Hard drives are the oldest and still the most widespread means of storing data on computers today. However, with the advent of the much faster solid-state drives, they are increasingly becoming less significant in the gaming world.
But good old hard drives are still irreplaceable.
They have several key advantages over SSDs, including a longer lifespan and a much lower price per gigabyte. This makes them a superior long-term storage solution, and the performance that they offer will be more than satisfactory for anyone who is not used to lightning-fast SSDs.
But what differs between individual models? More importantly, which hard drive should you get? In this buying guide, we will list the best internal hard drives of 2020!
Table of ContentsShow
Top 9 Hard Drives For 2020
|Size||HDD||Storage capacity||Rotation Speed||Cache Size|
|2.5 Inch Hard Drives||250 GB, 320 GB, 500 GB||5400 RPM||8/16 MB|
|250 GB, 320 GB, 500 GB, 750 GB, 1 TB||7200 RPM||32 MB|
|500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, 5 TB||5400 RPM||128 MB|
|500 GB, 1 TB||5400 RPM||8 MB|
|3.5 Inch Hard Drives||500GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, 6 TB||5400/7200 RPM||64 MB|
|500GB, 1 TB, 2 TB , 4 TB, 6 TB||7200 RPM||64/128 MB|
|500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB, 4 TB, 6 TB, 8 TB||7200 RPM||32/64/256 MB|
|500 GB, 1 TB, 2 TB, 3 TB||7200RPM||64 MB|
|4 TB, 5 TB, 6 TB, 8 TB||7200RPM||128 MB|
2.5 Inch Hard Drives
We can divide hard drives into two distinct categories based on their format and, by extension, which devices they are intended to be used with. There are 2.5-inch and 3.5-inch hard drives, and this section will be dedicated to the former, as obviously stated in the heading.
A 2.5-inch hard drive is usually used with laptops or consoles, even though some desktop computer cases do have racks for these drives as well. Due to their smaller size, they usually have to make some tradeoffs in terms of performance, resulting in lower capacity, slower rotation speed, and often a lower amount of cache memory.
Western Digital Blue hard drives are among the most popular HDDs out there. They are the most well-rounded drives manufactured by WD, balancing power consumption, storage capacity, and speed. This holds true for 2.5-inch WD Blue hard drives, too.
Overall, the HDD is very quiet, a quality that any laptop owner is bound to appreciate. This is partly thanks to WD’s NoTouch technology, which ensures that the read head is never making physical contact with the disk, something that also increases its durability and lifespan.
But ultimately, “Blue” drives are not the most long-lived ones out there, but they will do just fine for gaming purposes. The only real downside to these HDDs is that their storage capacity is quite limited. Granted, there are models with greater capacity, but they are not as readily available as the more modest ones.
- Decent performance
- Relatively quiet
- Not the most reliable HDD in the long run
- High-capacity models are hard to find
After the more balanced WD Blue models, we have the performance-oriented WD Black. These drives are noticeably faster at 7200 RPM as compared to the former’s 5400 RPM, and they also have a greater amount of cache memory, which allows them to read and write data even faster.
What’s more, there are several models with different storage options, ranging from a modest 250 GB to a spacious 1 TB, with all models readily available for purchase. It utilizes the same no-contact read head as its Blue counterpart, in addition to enhanced processing power and cache capacity.
In the end, WD Black is a more expensive variant. Still, the slightly higher price is more than justified, given all the improvements in both the reliability and the performance departments. Gamers and professionals will definitely appreciate all that the WD Black has to offer.
- High rotation speed
- Sizeable amount of cache memory
- Higher than average durability
- On the expensive side
- The RPM may make it louder than what some laptop users are accustomed to
The Seagate Barracuda hard drives have an average RPM of 5400, but they excel in terms of their vast storage capacity, which ranges from 500 GB to as much as 5 TB, which is quite remarkable in a 2.5-inch HDD. Moreover, they compensate for the lower rotation speed with the help of the expansive 128 MB of cache memory.
On the downside, Barracuda drives have not proven to be as long-lasting and as reliable as some competing models, and Seagate-manufactured hard drives generally have a higher failure rate than any of those made by their competitors.
But all things considered, we can fully recommend the Barracuda due to the meager price per gigabyte and the relatively low noise levels. They are pretty much ideal storage drives, but the discouraging failure rates do not exactly make them attractive as primary system drives.
- Affordable and with high capacity
- Large amount of cache memory
- Fast and relatively quiet
- Not as reliable as the pricier competitors
The Toshiba L200 is an affordable mobile storage solution manufactured by the famous Japanese brand. The L200 seems rather unremarkable at first glance: it comes in modest 500 GB and 1 TB versions, with 8 MB of cache memory, and a 5400 RPM rotation speed.
Where this HDD truly shines, however, is in its ability to blend approachable pricing with high build quality and reliability. It is highly resistant to external shock, which is quite useful for mobile hard drives, and it still manages to offer decent performance despite the mediocre specifications.
So, all in all, this is the go-to hard drive for those who do not prioritize performance over general reliability. On the other hand, if you do need a fast HDD, you will not be thrilled by what the Toshiba L200 has to offer.
- Good blend of quality and affordability
- Underwhelming performance
3.5 Inch Hard Drives
And now, we move into desktop territory! Much like their slimmer counterparts, these hard drives can be found at a range of prices, although they do not have to sacrifice much in terms of performance as the 2.5-inch drives do.
As you can see from the introductory table, most of these drives have rotation speeds of 7200 RPM or higher, along with storage capacity options which make the former category’s hard drives seem downright diminutive.
Once again, we start the section with the good old WD Blue. Only this time, we are dealing with bulkier desktop versions of the HDD described above. As compared to the 2.5-inch WD Blue, the 3.5-inch variants have much greater storage capacity and a far larger memory cache. Namely, the storage options range from 500 GB to 6 TB, and the cache memory rests comfortably at 64 MB.
What’s more, the desktop WD Blue hard drives come with both 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM models, something that will allow users a certain degree of freedom when it comes to choosing the ideal performance-price solution for their needs.
All things considered, these hard drives have no glaring faults apart from the fact that they are still mainstream products that are neither the most dependable nor the fastest internal hard drives around.
- Wide range of storage capacity options
- Divided into 5400 and 7200 RPM models
- Generally affordable
- Decent performance
- Cannot live up to higher-quality models
And as in the first category, we have the WD Black following after the WD Blue. And just like 2.5-inch models, these WD Black drives are also noticeably more expensive than their Blue brethren. However, they do not seem much different on paper, seeing as they have the same rotation speed, a similar range of storage capacity options, and considering that higher amounts of cache memory are reserved for the two most spacious models.
But, if you didn’t already, you will inevitably learn that the point is not always in the on-paper specifications. Indeed, the WD Black hard drives are manufactured with two things in mind: living up to a higher quality standard and delivering superior performance. They succeed at both, as they are more reliable and clearly faster than the cheaper Blue HDDs.
With that said, it should be noted that these hard drives are well worth the money if you are a gamer or a professional who appreciates reliability and speed. However, if you fall into neither of the groups mentioned above, you would be better off getting a cheaper drive since you will not be able to take full advantage of the WD Black’s capabilities.
- Excellent performance
- Highly reliable
- Many storage options to choose from
- Relatively expensive
- Only gamers and professionals will notice the extra performance
As for the above-described Seagate Barracuda’s desktop counterpart, it adheres to a similar philosophy and shares the same strengths and weaknesses. It keeps the massive storage capacity, the large memory caches, and it even raises the rotation speed to 7200 RPM.
With storage choices that go as high as 8 TB or even 12 TB if you get a Barracuda Pro model (which is basically the same drive only with more memory), storage capacity remains these drives’ strongest suit. But as with the 2.5-inch models, these also have a relatively high failure rate compared to HDDs manufactured by other companies.
In the end, there is not much to say since the 3.5-inch Barracuda is pretty much identical to the 2.5-inch one, distinguished only by faster rotation speed, as well as overall better performance and even greater amounts of storage. And as before, their lower reliability does not make them great system drives.
- Affordable price per gigabyte
- Large memory cache
- Decent performance
- Less reliable than competing models
And now, we get to Toshiba’s desktop model – two of them, in fact. The first one is the Toshiba P300, which is basically a 3.5-inch desktop equivalent of the above L200, albeit with several improvements. The P300 has up to 3 TB of storage and a significantly bigger memory cache while also increasing the rotation speed to 7200 RPM.
Unlike the L200, this hard drive does not lag behind the competition in terms of performance, and it manages to keep the build quality and reliability of the former. Not only does Toshiba manage to deliver excellent quality, but they also do it at a very reasonable and competitive price.
Ultimately, there is really no major issue with any of the P300 hard drives. Toshiba has a great track record with very few cases of HDD failure, and their P300 models seem to have everything packed in one modestly-priced package. The only problem you might encounter is that they are not as widespread as the other HDDs on the list, which might lead to lesser availability.
- Great all-around performance
- Excellent value for your money
- Highly reliable
- Not as readily available as other models
And for the final entry, we have the Toshiba X300, a high-profile performance-oriented model. It maintains the same rotation speed of the P300 while doubling the cache size, and it offers greater storage capacity, starting at 4 TB where the P300 left off and going as high as 8 TB.
The X300 also maintains all the reliability of the P300, all the while delivering substantial improvements, as listed above. It is a faster, larger, and more efficient hard drive intended for demanding users. And as it often goes with such hard drives, they are on the expensive side and will seldom benefit a casual user in any way.
- High storage capacity
- Fast and efficient
- Highly reliable
- Dubious value for casual PC users
Which Hard Drive to Pick?
Whether you need to find the best hard drive for gaming or are just looking to get your hands on some extra storage for your computer, we will try and explain all the important specifications of hard drives to make the shopping process easier for you.
The first one is quite obvious – the more, the better, right?
Actually, it isn’t necessarily so.
As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. In this case, don’t put all your data on a single hard drive because all it would take is one failure for you to lose volumes of important data.
As such, it may be safer to actually have several smaller drives instead. They may be a hassle to fit inside a case, and buying multiple hard drives will always be more expensive than buying a single large one, but it may very well be worth it in the long run, even if you’re getting just one extra backup drive.
A hard disk’s rotation speed is measured in revolutions-per-minute i.e., RPM. The drive uses a single read-write arm to access and write data to the disk as it spins under it, and as such, higher rotation speeds mean better performance as well.
However, it is not that simple. High speeds also bring some issues along. Namely, a fast-spinning hard disk will generate more heat and make more noise than a slower-spinning one. Furthermore, greater speeds also mean a potentially higher risk of failure, which is partially why HDDs faster than 7200 RPM never really took off.
As a matter of fact, there are hard drives that reached speeds of 10000 and even 15000 RPM. However, due to the rise of the SSD, they were hopelessly outmatched. And even though such fast hard drives are still available today, we highly encourage you to get an SSD instead if you want better performance than what a 7200 RPM hard drive can offer.
A hard drive’s cache memory has a similar function to the one that RAM has for the entire system. That is, it stores vital data so that the HDD’s processing unit may access it in a shorter amount of time, thus leading to an overall faster and better-functioning hard drive.
However, cache size shouldn’t be the key factor in identifying a hard drive that is ideal for your needs. As a matter of fact, a larger cache will only lead to slight performance improvement during demanding tasks, something that you are unlikely to even notice unless you were aiming to compare two drives side by side.
When choosing components to add to your system, it is always important to ensure that the new component will be compatible with the other parts and that it will support the right type of connection.
Luckily, this isn’t something that you need to worry about with modern hard drives, seeing as they have all been using SATA 3.0 connectors for quite a while now. Even if you have an old motherboard which only supports SATA 2.0, it is not a problem since SATA 3.0 is fully backward compatible.
The Matter of Reliability
As you may have noticed, we have mentioned hard drive reliability and failure rates multiple times throughout the article. The reason why this is so important for hard drives is that their multitude of moving parts makes them prone to malfunctioning, more than other computer components.
Therefore, there is always a risk that your hard drive will fail, and that can happen either with the more reliable models or with the ones that have the highest recorded number of failures. This is why it is essential always to have backups of important data and take advantage of external storage as well as cloud storage.
If you’re interested, you can check detailed hard drive failure statistics over at BlackBlaze, as they regularly put out detailed reports on the subject.
Conclusion – The Best Hard Drive of 2020
As always, user requirements and the amount of money that users can spend on components inevitably vary from person to person. With that in mind, any of the above listed hard drives will be a good choice, provided that you choose the one best suited to your needs.
Here’s our take on what the best hard drives are!
The Best 2.5-inch Hard Drive – Seagate Barracuda
True, certain Seagate models have been quite controversial due to their high failure rates but as described above, those are quite relative. Furthermore, the massive storage capacity of 2.5-inch Seagate hard drives makes them very worthwhile.
The Best 3.5-inch Hard Drive – Western Digital Black
WD markets their Black models specifically to gamers and professionals who require advanced performance and increased reliability out of their hard drive. Not only are they premium quality drives, but the desktop variants are also free from the storage capacity constraints that plague their 2.5-inch counterparts.