SATA vs SSD: What’s the Big Difference?

by Paul | Last Updated: July 14, 2021

Clash of the Storage Hardware. Getting a device is one thing but the device will fail to satisfy its user if there is no sufficient space to use various applications to maximise the device or if it is slow. There are different storage types, but they all fall into one of these two: some that have moving parts and some without moving parts.

SATA vs SSD?

Serial Advanced Technology Attachment which is shortened to SATA is a hard drive that rotates using spinning platters and writes data with a moving needle to different sectors in sequential order. SSD is the abbreviation for Solid State Drives, has no moving parts but it uses a non-volatile flash memory mechanism to store data. The design of SSD makes it faster and more reliable than SATA.

It is important to clearly state that SATA is a means of connecting storage, an interface you connect through your motherboard i.e., just a platform or a form factor. This means that SATA can use HDDs and SSDs. The original design of SATA only accommodated HDDs but it was later designed for SSDs. Regardless, this design upgrade did not make SATA a perfect fit for SSDs as it does not allow the drive to “reach its full potential”. Bearing that in mind, this article will treat SATA as a form factor for HDDs and will be really comparing HDDs to SSDs.

SATA

Origin: It was created in 2000, then commercialised in 2003 and it has since been the most used on desktops and laptops. Like every new model of a product, it is an improvement on its predecessor PATA. It is faster and its capacity can be 500GB and it is available in 16TB.

Use: Writing data is done physically; this process leads to fragmentation of the disk. When a disk is fragmented, it slows down the speed of the hard drive. The design of this disk also makes it vulnerable to sudden movements, accidental drops, and shocks.

Current Value: SATA is quite affordable, and asides price, it is the hard disk used by the most people as they still rely on it and have not really seen the need to switch to SSD

SSD

Origin: SSDs have been around for a long time, first known as solid state disk has been around since 1976 but the afford flash SSD can be traced to 2003 and the first mass released started in 2006. At all stages of the evolution of SSDs, they have been so expensive, and they keep getting affordable.

Use: data writing is done with a flash memory and every data transfer has a cycle. P/E cycle consist of the writing, deleting, and overwriting of data in an SSD. There is a finite number of cycles attached to a given SSD and once it has been exhausted, the drive needs to be replaced.

Current Value: it is true that SSDs are seen as expensive but if the current price tag is compared with its price tag years ago, it really has become cheaper, as it evolves and has a higher demand, the price will become affordable as more manufacturers will produce SSD and in different variants.

Advantage of SSD over SATA

The SSD has a variant called Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe). Initially designed for graphic card, this variant uses the PCIe interface attached on the main board, a slot that was originally designed for graphics cards hence their speed. Gaming and High-resolution video editing is amazing as with a throughput of 3.9Gb/s it can reach an interface rate of 32Gb/s.

Advantage of SATA over SSD

SATA has been around for a longer, so it is deemed as more reliable and because users are more comfortable with it. It technically has a longer lifespan as it has no cycle that reduces it.

Major Drawbacks

SATA: moving parts make it susceptible to damage from magnetic fields, shocks, and accidental drops. The process of writing data causes fragmentation and this requires the users to defragment the disk regularly. It does not process high resolution activities well like gaming and 4k videos.

SSD: The cycle design means that it might not even reach the expected 5-year minimum lifespan. Another reason why you might not want to purchase an SSD is because it is seen as expensive when compared with the HDD. Please bear in mind that with a budget of at least $200, you can get a very decent SSD.

More on SATA

There are three versions of SATA, these versions were not created at once but were created as upgrades. The first upgrade was in 2003, the next was in 2004 and another in 2008. The 2008 version known as SATA III has been revised five times so the current version is the 3.5.

What makes each revision special? Remember earlier we talked about SSDs being used on the SATA interface? Well the 3.1 was designed to ensure SSDs had a better performance, it also introduced the identification of hardware capacity on PC and it enabled the use of Universal Serial Bus (USB).

The 3.2 focused on the reduction of power needed for constant use, it also introduced faster USB ports i.e., 3.0 ports. 3.3 version provided data centre maintenance and drive disc space improvement. 3.4 had upgrades like improved compatibility, temperature monitoring, writing critical cache and reducing the power consumption of all these activities on your PC. The 2020 3.5 version provides better control of responses to commands to increase performance.

With all these improvement on SATA, what makes SSDs a better option?

SSD offers a better speed, overall performance, it is also durable as it is designed to withstand a lot of issues that the HDDs are not typically able to do. There are three major reasons why people might still believe SATA is a better option and 2 are gradually being displaced.

The first is the expense, the SSDs are still currently more expensive than the HDDs but as the years go by and more manufacturers are getting into the business, also the rarity of NAND technology will gradually vanish and this will make the SSDs more affordable with the first issue more feasible within a few years.

The second is the lifespan argument, the belief that HDDs last longer because it has no P/E cycle is not so strong and will become non-issue overtime as SSDs are more durable and all users have to do it to minimise use for important activities at least for now.

The third is a local storage option, this is a good one considering some people have over 8TB and with the cost of SSD, this is really the major strength of SATA over SSD.

In this competition, SSD has a slight advantage over SATA but an optimal option using SSD to run your computing device and SATA mechanism to store your files externally.