Hybrid drives are the best investment right now

You may not have heard of the new hybrid hard drives, but they are quickly taking over the internal hard drive market. A hybrid hard drive is basically a new way of combining a small SSD and a traditional hard drive, allowing for a big boost in performance without increasing the cost of a new solid-state drive. When you combine a fast 7200 rpm Sata hard drive with a 32 gig SSD for front-facing caching of frequently used files, you get a big performance boost and a huge hard drive.

Both Seagate and Samsung started making these hybrid drives in 2007, but they didn't really start selling until recently, when prices fell. The software on the hard drive does all the heavy lifting to make sure the best performance is where it's headed. 512 gig SSD drives cost upwards of $450, and you can get a 750 gig hybrid drive and a 32 gig SSD for around $120. Pure SSD, the improvement is substantial and you can definitely feel the difference.

These drives are available in 2.5" and 3.5" (portable and desktop) formats. Two of the major hard drive manufacturers, Seagate and Western Digital, have hybrid drive models. Seagate seems to have the price and performance advantage at this point. But both manufacturers release new models frequently, so the best deals can go back and forth.

The best performing hybrid hard drives are 32 gig SSDs and 500 gig or larger 7200rpm Sata drives. The larger the SSD capacity, the faster a traditional hard drive spins, which determines real-world performance. Are they as fast as pure SSDs? It really depends on your computer and your daily computing habits. In my tests with newer Macbook Pros and Sony Windows laptops, boot times were much faster, as were many everyday activities. Especially with iTunes and other intensive apps on both devices.

Macs and Sonys originally had 5400rpm drives, so the push came from SSDs and traditional 7200rpm hard drives. Both drives also have much smaller hard drives, so the extra space is also a nice bonus. The drives are about 2 years old and the new hybrid hard drive really makes it feel like you have a new computer. Both already have Intel I3 chipsets, so they should be good for at least another 2-3 years.

Now I'd say it's about upgrading older laptops and desktops. You can go straight to a 128 gig SSD for about the same price and get a better boost, but when the base OS and apps take up almost 85 gigs, 128 gigs really just isn't enough anymore. Since many users only have up to 50 tracks, 128 tracks is not enough for many users.

Seagate has software that allows you to easily clone your existing hard drive, and it takes about an hour or more to clone most 300 gig hard drives. In total, it took me about an hour and a half to update each laptop. You can also do a fresh install and get rid of the cobwebs, which will definitely help with overall performance. But either way is fine, it's just a matter of personal choice.