Last Updated on November 6, 2020
It is natural to assume that all hard drives are slow. Most people do and because SSDs are available and are advertised as being several times faster than hard drives, this idea is reinforced. This still makes us wonder, is it better than an SSD? So we look at 7200 rpm hard drive vs SSD to find out.
But to give you a quick answer, even some of the worst SSDs can still perform better than a 7200 rpm drive. There is literally no comparison to be drawn. Period!
SSDs are generally faster than hard drives (HDDs). With a hard drive, you get moving parts whose performance will depend a lot on how fast those parts can move.
The thing is, not all HDDs are equal, some have higher RPMs (rotations per minute) than others meaning that the metallic disk that stores the data inside the drives spins a lot faster. Among the common faster option is the 7200 RPM.[lwptoc]
A Little about HDDs
In 1956 IBM introduced the IBM 305 RAMAC computer. One thing that was special about it was that it used disk storage technology.
Since then the technology has been improving, spearheaded by the need for more compact storage options that supported the ever-increasing storage capacities that users wanted.
Ever since their development, hard drives have been using the very same technology. A spinning disk made it possible to read and write data onto the device.
Just as the drives have been shrinking in size and increasing in capacity, so have the speed of the disk’s revolutions.
Also Read: Why is a Motherboard Important?
A Little about SSDs
SSDs (Solid State Drives) are the new thing in computer memory storage. This because it is only recently that they have started gaining traction and popularity in personal computers, otherwise their invention dates back to the 1950s.
SSDs are fairly different from HDDs in a few ways. However, what distinguishes them is the speed that some of the top tier SSDs can achieve in both data transfers and software loading.
SSDs, unlike HDDs, do not use any moving parts so the whole process of reading and writing data is handled much more gracefully. This results in better times which translates to faster performance. Unfortunately, this also means higher costs. We’ll see more on this in a bit.
Nevertheless, such a performance boost when coming from a slow hard drive is usually worth the cost; SSDs breathe new life to computers.
7200 RPM HDDs
As previously mentioned, hard drives are not all the same. Across their very wide spectrum, we have some high-performance hard drives that can give you relatively faster operation for an economical PC build.
In this drive, the metallic disk that stores data through magnetic action spins at about 7200 revolutions every minute.
How is this beneficial? You see, when an HDD needs to read or write data to the disk, it uses an arm with a reading and writing head at its tip that moves across the disk to where certain information is written in bits.
So for each read to occur, the arm needs to wait for the part of the disk platter with the data to come around.
The faster the disk spins, the sooner that part can come around, and hence, the faster that data can be read.
With a 7200 rpm disk, the disk goes around at least 120 times in a second. This compared to a 5400 drive shows that the former grants a bigger improvement in reading/write latency.
5400 RPM vs 7200 RPM Read/Write Speed
You can get a rudimentary sense of the performance by looking at the read/write speed of the drives.
- A 5400 RPM offers an average read/write speed of about 100 MB/s or 800 Mbps.
- 7200 RPM – offers an average read/write speed of upto 1.5 Gbps
Therefore, compared to a
7200 RPM Hard Drive vs SSD
Just like regular hard drives do, a 7200 RPM hard drive uses the SATA interface to connect to the motherboard. The SATA interface is clocked at a top speed of 6 Gigabits per second which translates to 600 Mbps.
Some SSDs also use the SATA interface, particularly SATA SSDs. However, with the SATA III specification, speed has been improved greatly.
Regardless, we need to know how these devices will perform when pitched against each other. Here are some of the metrics we need to consider.
Data Access Speed
With access speed, we’re going to put both the read and write speeds into consideration. As mentioned, SSDs do not have any moving parts like 7200 RPM hard drives do. Instead, they use electronic chips with cells that store the data in bits.
Because we don’t have to wait for the platter to come around to the arm each time we need to access some information, SSDs have a much much better read and write performance than hard drives.
A SATA SSD can perform with speeds of up to 5.5 Gbps in the real-world whereas some of the fastest 7200 rpm drives can do highs of about 195 MB/s (1.5 Gbps) for reads and 153 MB/s (1.2 Gbps) for writes in some tests.
The PCIe based NVME SSD are another story, they can work at 4 GB/s (Giga BYTES per second) which translates to 32 Gbps.
Because SSDs do not have moving parts, their latency is greatly reduced. A 7200 rpm drive, on the other hand, has a very high latency.
Here is the summary
- A 5400 RPM – offers speed upto 0.8 Gbps.
- 7200 RPM – offers speed upto 1.5 Gbps
- SATA SSD – offers speed upto 5.5 Gbps
- PCIe NVME SSDs – offers upto 32 Gbps
What this goes to show is that a 7200 RPM hard drive is faster than a regular 5400 RPM hard disk, but is nowhere to close to even the slowest SSDs.
SSDs on average have a higher cost per gigabyte than their 7200 RPM hard drive counterparts. This can be attributed to the fact that they perform significantly better.
However, SSDs (especially SATA SSDs) have gotten much cheaper over the years and are now making their way to more and more devices.
While SSDs are costlier to purchase, they are a lot cheaper to use. Because of their moving parts, 7200 RPM HDDs consume a lot of power.
You may hardly notice this when operating a single drive, but when used in large scale infrastructures, more money can be saved on electric bills when using SSDs.
Moving parts seem to be the biggest compromise of hard drives. Among the many issues that can arise from this is mechanical failure.
Excessive shocks can cause the drives significant damage so even when using your laptop, avoid putting a lot of mechanical stresses on it.
Additionally, SSDs are immune to magnetic interference. This is however not the case with 7200 RPM drives because just like all other magnetic storage devices, magnetic interference can wipe their data or cause permanent damage.
Which One is better?
A 7200 rpm drive has its strong suits and is great for users who just want enough storage at an economical cost.
After a program starts the speed of the drive won’t matter much because the resources are loaded to the RAM for quick access.
SSDs are great for people who want very fast boot times and snappy read and writes.
Different hard drive speeds amount to different performances. As we have seen, a 7200 RPM drive can come close to the performance of an SSD, but not close enough to be a threat or even a rival.
Besides, when we consider some things, a 7200 rpm hard drive vs SSD gives a good indication as to the performance of these two very different technologies and how they compare in the real world.
As such we find that SSDs and 7200 rpm HDDs have diverse use cases and can fit their respective markets very well. However, for speed, SSDs are better.