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Which drive upgrade is best for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One: HDD, SSD, or HHD?

Sony allows you to easily replace your PS4’s hard drive (we’ve got an article on how to do so right here). Microsoft doesn’t officially allow you to replace the drive in the Xbox One, but with some know-how, steady hands, and proper tools, you can also replace the drive in the Xbox One if you really need to (and don’t care about your warranty).

If you take the upgrade path, there are three types of storage devices from which to choose: A hard drive (HDD), a hybrid drive (HHD), or a solid state drive (SSD). Speed, price, and storage capacity are the major concerns – so which drive is best for your new console?

It has been said before, but it’s worth saying again: While the standard 500GB, 2.5in, 9.5mm-tall hard drives that come with both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are much nicer than the launch PS3’s 60GB drive, they still don’t have enough space when a single game install can reach 50GB. You can replace the PS4’s hard drive easily, as Sony was kind enough to make it possible. The Xbox One doesn’t officially support user-upgraded hard drives, but if you are careful enough, you can pull it off. You have three choices of storage device, though, all of which vary in price, capacity, and speed, so you have to find a happy medium.

Standard hard drives are the cheapest option, which is likely why both the PS4 and Xbox One employ one with such a small capacity for a generation that uses 50GB discs. A hybrid drive incorporates a small portion of flash memory into the overall hard drive, so it’s a little more expensive than a standard HDD but has some speed advantages over a pure mechanical drive. Finally, the SSD is the most expensive of the bunch, and its cost means compromises on storage capacity. SSDs are by far the faster drive type, but you certainly pay for the speed, and an affordable drive has much less capacity than the standard 500GB hard drive.

Just after the PS4 was launched in the US (which was a fortnight before it hit the UK), Tested went ahead and spent the money, and compared the HDD, hybrid, and SSD. As expected, the HDD provided the slowest load times, the hybrid drive sped up significantly from the HDD, and the SSD was the fastest… but also the most expensive.

It turns out that the hybrid drive performed almost as well as the SSD, only lagging a couple of seconds behind the much more expensive SSD. Both drives were noticeably faster than the HDD – around six seconds faster to boot or load a disc-based game, and nearly 20 seconds faster when loading a game installed on the drive.

The PS4 and Xbox One use a hard drive that’s priced at around £40 by online retailers. A 500GB SSD will set you back anything from around £280 to £350 or so – in other words, almost as much as the console itself in the PS4’s case. Sacrificing a speed upgrade, you can jump to a 1TB hard drive for around £55, while a 2TB HDD would set you back around £100 or so (remember, this is a 2.5in drive). You’d then have enough space to fit 40 full Blu-ray game installs, but remember, you’re forking out a hundred quid plus (depending on the exact drive) and you’re not getting a speed upgrade, unless you see a slight bump up from the move to 7200RPM from 5400RPM.

If you just want the speed upgrade, you can grab a 500GB hybrid drive for around £60, but that seems too expensive when not upgrading the storage capacity. Moving to a 1TB hybrid drive, you’ll get a speed boost and double your storage capacity to a respectable number (when 50GB games are involved, that is). You can find drives like this for around £80 or so. Overall, that hybrid drive seems like the best mix of a storage capacity boost, speed increase, and a price that you’ll only feel guilty about for a day or two.

For more on the new consoles, check out our Xbox One versus PlayStation 4 speed showdown in which we determine the fastest console of the pair, and we also have an Xbox One versus PS4 feature list showdown, a blow-by-blow feature battle between the two machines.