In gaming circles, it is common knowledge to buy a solid-state drive (SSD) for a gaming PC due to the lack of any moving parts resulting in faster read and write speeds. However, despite the decreasing cost of solid-state drives and memory chips in general, a user may choose to buy an additional hard drive to store more games, or to save money in conjunction with an SSD. In this article, I want to talk about three of what I believe are the most popular choices for consumer hard drives.
For the sake of comparison, all of the hard drives will be using the 3.5-inch form factor internal drives. Also note that most of these consumer grade drives use the Shingled Magnetic Recording method (SMR), meaning that the data tracks overlap similar to the shingles on a roof, hence the name. The other technique drives use the more Conventional Magnetic Recording method (CMR), where the data tracks are placed side by side. SMR drives tend to have lower write performance than CMR drives, though read performance isn’t affected as much.
While slightly more expensive than Western Digital’s hard drives, every drive in the Seagate Barracuda lineup comes with 256 megabytes of cache.
For a budget hard drive, the $52.99 2TB 5400 RPM Seagate Barracuda gives you the best bang for your buck at $26.49 per terabyte. For $58.99, however, you can get a 7200 RPM drive with the same capacity. While the 7200 RPM model gives you less bang for your buck, it may be worth it if you use your drive more frequently. Do note that however that both of these models use SMR.
If CMR is a necessity for whatever reason, the more expensive $83.99 2TB Ironwolf drive may be your best bet. Do be aware that the Ironwolf series is meant for network attached storage (NAS) devices, and may result in incompatibilities if you use it in a regular desktop system. The Barracuda Pro was an option that used CMR until Seagate discontinued it.
Western Digital Drives
Western Digital Drives provide more bang for your buck. Compared to the Seagate Barracuda, the WD Blue 2TB 5400 RPM SMR model comes in at $49.99 at a rate of $24.99 per terabyte, with the same 256 megabytes of cache as the Barracuda. If you are looking for a CMR drive, there is another drive with the same storage and speed for $61.99, yet it only contains 64 megabytes of cache.
The WD Black 2TB 7200 RPM comes out at $79.99, making it more expensive that the WD Blue series. However, don’t count these drives out, as there are reasons for shelling out the extra cash. No matter the capacity of the drive, all of the platters in the WD Black series spin at 7200 RPM, and all of the drives use CMR technology.
While Toshiba isn’t exactly a name you think of when you think of hard drives, their diverse products also cover hard drives – and there are quite a few of them, as well. However, I had a lot of trouble finding a solid price on the manufacturer’s website, so take some of these prices with a grain of salt.
For starters, the regular P300 class of Toshiba hard drives all utilize CMR technology, and a standard 1TB 7200 RPM drive comes at anywhere between $31.99 and $59.99, though as said previously, I had trouble finding a solid price from the manufacturer’s website. All of the P300 models, regardless of size, only comes with 64 megabytes of cache.
If performance is what you are looking for, the X300 class might be an excellent choice if you’re willing to spend a little extra cash. Its smallest model is the 4TB 7200 RPM model, though the highest storage P300 class is only 3TB. The price for this massive drive comes in at a whopping $104.99, though it was on sale for $94.99 during the time of writing this article. As I said earlier, if you’re willing to spend a little extra cash for a ton of storage, there may be a reason to look into these drives. Similar to the WD Black drives and the Toshiba P300 class drives, all of the X300 drives utilize CMR technology and while many of them come with 256 megabytes of cache, some models come with as much as 512 megabytes of cache.
While the NAND cells in solid state drives are getting cheaper, there might still be a good reason to buy a hard drive. Most of the time, a 1TB hard drive is cheaper than a 1TB solid state drive, so as mentioned earlier, it may be a good idea to use an SSD as your boot drive and use the hard drive as storage for games, documents, or other items that do not require frequent and fast reading.