Models, textures and applications are taking up more storage space every year, so it's important to select the optimum storage configuration for your workstation. This guide walks you through the pros and cons of the most common type of storage device. This guide will walk you through the pros and cons of the most common type of storage device. Choosing a faster storage device will not only make Windows boot faster, but will makes applications and models load quicker. Choosing an SSD is the ultimate upgrade, as it also makes your workstation more responsive in everything it does, not just loading new data.
|Solid State 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||Bulk Storage,
|Budget Workstations||Any Workstations|
Solid state drives (SSD for short) are the newest form of storage device, recording your data on chips rather than a spinning disk inside a hard drive. This gives them a huge edge when it comes to performance, although you do pay a higher cost per GB. Being solid state devices, SSDs barely consume any power and silent, making them ideal for anybody wanting a quiet workstation. With no moving parts they're also a great choice for a laptop as are much tougher and lighter. Early SSDs had a limited number of times they could be written to, but this is no longer a concern and you expect to write data to an SSD for 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 are limited to a maximum capacity of 512GB. U.2 drives look similar to SATA drives, using a cable to connect to the motherboard while AIC (Add-In-Cards) need to fitted to 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.
Hybrid hard disks (SSHD for short) combines two drives in one; a high capacity hard disk plus a small SSD that caches the most frequently accessed data, speeding up performance. SSHD aren't as fast as a pure SSD, but are faster than a HDD, transferring data at around 200MB/sec, making them a good compromise if you're on a tight budget. 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 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 old projects. 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 NAS box, you can locate this small external box in another room, so you don't have to listen to the hard drives clattering away.
Graphics applications put your workstation under different types of load. For example, 2D applications such as Autodesk AutoCAD read data very randomly, most often in 512B transfers and at a queue depth of 1. The graph below shows typical examples of the four most common type of storage drive cope with such a workload, with the x axis showing the data transfer rate in MB/sec, with a higher number indicating faster performance.
While 3D applications such as NewTek Lightwave also read data very randomly, most operations are 4KB transfers at a queue depth of 1. The graph below show shows typical examples of the four most common type of storage drive running this type of workload, with the x axis showing the data transfer rate in MB/sec, with a higher number indicating faster performance.