Traditional spinning hard drives have typically enjoyed two advantages over their solid-state brethren. They’re vastly cheaper in terms of their cost-per-GB, and they could hold far more information in a single enclosure. Both of these advantages have been steadily eroded over the past few years as SSD costs have fallen and capacities have increased, but hard drives have still eked out a win in both categories (at least at price points that consumers are going to pay).
Bit by bit, however, SSDs have closed the gap. Samsung’s new 4TB SSD is a $1,500 solid state drive that aims to replace your HDD altogether, provided you’ve got four figures to drop on a storage medium in the first place. Samsung’s TLC-based 850 EVO combines a 40nm process node with 48-layer vertical NAND (aka 3D NAND). Anandtech had a chance to put the drive through a battery of tests and reports that it performs well, even if it doesn’t break any particular new ground beyond price.
Graph by Anandtech
With SSD prices continuing to fall year-on-year thanks to 3D stacked NAND, why bother buying a hard drive at all? In a word: Price. 4TB HDDs currently sell for as little as $100, which puts them in the 2.5 cents per GB market. A 4TB SSD comes out at $1,500 — 15x as much money, and a cost-per-GB ratio of 37.5 cents per GB. That’s not bad at all for SSDs, which were $1 per GB not so long ago, but it’s still a vast gulf to cross as far as high-capacity drives are concerned. Keep in mind, these are retail prices; manufacturers negotiating with Western Digital or Seagate can undoubtedly get much better deals on a cost-per-GB basis.
SSDs have gradually become more common in lower-end systems, but not as quickly as one might expect. Apple may have moved to an all-SSD distribution, but most companies haven’t followed suit yet — plenty of systems are still either based on HDDs or use cache drives to improve performance without adding much to overall costs. Long term, we still expect SSDs to replace spinning disks for most tasks, but the hard drive still has some life in yet. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough to have the money to drop on an SSD and need 4TB worth of storage, the 850 EVO looks like a great option.
Incidentally, it looks like 3-6TB drives are all in the sweet spot between 2 cents and 2.5 cents per GB if you’re willing to buy white-label (off-brand) drives. These are drives created for the OEM market that aren’t branded by the manufacturer but are sold to OEMs like Dell, HP, and other builders. Name-brand drives cost significantly more than the white label drives Newegg currently stocks, but it’s not clear if there’s any performance or reliability differences between these products and other hardware (other than potentially different warranty terms).