SSD is physically smaller, and less susceptible to damage when it experiences a bump or shock. Using a microchip instead of an electromagnetic disk, an SSD can also read and write data faster than a HDD. 

The Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 is SanDisk’s flagship solid-state drive. The SSD weighs 77.5g (0.17 lb), and comes in three sizes, 1TB, 2TB, and 4TB. The SSD is IP55 water and dust resistant, vibration resistant up to 1500G, and can withstand a drop from up to 2 meters. The Extreme PRO V2 also has a read and write speed of up to 2000 MB/s, twice as fast as the previous generation.  Each size costs $299.99, $499.99, and $899.99 respectively. 

Conversely, most HDDs have bulkier, heavier builds and much slower read and write speeds, approximately 130MB/s. They often have comparable water and drop resistance to SSDs, however this only applies when the HDD is not in use. The internal moving parts mean a HDD is more fragile when reading or writing data. The cost for a 1TB HDD ranges between $70-100.

The advantages of the SSD are clear. It’s smaller, more durable, and can read and write data at 15 times the speed of most HDDs.  Every project faces unique challenges, yet the Extreme PRO V2 is guaranteed to offer safer storage of your data and incredibly faster transfer times. 

SanDisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD V2 vs Other SSDs

Photo courtesy of SanDisk

The SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 also offers advantages over other SSDs. As mentioned, SanDisk recently released a new generation of this model with twice the read and write speed, up to 2000 MB/s. While there are SSDs on the market that technically offer a faster speed, they suffer a disadvantage. Data throttling.

Technical innovation means that SSDs can now read and write data at faster speeds. Consumers have also come to expect smaller, more portable bodies. As a result, SSDs are drawing more power within a smaller build, increasing the risk of overheating.  A 2015 study found that high temperatures wear down flash memory faster than heavy usage, and that cooler drives generally last longer. 

Most SSDs have built-in temperature sensors that enable them to identify when the drive is starting to heat up. After 10-20 minutes of use, they start to turn off in nanosecond intervals to cool down. While this process prevents overheating, it also slows the read and write speed of the drive. The process is called data or thermal throttling. The forged aluminum core of the SanDisk Extreme PRO SSD allows it to stay cool without throttling. That means it can sustain a faster read and write speed for longer than other SSDs on the market. 

Other benefits of the Extreme PRO V2 include 5-year limited warranty, compatibility with USB-C smartphones, and password protection backed by 256-bit AES hardware encryption. 

The Verdict

Unless you have strict budget restraints, there is a clear winner in the SSD vs HDD debate. Solid-state drives have a smaller build and will more safely store your data than a HDD. Technological innovation means new SSD models like the SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2 can also sustain considerably faster read and write speeds than a HDD without overheating. When investing in an external drive, you may find that a dollar spent is worth more than a dollar saved.

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