It's been a while typing here. I thought to write something different and write up thoughts about various things. To start the series, I thought to write my experience on the Solid State Hybrid Drives almost a month after I purchased it.
A quick summary of what they are: SSHDs are hard drives that come with a small SSD working as a cache. The cache's job is to store anything that is frequently loaded. The firmware takes the task to duplicate the files that are frequently used to the cache (with some Operating Systems (such as Windows 8.1 (and newer) and Linux distros that have a package like bcache installed) can give hints to the firmware of what to cache). For most tasks, it's just a hard drive.
I bought the 2TB Seagate Firecuda at the start of September. The things I did was to install a clean copy of Windows 10 and all of my tools (which are GIMP, Visual Studio 2017, WiX Toolset, RPG Maker MV, Game Character Hub, Nimble Writer, and LibreOffice) and a few games to play when I'm bored. I haven't tested a lot of games since the stock hard drive was puny in size (500GB) but I have enough to see how it goes. Installation on my laptop was pretty easy: unscrew a few bolts and use a plastic prying tool. All I needed was to take out the SATA connector and the hard drive and swap the drive. Bon Appetit! Weirdly, the installation went pretty quick (I used a burned DVD disc to install Windows since I didn't have a USB drive ready) and most of my tools were installed by the time I went to bed (I finished setting up the laptop within two days, believe it or not. I think I became an expert in installing OSes. xD).
After a few restarts (since the firmware was caching system files on each boot), Windows is pretty quick to respond (mainly since it learned what it loaded). Boot times were quick, there was almost no delay and the system didn't lock up. It's almost like having an SSD installed. Of course, other tasks such as File History making backups takes as much time as a standard hard drive does, but compared to the stock one (which was an older generation Seagate Laptop Slim HDD) it was faster. Microsoft Edge (I use it since it syncs up with my Windows Phone) works better than on the older hard drive as well. In fact, most of the basic tasks are done faster. The only annoyance is that the Disk Defrag takes a long time. I have a habit to have the laptop defrag every time I leave it for a long time.
Over to software and game development. Most of my tools didn't see much of performance improvements. Except for Visual Studio. That saw quite the improvement. It loaded within a minute (rather than five minutes) and the lockups have been reduced. It still locks up at times (Resharper says hello) but for the most part it a lot more usable. Build times have improved as well. Normally, building the Northbridge Platform and pack the game into an MSI file (with a GUI on the package) it would take about 3-5 minutes. On the SSHD, it almost halves the time. That is mostly thanks to the hard drive's design (the model I have is one of the first to use a new manufacturing process and it has two disk platters) but part of the build tool's files have been cached as well.
In games (not just RPG Maker), things are a bit confusing. I don't play games as often as I used to since I am focusing on developing my game (and other projects) alongside studying for Computer Science at a university. But I have caught some interesting cases:
- Hyperdimension Neptunia ReBirth 1 (the GOG version to be exact) started up almost instantly (as in, as soon as I clicked on Play on the Galaxy client). After that, it took the same time to load levels (compared to the old HDD). I never noticed the "Now Loading" message on the old one, I didn't see that either. My laptop ain't exactly a potato, but it ain't a powerhouse either. I even started the game multiple times and it still didn't improve the load times. I guess being a PlayStation Vita game before being ported to the PC may have a relation as to how the assets are loaded. *shrugs*
- Burnout Paradise saw the same effect with Neptunia. It did make the music flow a bit better. It could be due to Remastered employing Denuvo Anti-Tamper. Metal Gear Rising saw fewer improvements. Ditto for Phantom Dust, but the version of the game I played was a UWP port of an Xbox game so old games have pretty quick load times on new systems.
So, my thoughts are pretty positive so far. It won't be a replacement for an SSD, but if you don't have space or connectors for an extra drive, SSHD is pretty good. The hard drive portion is good as well and the firmware working with the OS is pretty helpful. Granted, I didn't do sophisticated benchmarks to give an objective review, but I knew what I was getting performance wise. The only weird quirk I noticed was that the hard drive can get warm at times. I don't know exactly why. Possibly due to the laptop's subpar cooling. I think I'll do this again after six months of use, see how it stacks up.
That is all for now. See you in the next post.