Are Hybrid Drives the Next Big Thing?

We'd all love to deck out our desktops and notebooks with high-speed, capacious solid state drives (SSD), but let's face, as good as the technology is, SSDs are still too frakking expensive for mainstream consumption. We're not talking about those puny 64GB SSDs that can be had for comparatively cheap. Sure they're affordable, but once you install an OS and a few programs, you're back to relying on a hard drive. The alternative? Buy a bigger a SSD. The only problem with that is who wants to drop over a grand on a 500GB SSD, especially when it takes two just to get to 1TB?

There's another alternative in hybrid drives, which combine the best of both worlds -- the capacity of a hard drive and some of the speed of an SSD. According to a new report by market research firm Objective Analysis, hybrid drives are primed to dominate the market.

"We expect the hybrid drive market to nearly double every year for the five years following its initial adoption, reaching 600 million units by 2016," said analyst Jim Handy, who authored the report, in a statement. "This blazing growth will result from hybrid drives replacing standard HDDs in mainstream PCs."

Hybrid drives add a nominal amount of flash memory to a conventional mechanical hard drive, which acts as a speedy buffer for frequently accessed data. In time, some analysts believe the amount of flash memory in hybrid drives will ramp to 16GB and beyond. The end result is a hybrid drive that's a little more expensive than traditional hard drives, but much faster than an HDD and far less expensive than an SSD.

For more on how these work and what performance gains you can expect, read our analysis of Seagate's Momentus XT Solid State Hybrid.