Despite the rise of cloud and solid state storage, demand for hard disk drives has never been so high. Be it internal or external hard disk drives, businesses and end-user can't get enough of them.
The arrival of ultra-high definition content delivered via personal devices like smartphones means that even a terabyte (TB) of storage space can seem cramped when you're stockpiling your 4K movies, lossless music, massive games and high resolution photo collections.
- Check out our best external hard drive guide for 2016
2TB isn't a bad starting point unless you're heavily into editing movies, and with prices tumbling, you don't have to pay much to enjoy excellent performance and gargantuan storage space. But as they say, bytes fill a hard drive like gas, an empty space.
So, in no particular order, here are the best internal hard disk drives as of June 2016 (just bear in mind that your mileage will always vary when it comes to reliability so that was not taken into account when putting together that list).
1. Best internal hard disk drive (capacity, under £100)
- Toshiba E300 3TB
- £64.48 at BT Shop
If all you care about is getting the most bang (or storage) for your buck, then you cannot do better than the Toshiba E300, a hard disk drive that has been designed to consume as little power as possible (just 5.4W in read/write mode).
The Japanese company, which invented flash memory amongst other things, is not well known for its storage devices. This model steals the show by offering the cheapest per TB price at just under £21.50.
This Toshiba drive has a 5940RPM rotational speed (about 10% higher than 5400RPM models), with a surprisingly big 64MB cache and is relatively quiet when in use, at 25dBA. It is not the fastest drive around, but if you just want a cheap internal HDD, it's probably your best bet.
2. Best internal hard disk drive (overall value for money)
- Toshiba DT01ACA300 3TB
- £64.97 at CCL
3TB still appears to be the sweet spot if you are looking for a performance hard disk drive, that hasn't changed for the past two years despite the arrival of far higher capacities.
Toshiba nabs this category as well with the DT01ACA, a four-year old drive which fits the bill if you prefer to have a single fast drive rather than, say, an SSD and a slow, large capacity, hard drive. This model has three 1TB platters, 64MB of cache and has a two-year warranty.
Because of its higher spinning speed (7200RPM compared to 5400RPM), it will be noisier, consume more power and have a higher operating temperature. Even if Toshiba doesn't mention it, we wouldn't advise running these drives on a 24x7 schedule.
3. Best internal hard disk drive (for NAS)
- Seagate Surveillance HDD 2TB
- £66.84 at Saverstore
A recent evolution in the internal hard drive market has been the segmentation according to usage with NAS (network attached storage) being targeted as a particularly promising segment.
All the major HDD manufacturers (WD, Seagate and HGST) have introduced new NAS products. Toshiba is the only one without a dedicated NAS hard drive line.
Rather than focusing on performance, these drives zero on reliability and the ability to perform in a 24/7 environment which explains why they are usually bought in lots rather than individually.
If you don't want to fork out much more than a couple of hundreds of pounds for a set of four hard disk drives, then Seagate's ST2000VX003 is your best bet. As part of the company's surveillance range, it is built to run 24x7 and comes with a standard three-year warranty.
4. Best internal hard disk drive (for capacity)
- Seagate 8TB Archive V2 Enterprise
- £209.24 at Scan
10TB is the absolute maximum capacity on the market right now but, as it is cutting edge, doesn't score highly when it comes to sheer value for money. 8TB is where the sweet spot for high capacity storage is at the moment.
The Seagate ST8000AS0002 Archive v2 is the most affordable of that category but it does come with some caveats. Being based on SMR technology (Shingled Magnetic Recording) makes it slow on write speeds and not particularly recommended for NAS (or RAID configuration).
You get a comprehensive three-year warranty, the reassurance that this is a drive designed for a 365x24x7 environment, with low power consumption, a very high workload count (180TB per year) and some exceptional performance, especially on reads, despite a low spinning speed.
The drive has 128MB cache and a rotational speed of 5900RPM.
5. Best internal hard disk drive (hybrid)
- Seagate ST4000DX001
- £117.99 at Box
For some scenarios, desktop hybrid solid state and hard disk drives can offer a boost in performance without having to resort to two separate drives.
Seagate's 4TB desktop SSHD is an interesting proposition packing a 4TB spinning hard drive and 8GB of flash storage.
The drive is a 7200RPM model with a five-year warranty, 64MB cache and three platters – and now for the surprising part, it actually costs less than traditional HDDs with similar feature sets.
Seagate boldly claims that the drive performs five times faster than other 7200RPM HDDs and improves overall responsiveness by nearly a third.
Given the quasi-price parity between this and the rest of the 4TB competition, we'd argue that this is a no-brainer buy if you want to strike the right balance between performance and capacity.
6. Best hard disk drive for laptops
If you want to upgrade the hard disk drive in your laptop for something capacious rather than speedy, there's only one choice really – swap it for a 1TB hard disk drive.
The HGST Travelstar 1TB 2.5-inch hard disk drive is a great candidate and is part of the 5K1000 family, uses a pair of 500GB platters and has 8MB of cache. This is a 9.5mm drive so won't be compatible with a lot of laptops out there.
The 1TB WD Blue is a thinner 7mm model, backed by 16MB of cache with the rest of the specs similar to the HGST Travelstar (not really a surprise given that HGST and WD are part of the same holding).
That 2.5mm shrinkage comes at a price though, and you'll pay around 25% more compared to the Travelstar.
7. Best hard disk drive for laptops (gaming consoles)
- Samsung Spinpoint M9T
- £73.98 at Ebuyer
Toshiba launched a 3TB 2.5-inch hard drive that is the biggest hard disk drive for standard laptops and gaming consoles; however, there are no stocks in the UK at the moment.
Until then, the Samsung Spinpoint M9T remains the quasi-indisputable king of capacity for the 2.5-inch form factor.
This popular drive has been around for a while and managed to cram 2TB into a standard 9.5mm thickness.
It has 32MB of cache, three platters and spins at 5400RPM, but its high platter density means that it will perform on a similar level compared to smaller 7200RPM drives.
A two-year warranty is also a welcome bonus as well. At just under £74 mark, it offers the cheapest price per TB in this category by some margin.
8. Best laptop hard disk drive for capacity
- Seagate ST4000LM016
- £158.99 at Ebuyer
Seagate makes the largest portable hard disk drive in terms of capacity. At 4TB, this carries a near-60% premium on the standard 3.5-inch models.
But it has a much higher data transfer rate, consumes modest amount of power and has a much bigger buffer size (128GB for that particular model).
Its high platter density (they use four 500GB ones) should also translate into much faster read/write speeds compared to physically bigger 3.5-inch hard drives.
In addition, they usually come with a longer warranty (Seagate provides this drive with a 3-year one) as well as a bunch of other features like QuietStep, Ramp Load and advanced format 512e. Just bear in mind that this is a 15mm model which will not fit in all the existing 2.5-inch slots available.
9. Best hard disk drive for laptops (performance)
- HGST Travelstar 7K1000
- £52.01 from Scan
Not everybody can afford to pay for a large capacity SSD so if you're looking for a laptop hard drive that delivers both on performance AND with space to spare, check out the Travelstar 7K1000 from HGST.
It is a 9.5mm model that has a 32MB buffer and two 500GB platters plus a two-year warranty. What makes it special, though, is that it is one of the handful of 7200RPM drive in the 2.5-inch category we know of.
Spinning 33% faster means higher transfer rates but that has a negative effect on power consumption, noise and heat dissipation.
It also carries a small premium over its slower 5400RPM counterparts. Sadly, there are no affordable bigger models and if you're looking for a 2TB hard disk drive, you shall be looking at an acquisition cost of more than £250!
10. Best hard disk drive for laptops (hybrid)
- Toshiba H200
- £56.38 from Amazon
Toshiba is a relative newcomer when it comes to portable hybrid storage devices and its H200 drive packs the usual 8GB of NAND memory (found in competing products) plus 64MB of buffer storage to allow it to surpass traditional hard disk drives.
While its price is around 50% premium over a comparable non-flash drive like the HGST Travelstar, it does come with that additional 8GB of flash.
That should in theory, and in most configurations, boost performance for end users although your mileage will vary depending on your usage.
You also get a two-year warranty which is a nice add-on. As a reminder, a solid state hybrid drive brings together flash memory and traditional spinning hard drive and aims to marry the pros of each (speed and storage capacity).
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