SSD shipments outpaced HDDs in 2020, but capacity still favors mechanical drives

Shawn Knight

Posts: 13,425   +132
Staff member
Why it matters: Solid-state drive shipments surpassed those of traditional hard drives by a significant margin in 2020 but spinning media retained the crown in terms of overall capacity served. As pricing continues to plummet and capacity increases, we can expect to see the ratio become even more skewed.

According to data storage research and consulting firm TrendFocus (per Storage Newsletter), manufacturers shipped 333.12 million solid-state drives in 2020 – an increase of 20.8 percent year-over-year. Hard drive shipments, meanwhile, were down 18 percent annually to 259.81 million units.

Doing some quick math, we see that 28 percent more SSDs versus HDDs were shipped last year.

Related Reading: TechSpot's Top Storage Picks

Total SSD capacity was around 207.39 exabytes compared to 1,018.32 exabytes for hard drives. One exabyte equals a billion gigabytes.

Narrowing the scope to Q4 reveals that 87.453 million SSDs were shipped, mostly courtesy of Samsung and Western Digital. The next closest competitors - Kingston, Kioxia and SK Hynix - shipped half as many drives as Western Digital.

For years, I’ve been telling anyone who would listen that a solid-state drive is arguably the single best general performance upgrade you can perform on a computer. Early SSDs were prohibitively expensive but pricing has come way down in recent years, and even more so as of late due to continued NAND flash oversupply. These days, you can pick up a basic SATA III 240GB Kingston SSD for just $30.

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Uncle Al

Posts: 8,157   +6,913
I use only SSD's for my principle drive but for my data storage, etc. I stick with the mechanical drives simply because of volume & RAID tech capabilities. Once we get to the point where we can have SSD's with similar capabilities at similar prices I won't hesitate to change over but being 65 now I doubt I'll live to see that day .......
 

terzaerian

Posts: 969   +1,416
SSDs are essential for OS and gaming, by far. I only have one PC left that uses a mechanical for boot and it makes me grit my teeth a little whenever I have to restart it.

That said, for bulk local storage platters are where it's at.
 

nodfor

Posts: 87   +144
Bought a 2 TB sabrent rocket Nvme (gen 3.0 pcie). Connected at x2 (not x4) speed due to MoBo constraints. Even at half the maximum speed, everything is blazing fast. Removed all 3 of my old hard drives that totalled less than 1 TB, now I never get stuck with drives spinning up when trying to browse through my files :D
 

VitalyT

Posts: 5,832   +5,886
When Amazon is selling 16TB HDD-s for $325, you know that SSD-s got a long road in front of them. You can't even get a 4TB SSD for that money.

In the meantime, I just bought a 1TB SSD for $90, and couldn't be happier.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 969   +1,416
When Amazon is selling 16TB HDD-s for $325, you know that SSD-s got a long road in front of them. You can't even get a 4TB SSD for that money.
What worries me about those super-high-capacity platters is that they're apparently filled with helium; what are the chances that it'll slowly leak out over time and render the drive inoperable? Along that line, how much longer will it be practical to do that as global helium reserves dwindle?
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,792   +3,908
I'd like to get a 4TB nvme SSD for games but I'm happy with my 250gb SSD as a boot drive. I have a 1tb games ssd and 1TB storage HDD. 1TB isn't much at all anymore. I'd love to build a NAS with a few 8-10TB HHDs in raid
 
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VitalyT

Posts: 5,832   +5,886
What worries me about those super-high-capacity platters is that they're apparently filled with helium; what are the chances that it'll slowly leak out over time and render the drive inoperable? Along that line, how much longer will it be practical to do that as global helium reserves dwindle?
Those are enterprise HDD-s, premiums ones. You don't need to go for those. You can get regular ones, into a 4-bay NAS unit, using RAID 5, which would offer the best value, speed and reliability.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 969   +1,416
I'd like to get a 4TB nvme SSD for games but I'm happy with my 250gb SSD as a boot drive. I have a 1tb games ssd and 1TB storage HDD. 1TB isn't much at all anymore. I'm love to build a NAs with a few 8-10TB HHDs in raid
I did that with a slightly more humble 5x platter drives in a micro-ATX case a few weeks back. It ended up being even cheaper than the 5 disk USB enclosure it replaced.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 969   +1,416
Those are enterprise HDD-s, premiums ones. You don't need to go for those. You can get regular ones, into a 4-bay NAS unit, using RAID 5, which would offer the best value, speed and reliability.
Is that just enterprise units that do that? My reading was that anything 10 TB, enterprise or consumer, and above had to use helium just because of the physical constraints involved.
 

Squid Surprise

Posts: 4,137   +3,320
I'm hoping that by the time Threadripper "6000" comes out, I can put 100TB of nvme SSDs on the motherboard....

And maybe not have to mortgage my house to do it....
 

candle_86

Posts: 729   +730
Is that just enterprise units that do that? My reading was that anything 10 TB, enterprise or consumer, and above had to use helium just because of the physical constraints involved.

They do, error offers too much resistance and some other problems that helium solves because it's much lighter.

As far as having games on platter I still have the majority of my games on my platter discs simply because games from pre 2018 really don't see much of a benefit if I have to wait an extra 10 to 20 seconds for the game to load I can live with it. I'm doing just fine with a 512 GB nvme drive with a few games on it like world of Warcraft in cities skylines just because the number of mods I have installed.
 
I recently bought my first SSD, a samsung 870 EVO 1TB for ¥11,500 for my laptop, replacing the internal 2.5 inch1TB HDD.
Set-up was a breeze and it's amazing how light and silent my laptop is now.
 

VitalyT

Posts: 5,832   +5,886
I recently bought my first SSD, a samsung 870 EVO 1TB for ¥11,500 for my laptop, replacing the internal 2.5 inch1TB HDD.
Set-up was a breeze and it's amazing how light and silent my laptop is now.
That's the one that I bought, for my old desk top, Samsung 870 EVO 1TB, for just $90, to replace my old and dying Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, which I bought 7 years ago for around $400. This was the best money I've spent in a while, because it was for my system drive, which ran out of space some 2 years ago, and I didn't think that a simple SSD upgrade would bring new life to my computer, but boy it did! I am kicking myself for not having done it much earlier.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 969   +1,416
That's the one that I bought, for my old desk top, Samsung 870 EVO 1TB, for just $90, to replace my old and dying Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, which I bought 7 years ago for around $400. This was the best money I've spent in a while, because it was for my system drive, which ran out of space some 2 years ago, and I didn't think that a simple SSD upgrade would bring new life to my computer, but boy it did! I am kicking myself for not having done it much earlier.
It's amazing what putting an SSD into an old PC will do. (y) (Y)
 
That's the one that I bought, for my old desk top, Samsung 870 EVO 1TB, for just $90, to replace my old and dying Samsung 840 Pro 256GB, which I bought 7 years ago for around $400. This was the best money I've spent in a while, because it was for my system drive, which ran out of space some 2 years ago, and I didn't think that a simple SSD upgrade would bring new life to my computer, but boy it did! I am kicking myself for not having done it much earlier.
Crazy how prices have dropped on SSD's.
 

theruck

Posts: 364   +193
What worries me about those super-high-capacity platters is that they're apparently filled with helium; what are the chances that it'll slowly leak out over time and render the drive inoperable? Along that line, how much longer will it be practical to do that as global helium reserves dwindle?
lol
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,792   +3,908
What worries me about those super-high-capacity platters is that they're apparently filled with helium; what are the chances that it'll slowly leak out over time and render the drive inoperable? Along that line, how much longer will it be practical to do that as global helium reserves dwindle?
Helium is far less of an issue than people make it out to be. The current problem is that the US had the only real helium supply in the world and then we decided to sell it off. Yes, that was very dumb. But with the us flooding the world market with cheap helium we really haven't been looking for new reserves.

With that said, we "make" tons of helium, we just don't bother collecting it. Nuclear reactors give off absurd amounts of alpha particles, alpha particles are just helium nuclei.

Helium never has to be an issue and if it ever gets close we can just put collectors on nuclear reactors. All helium on earth is from alpha particles being trapped in rocks from radioactive decay

I will say that helium balloons p*ss me off to no end
 

terzaerian

Posts: 969   +1,416
Helium is far less of an issue than people make it out to be. The current problem is that the US had the only real helium supply in the world and then we decided to sell it off. Yes, that was very dumb. But with the us flooding the world market with cheap helium we really haven't been looking for new reserves.

With that said, we "make" tons of helium, we just don't bother collecting it. Nuclear reactors give off absurd amounts of alpha particles, alpha particles are just helium nuclei.

Helium never has to be an issue and if it ever gets close we can just put collectors on nuclear reactors. All helium on earth is from alpha particles being trapped in rocks from radioactive decay

I will say that helium balloons p*ss me off to no end
Well there are entire asteroids apparently composed of more gold than the Earth has ever produced flying around, but without an apparatus to collect it, it's meaningless.

And as for collecting helium as a byproduct from nuclear reactors, a damper would get put on that the moment some rag breaks the story "PARTY CITY PUTTING NUCLEAR BYPRODUCTS IN YOUR CHILD'S PARTY BALLOONS? ITS MORE LIKELY THANK YOU THINK!"
 

yRaz

Posts: 3,792   +3,908
Well there are entire asteroids apparently composed of more gold than the Earth has ever produced flying around, but without an apparatus to collect it, it's meaningless.

And as for collecting helium as a byproduct from nuclear reactors, a damper would get put on that the moment some rag breaks the story "PARTY CITY PUTTING NUCLEAR BYPRODUCTS IN YOUR CHILD'S PARTY BALLOONS? ITS MORE LIKELY THANK YOU THINK!"
Well all helium put in balloons already is a nuclear byproduct, I hope someone breaks the story because I'm tired of people using it that way.

and I forgot to mention helium filled drives. I'm not 100% certain of this but I believe the drives are filled below 1 atmosphere so the helium doesn't like to leak out. The reason helium can leak out of containers is that 1) it's small enough to fit between the seals but 2) it's stored at enormous pressures and wants to escape. If you store helium in a slight vacuum it has no reason to escape. And the seals on the drives are tight enough that standard atmosphere gases can't get into the drive. The helium doesn't want to leave and the outside gases can't get in.

As far as my trust with helium fill drives? well, I'd still have them all in RAID if I planned on using helium drives for long term storage.
 

Avro Arrow

Posts: 1,713   +2,024
TechSpot Elite
Platter drives have more capacity than SSDs? You don't say...

Slower devices always have more capacity because otherwise they'd be extinct (Optical and Iomega ZIP drives come to mind). Let's also remember that when it comes to capacity, nothing tops the IBM/Fujifilm Tape Backup System that can hold an astonishing 580TB per cassette:
Please note however that it's not called "Tape Backup" because it's fast.
 
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poohbear

Posts: 641   +556
What worries me about those super-high-capacity platters is that they're apparently filled with helium; what are the chances that it'll slowly leak out over time and render the drive inoperable? Along that line, how much longer will it be practical to do that as global helium reserves dwindle?
Good point. If you hear yourself speaking like a chipmunk, it's time to replace your helium drive.