Storage Drives

The Best Storage Drives for 3XS Dream PCs

Every year games take up more and more space a texture sizes and the quality of the sound effects and music increases. For instance, one of the most popular games of recent years Borderlands 2 takes up 20GB space while recent releases such as Doom requires more than twice the capacity at 55GB. This page will help you understand how to choose the best storage drives for your Dream PC.

Choosing a faster storage device has many benefits, such as making Windows boot faster and games load quicker, getting you into the action before your opponents. There are three main types of storage drive, which can be summarised as follows.

SSD Drives Hybrid hard disk Hard disk drive
Pros Fastest storage available, silent Faster than an HDD, big capacity, medium cost per GB Big capacity, low cost per GB
Cons Highest cost per GB Still not as fast as a SSD, audible Slow, audible
Recommended For Primary boot drive and games Bulk storage of media such as films and music Bulk storage of media such as films and music

Solid State Drives

Solid state drives (SSD for short) are the fastest type of storage drive, recording data on solid state NAND chips as opposed to the spinning platters inside a hard drive. This makes SSDs much faster than hard drives, although each GB of storage capacity will cost you more. That said, as SSDs are an order of magnitude faster than hard drives we recommend an SSD as the primary drive in all our Dream PCs. As NAND chips are solid state devices, SSDs barely consume any power and are silent, helping to make our Dream PCs so quiet. Early SSDs from 5-6 years ago had a limited number of times they could be written to, but with modern SSDs have much higher endurance so you use an SSD for many years.

SSDs are available in two types, SATA and PCI-E. SATA drives connect to the motherboard using a SATA cable, which limits their performance to a maximum of 600MB/sec, although this still much faster than a HDD or SSHD. PCI-E drives are faster still, with speeds over 2,000MB/sec possible from some drives, and are available in three main types, M.2, U.2 and AIC. Tiny M.2 drives connect directly to a slot on the motherboard but due to their small size have a limited capacity. U.2 drives look similar to SATA drives, using a cable to connect to the motherboard while AIC (Add-In-Cards) are inserted into a 4x or faster PCI-E 3.0 slot on the motherboard.

For the ultimate upgrade, choose a PCI-E SSD that supports NVME, a new instruction set specifically written for SSDs, giving them another performance boost. We recommend either M.2 or U.2 SSDs in our Dream PCs as this leaves the PCI-E slots free on the motherboard for the GeForce Graphics Cards and sound card.

Hybrid Hard Disk

Hybrid hard disks or Solid State Hybrid Drives (SSHD for short) combine two drives in one; a high capacity hard disk plus a small SSD that caches the most frequently accessed data, speeding up performance. SSHD's aren't as fast as a pure SSD, but are faster than a HDD, transferring data at around 200MB/sec. The small SSD is invisible to the operating system so you don't need to worry about configuring it - it automatically learns what data you use the most, steadily getting faster over a few days.

Hard Disk Drive

Hard disks drives (HDD for short) have been around since the 1950s although back then they could only store 3.5MB, and now can store up to 6TB - more than 17,000 times the capacity. This makes them the cheapest form of storage. Hard drives have got a lot faster too, transferring at around 150MB/sec, although this is till a fraction of the speed of an SSD, making them best used for bulk storage such as videos and music rather than games. As mechanical devices, hard drives make a bit of noise, so are best avoided if you want a really quiet system. If you need lots of storage, why not consider a pure SSD system or a NAS box, you can locate this small external box in another room on even in your loft, so you don't have to listen to the hard drives clattering away.

The benchmarks below show the how long it took to load these popular games on the three main types of storage device.

SSD Drives Hybrid hard disk Hard disk drive
Grand Theft Auto V 27 seconds 38 seconds 49 seconds
The Witcher 3 10 seconds 17 seconds 25 seconds